For roughly half of his life, 38-year-old Frank Maile has been a part of the Utah State football program as either a player or coach, so it made sense Monday when he said “I’m a true-blooded Aggie, through and through” as he was introduced as the interim head coach in Logan for the second time since 2018.
But who is Maile, and what can be expected of him as he steps into the spot made open when Gary Andersen was fired over the weekend after an 0-3 start to the 2020 season?
A native of West Valley City, Maile prepped at Alta High School and then served a mission to the Dominican Republic for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 2001-2003.
He then played for the Aggies from 2004-07. He was a part-time starter for most of his career, getting the nod in 21 of 42 games he appeared in. In his senior year, however, he was named a team captain and tallied eight tackles for loss, tied for second on the team.
In 2009, Andersen began his first stint as Utah State’s head coach, and he hired Maile as a defensive graduate assistant.
“If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be sitting in this seat, for a lot of different reasons,” Maile said of Andersen Monday. “He was really the one person who gave me a shot in coaching right out of grad school, and so I owe a lot to him.”
Maile then became the defensive line coach in 2011 and stayed in that post through the 2013 season before he left for the same post at Vanderbilt (Andersen had left in 2012 for Wisconsin). Maile stayed with the Commodores for just one season and returned to Cache Valley in 2016 to serve as an assistant head coach, the co-defensive coordinator and the defensive line coach.
The 2018 season culminated in Maile being named the interim head coach for the Aggies’ bowl game after Matt Wells left to lead Texas Tech. A loaded Utah State team beat North Texas 52-13 in the New Mexico Bowl.
Last year as Andersen rejoined the program, Maile was moved to the offensive side of the ball, where he coached the tight ends in addition to retaining his role as assistant head coach. He went back to defense this year, assuming again the roles of co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach before being named interim head coach over the weekend.
While Maile has some experience coaching on the offensive side, he has mostly been a defensive coach in his career, and he said Monday that even now he doesn’t plan on meddling too much in what offensive coordinator Bodie Reeder is doing.
Maile said that as much as Xs and Os, coaching for him is about effort and execution.
“Effort’s never been the problem with our team,” he said. “Right now, it’s really execution of our gameplan ... we’ve got to do a better job of executing, and that starts with the coaches just simplifying things and making sure the message is clear.”
Senior Justus Te’i on Monday expressed sorrow over Andersen’s dismissal, but said of Maile, “He actually recruited me, and he’s been the same person as he was in 2016 when he was in my living room to who he is now, and I think there’s nobody better than Coach Frank to lead this team moving forward. This team has full trust in him, and we’re excited.”
Te’i said both Andersen and Maile are very family-oriented, but Maile is “definitely more soft-spoken. He’s a humble guy. He’s extremely loyal. Not to say he’s not passionate or anything like that. He’s going to get on us when needed, but I think Coach Frank is just slightly more soft-spoken, I’d say.”
Maile left no doubt Monday concerning his desires to get the Aggie head coaching job beyond the five games that remain this season, but was similarly adamant in echoing the notion Andersen often said that players are the top priority.
“Absolutely. That’s my dream,” he said of getting the job permanently. “I’m a true-blooded Aggie, through and through, so if the future holds that, then so be it. Only God knows, but for me, it’s not about me right now. It’s about these kids these next five weeks. We’ll see what happens when that time comes, but right now, I’m only focused on these kids these five weeks.”
Utah State athletic director John Hartwell expressed excitement about Maile getting an opportunity to essentially audition for the top job.
“Such an unusual year way beyond Aggie football, but Frank is an Aggie through and through,” Hartwell said. “I look forward to seeing us be very competitive over the next five weeks and get some wins for Aggie football.”
That said, Hartwell told Maile that he doesn’t want him to feel too much pressure stepping into the interim role.
“‘You’re not going to be thought less of if you don’t go 5-0 in this stint as the interim coach,’” Hartwell said he told Maile, “but I know this about Frank: His passion and energy and enthusiasm for the young men in our program and for our program in general is not something that started two days ago when he was made the interim head coach. It’s something that’s been a lifetime for him, and I know he will get our guys prepared and have them ready to play hard every single snap, starting this Saturday.”