Utah State football’s season is over.

The Aggies’ game against Colorado State has been canceled “amid concerns voiced by (Utah State football) players about religious discrimination during the search for a new football coach,” the school confirmed via a tweet on its official Twitter account Friday evening after Stadium’s Brett McMurphy first reported the news.

According to McMurphy’s report, Utah State president Noelle Cockett voiced concerns about interim head coach Frank Maile’s religious and cultural background during a Zoom meeting with the team Tuesday. Maile, a native of West Valley City and a USU alumnus, is Polynesian and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Those concerns left many Aggie players “dumbfounded,” according to McMurphy.

“I am devastated that my comments were interpreted as bias against anyone’s religious background,” Cockett said in a statement shared on the USU Twitter account. “Throughout my professional career and, especially, as president of USU, I have welcomed the opportunity to meet directly and often with students about their experiences.”

The university said it will use this time, instead of playing, to meet with players and hear their concerns.

“Regardless of how difficult the conversations might be in the coming days, I remain committed to giving our students a voice,” Cockett said.

Utah State athletic director has history of coaching changes

After Tuesday’s Zoom meeting, per McMurphy’s report, an anonymous players-only survey was conducted by a USU player, and about three-fourths of the team responded with concerns.

After a players-only meeting Friday morning, the players released a statement to Stadium, detailing their decision to not play in this weekend’s game.

“The Utah State football players have decided to opt out of our game against Colorado State due to ongoing inequality and prejudicial issues between the players, coaches, and the USU administration.

“On Tuesday, December 8th, the Utah State University Football Leadership Council held a zoom meeting with Noelle Cockett, President of USU, and John Hartwell, the Athletic Director. The purpose of the meeting was to have a say in the search for our new head coach. During the meeting, we voiced our support for Interim Head Coach Frank Maile. In response to our comments, their primary concern was his religious and cultural background. Players, stating their diverse faiths and backgrounds, then jumped to Coach Frank Maile’s defense in treating everyone with love, equality, and fairness.

“It is not the first time issues of repeated discrimination have happened. In December 2019, our head equipment manager used a racial slur against one of our African-American teammates. After disregarding the incident, pressure resurfaced to investigate in the summer of 2020. After the investigation, the administration concluded he would continue to be employed.

“We want our message to be clear that this has nothing to do with the hiring of Coach Blake Anderson, the recently-named head coach of the program. We are sure he is an excellent coach; we look forward to meeting him and his staff. We are highlighting the ongoing problems of inequality and want to create a better future for the community of Logan and Utah State University.”

The university also addressed the incident regarding a school employee included in the players’ statement.

“USU also takes issues of racial discrimination seriously, including the incident mentioned in the statement about a USU Athletics employee. USU hired an outside investigator to look into the incident, and took disciplinary action,” read a statement posted to the USU Twitter account.

The Tuesday Zoom meeting was held by Cockett and athletic director John Hartwell to discuss Maile’s candidacy for the open Utah State head coaching job with the team. While Maile was considered a candidate for the job early in the process, reports Thursday indicated that Utah State has chosen Arkansas State head coach Blake Anderson to fill the coaching vacancy.

The game against Colorado State was slated to be played Saturday at 7:30 p.m. MST, and was to be Utah State’s season finale. USU finishes the year 1-5 overall.