Utah State’s search for a replacement for Matt Wells could be crossing the finish line soon with a familiar face. Gary Andersen, the former Utah State coach, is reportedly the favorite to land the job of some boosters with significant influence on the program. Bruce Feldman of The Athletic suggested donors could have their way via Twitter on Friday night, and a report published by Steven Godfrey of SB Nation Saturday morning shares a similar tone.
Andersen, who was previously mentioned as a strong possibility to return to Utah State following the departure of Wells to Texas Tech is currently an assistant head coach and defensive assistant at Utah, a job he took this year. After coaching at Utah State from 2009 through 2012 as the head coach, following four seasons as defensive coordinator prior to that, Andersen accepted a head coaching offer at Wisconsin and coached the Badgers for two seasons. His final game with the Badgers was the 2014 Big Ten championship game, when Wisconsin was squashed by College Football Playoff-bound and eventual national champion Ohio State. Andersen left the Badgers to coach Oregon State, where a three-year run was cut short in early October 2017 as Andersen agreed to leave the remaining $12 million owed to him on his contract on the table. That was later explained by texts in which Andersen threw some assistants under the bus.
Given his previous experience at Utah State, it stands to reason the Aggies and Andersen could potentially benefit from having a comfort level with each other. Anderson won just four games in each of his first two seasons as the head coach at Utah State in 2009 and 2010 but the Aggies grew to win seven games in 2011 and completed an impressive 11-2 season in 2012 that culminated with a victory in the Potato Bowl. It was the first bowl victory for the program since winning the 1993 Las Vegas Bowl as a member of the Big West and just the second bowl victory in program history.
But considering the suggestions Utah State had a good list of potential candidates for the job still to work through, reportedly including Rich Rodriguez, Matt Canada and Mark Helfrich according to SB Nation, it is interesting to see the boosters essentially convince the university to bring the search to a close with Andersen as the front man. Perhaps Andersen would have been seen as the top candidate at the end of the search anyway, but to not even go through with interviews for some notable names is a surprising development.