A multitude of national reports say Utah State is hiring Blake Anderson away from Arkansas State to be the Aggies’ next head football coach.
Though as of Friday night Utah State had yet to announce the hire, reporters from The Associated Press, The Athletic, SB Nation, Football Scoop and more pegged Anderson on Thursday as the next man up to coach the Aggies.
And this comes as USU football players voted to sit out Saturday’s game against Colorado State over concerns regarding bias against interim head coach Frank Maile in the hiring process. Anderson will replace Gary Andersen, who was fired just three games into the second season of his second stint in Logan. Maile has coached the subsequent three games as interim head coach.
“Utah State University has canceled Saturday’s football game with Colorado State University amid concerns voiced by @USUFootball players about religious discrimination during the search for a new football coach. The university will take this time to meet with players and hear their concerns in an open dialogue so it can address them,” the university’s Twitter account posted Friday night.
A statement from the Mountain West Conference said the official standing of the game — meaning if it will be considered a forfeit or no-contest — “will be determined at a later date.”
The posts came a couple of hours after a report from national writer Brett McMurphy that a USU player leadership group expressed support for Maile’s candidacy as full-time head coach on a video call with university President Noelle Cockett and Athletic Director John Hartwell and were met with a response from Cockett they perceived as religiously and culturally discriminatory against Maile, a native of West Valley City who has Polynesian heritage and is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“I am devastated that my comments were interpreted as bias(ed) against anyone’s religious background,” Cockett said in a statement tweeted by USU’s account. Cockett has been the school’s president for four years and has been at Utah State since 2002.
The thread of tweets goes on to say an outside investigator will “look into the incident.” USU did not disclose what Cockett said that was perceived as biased against Maile.
Meanwhile, The Salt Lake Tribune reported Blake Anderson would arrive Friday night in Logan amid the tumult after a private plane left Logan for Jonesboro, Arkansas, just before noon.
As expected upon Gary Andersen’s firing, Weber State head coach Jay Hill was reported as a candidate for the Utah State opening. Of nearly yearly occurrences where Hill is connected to an open FBS job, this seemed to be an opening where such a report would reasonably have legs.
Instead, USU went across the country for Anderson, who coached seven seasons at Arkansas State — going 51-37 and taking the Red Wolves to bowl games in every season but the current one.
Arkansas State announced Anderson’s departure Thursday, saying he resigned “to accept the same position at another FBS program.”
ASU athletic director Terry Mohajir told reporters Thursday evening that Anderson’s departure was more a personal decision than a professional one. Anderson’s wife, Wendy, died one year ago of breast cancer and that weighed on Anderson as he continued to coach at Arkansas State.
“He also felt the personal weight of staying in Jonesboro, a place where he and Wendy had created lifelong memories,” the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported in August, asking himself, “Can I stay here and do this when everything about Jonesboro reminds me of Wendy?”
Anderson, who later was connected to openings at Missouri and Baylor, decided to stay at ASU.
“When God is ready to move me, he’s going to move me. When the right opportunity presents itself, we’re going to go,” Anderson said in that report.