Aug. 4, 2009
LOGAN, Utah - It has been exactly eight months, to the day, since Gary Andersen stood at the podium during the press conference announcing his hiring as the Aggies' new head football coach. Besides learning that he looks good in blue, Andersen has since learned several things about USU, his new team and the community of Logan.
All of which have helped prepare him for the opening of fall camp Thursday when he leads the Aggies onto the practice field.
"We're excited to get it going," a smiling Andersen said. "We've had a great summer with conditioning and workouts, so we're ready to get on the field and get to work."
Andersen is familiar with the state of Utah, growing up in the Beehive state and spending a majority of his coaching career in the state, but he is in admiration for Utah State, Logan and Cache Valley, which has made his transition easier.
"The transition has been great, everyone from the administration to my neighbors have been great," Andersen said. "My twin sons are settled in here, and this is a great place to raise a family."
From the coaching standpoint, Andersen hit the ground running, hiring a staff within his first few months, then completing the recruiting process with National Signing Day in February.
"We were able to come in here believing that we were able to recruit a good class, and I believe that we were able to get a great recruiting class," Andersen said.
Since winter, through the spring and summer, Andersen is getting acclimated to all of the duties and responsibilities that come with being the Aggies' head coach.
"What I'm getting used to are the day-in, day-out details with being a head coach that take me away from being more involved with football," said Andersen, who is in his second stint as a head coach, spending one season at the helm of the Southern Utah program in 2003. While as head coach of the Thunderbirds, he bettered their win total of the previous three seasons combined. He turned around a program that was 102nd in the nation in the final 2002 I-AA Gridiron Power Index, which is used to determine playoff selections, into the No. 36-ranked team in his lone season.
"I've really been surprised with the kids' consistent work ethic from the first of January to where they are today. I've been very impressed with that," Andersen said.
In addition to the team's progress, Andersen has been impressed with the community support of the Aggie football program.
"The crowd at the spring game was phenomenal," Andersen said. "We hope to have that kind of excitement at all of our home games."
Life outside of football has also garnered positive attention from Andersen.
"The best things about the community has been how my family has adapted and fit in here. My twin boys don't want to leave; I practically have to drag them back to Draper. The atmosphere, the size of the town and the closeness of the people, along with the excitement of the people everywhere, not just about football but just the ability to be part of the community. To be a part of the community has been great on a personal level with my family, but on a professional level to have our student-athletes involved in the community has been outstanding and we need to continue to do that," Andersen said.
In addition to learning the ropes of all the coaching duties and everything about the community, Andersen is learning all of the traditions that come with being an Aggie.
"I love the Scotsman song," Andersen said. "I look out at the sage brush that's planted right outside my window every morning and it reminds me about the passion and enthusiasm. That song defines what being an Aggie is all about."
Another of the Aggie traditions that has impressed Andersen during his short time here has been the basketball games. Andersen went to the games as much as he could, either in a coaching capacity taking recruits, or in a fan capacity, taking family and friends to the games.
"The atmosphere at the basketball games is awesome," an enthusiastic Andersen said. "It was great for me to bring recruits as well as some of my close friends, to those games, and let them experience that excitement in that atmosphere. It was tremendous to let them feel what Utah State Athletics is about and what level the basketball program is on and where we can get the football program too, those are some of the funnest times I've had."
Away from Aggie Athletics, Andersen has been able enjoy some of the finer delicacies associated with Utah State, mainly of the frozen dairy variety.
"I love Aggie ice cream; it's off the charts. It's been challenged by some other ice cream, but it is the best in America," Andersen said.
Andersen and the Aggies return a WAC-leading 19 total starters, including a conference-best 10 on offense, as well as seven on defense and two kickers. Those 19 starters are part of 48 returning lettermen from last season's 3-9 team. Last year was the first time since 2005 that the Aggies had three wins in a season and USU's 3-5 WAC record was its best in its four seasons in the league. It was also the first time since 2003 that USU has won three conference games and just the third time in the 2000's (2000: 4-1 Big West; 2003: 3-4 Big West; 2008: 3-5 WAC).
Andersen and Utah State report to fall camp on Wednesday, Aug. 5 with practice opening on Thursday, Aug. 6.
The Aggies open the 2009 season against Utah on Thursday, Sept. 3. After a bye and a road game at Texas A&M on Saturday, Sept. 19, USU hosts in-state foe Southern Utah in the Aggies' home opener on Saturday, Sept. 26 at 6 p.m.
For season and single-game ticket information, contact the USU Ticket Office at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, or by phone by calling 1-888-USTATE-1 or (435) 797-0305.
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