It takes courage for a new coach to build a missionary program with a rebuilding team. It is — pardon the play on words — a leap of faith. It takes two to three years before it begins to pay off, and some coaches just don't have the patience or stomach for it, BYU's and Utah's success notwithstanding. It also requires meticulous planning in the recruiting game. Andersen concedes that some of the coaches on his staff were understandably skeptical and "a little nervous," simply because they were new to the Utah culture.
"What it means is that we're going to wrap our arms around a young man who wants to serve a mission," says Andersen. "When a player plays for a year and then comes in and says he wants to go on a mission, it can be hard to take, but you're going to support it in every way. If you start playing that game, that you're not going to guarantee them their scholarship when they return, you wouldn't have a real missionary program."
Andersen has already had more success than any USU coach in decades. If there's something else that sets him apart, it's that he seems content to stay where he is, having recently signed a contract extension through the 2018 season.
Over the years, coaches with modest success have managed to use the Aggies as a stepping stone to other jobs. Counting Andersen, there have been 10 coaches in the last 34 years — an average stay of 3.4 seasons. Five were fired and four left to go elsewhere. The last guy to leave town with a winning record was Phil Krueger in 1975.
If you ask Andersen about all this, he doesn't miss a beat. Won over by the community, the beauty of Cache Valley, the support of the administration, the improving facilities, the caliber of players, he says he plans to stay.
"I think every coach has a niche, if you will," says the coach. "I said that the first year I took the job here. When you have the opportunity to be surrounded with what your beliefs are in coaching, it's a special situation. There's something special about this place. I never took this job viewing it as a stepping stone."
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