BOISE — Mike Sanford’s coaching tenure at Utah State proved to be a short one. After just nine months on the staff, Sanford concluded his career with the Aggies at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. He’ll be formally introduced as the new head coach at Indiana State on Monday.
“I knew when we hired him that it may not be for a long time. He wants to be a head coach and I’m fully supportive of the situation for him,” said USU coach Gary Andersen. “He’s excited about it and it’s great for his family. He’s been a huge asset for us and I just wish him all the best as he moves forward. He’s a very good friend and a very good coach.”
Andersen added that Sanford coached USU’s running backs and tight ends extremely well this season. He praised Sanford for serving as a great sounding board for the staff as the Aggies’ assistant head coach.
Sanford, who also worked with Andersen on Urban Meyer’s staff at Utah in 2004, enjoyed his return to the state. He was UNLV’s head coach from 2005-09 and assisted at Louisville after that.
“It’s been awesome to come back to the state of Utah and I’ve had a great experience at Utah State. It’s been great being with Gary,” Sanford said. “I have tremendous respect for him and I appreciate the opportunity he gave me. I hate to move like this so fast, but at the same time I’m excited for the opportunity.”
Sanford replaces Trent Miles at Indiana State. Miles guided the Sycamores to three consecutive winning seasons before moving on to Georgia State last month.
“I’m very excited to have a chance to be a head coach again,” said Sanford, who knows Indiana well after serving as an assistant at Purdue (1987-88) and Notre Dame (1997-98).
As for what he’s leaving behind in Logan, Sanford predicts continued success for Utah State. He thinks the Aggies will compete for top honors in the Mountain West Conference next season and said the program is in good shape with a lot of talented guys coming back.
“I think that’s one of the reasons why Gary stayed. He had other opportunities and he stayed because the future looked so bright for Utah State,” Sanford said. “So I think there’s going to be great things ahead.
STICKING AROUND: Despite recent overtures from bigger programs, Andersen isn’t looking back on his decision to stay at Utah State.
“There’s no regrets,” he said.
Although Andersen noted that he’ll always educate himself when opportunities are presented, the ultimate decision will involve the influence of his late father.
“I believe when I wake up in the morning he’ll tell me what’s right and the way I feel in my heart is the way I’m going to go and that’s what it was,” Andersen said. “I’m blessed, I’m humbled and I’m grateful for those opportunities — the possibilities that may be out there — but it’s all because of the kids.
“I can’t read the future,” he continued, “but I know right now this is where I’m supposed to be with the opportunities that were presented in front of me.”
AS FOR OTHERS: While Andersen turned down opportunities to move on, two of his Western Athletic Conference colleagues opted to accept Pac-12 coaching jobs. Louisiana Tech’s Sonny Dykes and San Jose State’s Mike MacIntyre are now at the helm of California and Colorado, respectively.
“They’re very good coaches. Look what they’ve done. They’ve consistently won,” Andersen said, while noting the great battles USU has had with Louisiana Tech and San Jose State in recent years. “I have a lot of respect for both of those guys and I’m sure they’ll do just fine.”
MWC MASH: With the WAC getting out of the football business, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl has reached an agreement for 2013 with the Mountain West Conference. USU’s future conference will send its sixth selection to Boise next December to face a MAC team.
HIGH PRAISE: ESPN analyst and former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti had nice things to say about Andersen in an interview with the Idaho Statesman.
“What he has done there at Utah State is just short of amazing,” Bellotti said. “He’s really a winner. He does it the right way.”
EXTRA POINTS: The announced attendance was 29,243. ... USU and Notre Dame are the only teams in the nation (FBS) not to give up a touchdown in the first quarter this season. ... Senior running back Kerwynn Williams became the WAC’s career all-purpose yardage leader in the first half, surpassing the record-setting mark of 6,691 yards by New Mexico’s Terance Mathis.