LOGAN, Utah — It was a bit of a bummer of a trip for Captain Aggie, but don't expect him to quit cheering on his team.
That would be un-Aggie like. Win or lose, Andy Pedersen — also known as Captain Aggie — will not give up on Utah State University athletics. Cheering for his team has been a way of life for more than four decades.
"I've been an Aggie for 44 years," Pedersen said. "I've watched highs and lows. It's been real fun."
Captain Aggie arrived in Las Vegas March 13 to cheer on the USU men's and women's basketball teams at the Western Athletic Conference Tournament. He had an enjoyable time leading USU fans in his chants of: "A-G-G-I-E-S, what does it spell? Aggies, Aggies, Aggies."
The women won the first day, and he was a happy Captain Aggie. Thursday night the men lost, and Captain Aggie about wore himself out.
"I didn't understand the refereeing last night," Pedersen said Friday. "I think they are just glad to get rid of us. Who cares, they (WAC) don't have football in their conference now. It's not our problem."
During the first half of the women's semifinal game Friday, Captain Aggie took it easy. He moved around and waved his USU flag some but for the most part remained seated.
"I'm pooped," Pedersen said at halftime. "I cheered really hard last night in two games. I thought if we could get Louisiana Tech out, we would win. But it didn't work. We came out flat."
The 61-year-old came to life in the second half, however. In fact, he worked his way down behind the USU bench and even banged his metal helmet on a railing to try and rally the Aggies, who lost to Idaho.
He yelled some parting words to the WAC and will make his way back to Cache Valley now.
"I've got friends all around the conference," said Pedersen, who poses for photos with people during games. "I also have enemies everywhere. A lot of Aggies don't understand me. I think the students like me more, but that's OK."
Pedersen didn't make it to Las Vegas last year, but he did two years ago when the men won the tournament. He even was given a piece of the net. He has received hats and T-shirts after big wins.
"It makes an old man feel better," Pedersen said.
The helmet/hat is often mistaken for a pope's headgear, and he made sure to point that out. It's the bottom end of an ash can, he explained.
"A lot of the kids call me the pope, but I'm Captain Aggie," said Pedersen, who also wears a cape and pom poms as hair. "I don't know a lot of stuff, but I do know how to be an Aggie and cheer."
He remembers his first year of cheering for the Aggies. It was when the men's basketball team still played in the Fieldhouse. The next year the Aggies moved into the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. The 1969-70 season stands out to Pedersen as USU reached the Elite Eight before losing to eventual champion UCLA. He rattled off who the Aggies beat and the players involved.
Football is another sport he follows; he has attended the last four bowl games.
Is there a sport he likes more?
"I like the Aggies, whatever they play," Pedersen answered. "Football is fun, because there is a little bit of nastiness to it."
Ten years ago he was given seven years to live. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease 20 years ago. He credits taking on his persona for how he has lived longer and continues to go strong.
"That's what Captain Aggie is all about," Pedersen said. "I was told to go out and do what I wanted. I have not degenerated much. When I can come play Captain Aggie, that tells me I can move. ... This is what I want to live for."
Pedersen said he has been told he is the best Parkinson's patient the University of Utah has had.
He used to run Valley Recycling and was part of parades and game-ball presentations for years. Now he runs Andy Pedersen Investments in Smithfield, where he buys, sells, trades and repairs electric trains.
Shawn Harrison writes about USU Sports for the Logan Herald-Journal.
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