When the time comes that you don’t want to continue moving forward, and that was Gary’s(Andersen) state, we decided the sooner the better. —Scott Barnes
SALT LAKE CITY — Debate about the ever-increasing expectations on college football coaches exploded after the man who revived Utah State’s football program abruptly resigned from the head coaching job he’d occupied for just two and a half years.
It was the second time Gary Andersen shocked the college coaching ranks with an unexpected decision. The first time was when he left Wisconsin for Corvallis after just two seasons with the B1G team. Then, on Monday, the 53-year-old, who also led Utah’s defense at one time, resigned midway through the season. If that weren’t surprising enough, he also released the school from any obligation to honor his contract, leaving about $12 million on the table.
It was a move the athletic director, Scott Barnes, called an “unprecedented” sacrifice at a news conference.
“I believe that it’s a reset for this football program,” Barnes said in the news conference where he introduced interim coach Cory Hall (who once coached at Weber State). “When the time comes that you don’t want to continue moving forward, and that was Gary’s state, we decided the sooner the better.”
Andersen left Oregon State with a 7-22 record.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham responded to the news publicly for the first time during the Pac-12’s weekly teleconference.
“Me and Gary are very close friends,” he said. “We talk all the time. He doesn’t need me to speak for him or speculate. I’m just going to say, it didn’t shock me.”
When asked if he thought it said anything about the state of college coaching, he said it did.
“I think that speaks to what the profession has become and what it’s all about,” he said. “And with the money that people are being paid, I guess you could say it’s justified.” Washington head coach Chris Petersen was visibly shocked when a reporter informed him that Andersen was leaving Oregon State during a press conference.
“I think it’s really, really hard on the kids,” he said, shaking his head. “This is a tough business. I always talk about this, the patience level gets shorter and shorter as money and all of those things keep getting bigger.”
Hall addressed the media during the teleconference, and he said it had been a "surreal" 24 hours.
“It’s been good,” he said. “I’ve been thrust into a role, and I’m kind of learning on the fly. At the end of the day, it’s football; it’s coaching. It’s just on a much larger scale.”
As Oregonian columnist John Canzano published a column that included texts from Andersen revealing increasing frustration, Hall said he spent Monday meeting with players, support staff and assistant coaches.
“I can’t say it hasn’t been positive,” he said. “It’s been all positive. The only bad part is what’s transpired in the last 24 hours. I’m just trying to keep everyone focused. That’s been my last 24 hours, even myself.”
The team is preparing to host Colorado this Saturday at 2 p.m.
His message to the players was simple.
“We’re a family,” he said. “We’re one big family. We’re going to stay tight, no matter what happens. We’re going to go and be competitive. We’re going to go and do this for coach Andersen, and do this for each other. It’s been very positive, very emotional.” Hall said Andersen offered him some parting advice.
“Just be yourself,” he said. “That’s exactly what he told me, just be yourself. And everything else will take care of itself. He left me in good hands. I have a lot to thank him for.”