BOISE — If it’s never a good idea to tattoo your significant other’s name, then getting a team’s logo inked — especially as a head coach — must seem insane.
Not to Gary Andersen.
Utah State’s third-year coach sports his dedication to the Aggies with a tattoo of the school’s logo on his left shoulder.
On Sunday, he backed up a promise to his team that he’d get the tattoo if it reached a bowl game. The Aggies face Ohio on Saturday in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl — the school’s first bowl since 1997.
“It’s a promise I was very happy to uphold,” Andersen said. “With all the things these kids went through this season, how they got us to this point, I’m always going to have that tattoo to remind me of them. I’m pretty happy with that.”
The permanent reminder of his team is a prime example of Andersen’s personality. No, he doesn’t frequent tattoo parlors — he is simply a committed type of man.
A BYU graduate, former head coach at Park City (Utah) High, a two-time assistant at Utah and head coach at Southern Utah, he’s happy where he is.
“I get to coach the type of kids I’ve always wanted to be around, and it’s a great place for me and my family, the university is behind us, I could go on and on — some people think it’s coach talk, but it’s from the heart,” Andersen said.
Andersen’s players have sensed his happiness, which has helped pick up the type of players he has wanted to build his program.
“He loves Utah, he played here, he’s coached most of his career here,” junior running back Robert Turbin said. “When he says he’s happy, he means it. Like the tattoo — he’s the kind of guy that is true to his word. Players want to play for him and they believe he’ll stick around, so that attracts some good recruits.”
Utah State went 4-8 in each of Andersen’s first two seasons, but opposing coaches routinely praised the talent level. There were signs the program was strengthening in those two years — he started with 18 players from Utah and now has more than 50. He’s established a program that enables LDS recruits to take their missions. A $20 million athletic facility opened at Romney Stadium before his first season.
“We’ve had an administration that has given us everything we need to succeed,” said Andersen, who reportedly has an extension through 2017 and pay raise on the table from the school.
Logan, Utah, is not exactly in the epicenter of the recruiting world, so Andersen and company have pitched a wide recruiting net after taking care of their home base, with three or more players from Florida, Texas and Hawaii. Andersen also said he’s looked at coaches he holds in high regards who have succeeded in similar situations.
“I definitely have learned from guys like Chris Petersen and (Utah coach) Kyle Whittingham,” Andersen said. “The grass isn’t always greener. I’m driven by happiness, and I’m happy where I’m at.”
Utah State lost its opener by four points — at Auburn — and lost its third and fourth games by a combined four points with a true freshman (Chuckie Keeton) at quarterback. Combine young talent with Andersen’s commitment and a team that won its last five games, and optimism is very high in Logan.
“He’s a guy who wants to see this thing through,” senior linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “He wants to be here, and he’s the kind of guy that Utah State needs. I think things are just going to move forward in the future.”