Anderson leaves for Utah State, Arkansas State searching for new coach

Published: Dec. 11, 2020 at 5:20 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 11, 2020 at 5:37 PM CST
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - Arkansas State head football coach Blake Anderson is leaving the Red Wolves to become the new Utah State head coach.

Arkansas State said in a statement that offensive coordinator Keith Heckendorf is the interim head coach. Vice-Chancellor of Intercollegiate Athletics Terry Mohajir said the following:

“We appreciate Coach Anderson’s contributions to our program. He is the only head coach in our FBS history to win two conference championships, and he played for a third while also leading us to six bowl games. We wish him the best moving forward. We’re excited about this search. We believe we have an attractive program and that we’ll have a great pool of candidates. We look forward to finding our next head coach to continue advancing our program and building our emerging brand.”

A-State also said that the national search for Arkansas State’s next head football coach will be led by Mohajir along with Arkansas State University Chancellor Dr. Kelly Damphousse and Arkansas State University System President Dr. Charles Welch.

Mohajir says he’s known for a few weeks a transition was possible. Given Anderson’s “extraordinary circumstances he’s been through,” the best thing for A-State was to help him in the transition, Mohajir says. “We truly believe a fresh start could be healthy for everyone.”

Mohajir said, “We could tell there were struggles going on there.”

Mohajir says concessions were made to help Anderson get a fresh start, including lowering the buyout which was set to be $800,000. “It was the right thing to do, and that culture will help attract top candidates,” he says.

The buyout was lowered to $150,000.

Anderson is heading to Utah State. The Aggies are an FBS program in the Mountain West Conference. The MWC also features former A-State head coach Bryan Harsin. He’s currently the head coach at Boise State.

Mohajir choked up when asked about the team meeting today. “It was real emotional,” he said. “He poured out his heart to the players and truly just told them exactly how he felt. He loves them.”

Anderson has 51 wins in 7 years with the Red Wolves, tied for the 3rd most in program history. 2020 marked his first losing season. Arkansas State is currently 4-7.

Before this year’s setback, Anderson guided the Red Wolves to 6 straight bowl games.

He captured Sun Belt championships in 2014 & 2015.

Anderson has been a candidate for other jobs in the past, interviewing for the Missouri vacancy in 2019 and the Baylor opening in 2016.

While Arkansas State was used to the coaching carousel a few years ago, they haven’t had to replace a head coach for seven years.

Before Anderson it was:

  • 2010 - Steve Roberts
  • 2011 - Hugh Freeze
  • 2012 - Gus Malzahn
  • 2013 - Bryan Harsin
  • 2014 - Blake Anderson

The rumor-mill for a replacement has already started as well with names like;

  • Keith Heckendorf (ASU OC)
  • Rhett Lashlee (Miami OC)
  • Jerry Mack (Rice OC)
  • Ryan Aplin (WKU co-OC)
  • Brian Johnson (Florida OC)
  • Phil Longo (UNC OC)

Anderson, a 19-year coaching veteran at the NCAA-FBS level who also coached in an NJCAA-National Championship game, was named the Red Wolves’ 30th all-time head football coach on Dec. 19, 2013.

Out of 30 all-time head coaches, Anderson became just the fourth to win at least seven games in his first season at A-State.

He is the first head coach in A-State history to win at least 47 games during his first six seasons at the school. Additionally, Anderson is just the third head coach at A-State to direct the program to 47 wins in 76 or fewer games.

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