Utah St. informs football coach of intent to fire

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Utah State has informed football coach Blake Anderson of its intent to fire him after an external investigation of alleged noncompliance of Title IX policies “that require full and timely reporting of disclosures of sexual misconduct, including domestic violence,” it was announced Tuesday.

In a statement, Utah State said the investigation stemmed from “actions taken in spring 2023” that “violated both his employment agreement and university policy.” It also alleges Anderson violated rules that “prohibit employees from investigating disclosures of sexual misconduct themselves.”

The university said Anderson has 14 days to respond under terms of his employment agreement.

Tom Mars, the attorney representing Anderson, issued a statement regarding Utah State’s decision.

“Like any university, Utah State could fire Blake Anderson for any reason as long as they paid his buyout,” Mars said. “However, based on the facts alleged and the language in Blake’s employment agreement, USU is going to be fighting an uphill battle if they try to fire him for cause just to avoid paying Blake what he’s owed.

“Stiffing a head coach by blaming him for what his supervisor allegedly failed to do is a novel approach that hasn’t been tried before, but that theory will never hold up in court.”

Deputy athletic director Jerry Bovee and director of player development Austin Albrecht were also fired “for violations of university policies related to the reporting of sexual and domestic violence and failures of professional responsibilities.”

Defensive coordinator Nate Dreiling has been named interim coach for the 2024 season, while athletic director Diana Sabau met with the team and the football staff Tuesday to inform them of the news.

“As leaders, we are responsible for ensuring allegations of USU policy violations are investigated,” university president Elizabeth Cantwell and Sabau said in a joint statement. “Today’s actions are the result of a thorough external investigation, and we believe the evidence demands immediate action.

“Our job is to fearlessly hold ourselves and others accountable for their conduct and to make sure that, for the sake of our students and our community, we are living the values of our university. While recognizing the impact of these decisions on our student athletes and football program, we will continue to take the steps necessary to deliver a respectful, transparent and winning culture at Utah State University.”

Anderson, 55, has gone 23-17 in three seasons at Utah State, winning the Mountain West Conference in 2021. The Aggies, however, have gone 6-7 in back-to-back seasons since, losing in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl to cap last season.

He previously served as coach at Arkansas State, going 51-37 from 2014 to 2020. He took a leave of absence prior to the 2019 season just before his wife, Wendy Anderson, died after a two-year fight with breast cancer.

He has endured another personal tragedy as well. His son Cason died by suicide in 2022 at age 21. Anderson then became an advocate for mental health.

Utah State opens the 2024 season against Robert Morris on Aug. 31 before visiting USC and hosting Utah in the following two weeks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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