Gary Andersen's departure from Utah State might have been made more palatable by his determination to call every one of his players to tell them the news personally before he left.
Andersen had promised everyone he was staying. The university put out a release to announce it. That was on Nov. 30. That promise lasted 18 days.
A great opportunity opened up in that time. Wisconsin needed a head coach and Andersen took the job. But, when he took that job, Andersen handled the situation about as well as anyone has.
Business is business, but coaches like Todd Graham, Bobby Petrino and Tommy Tuberville left a vapor trail on their way to their new job. Andersen took the opposite approach. According to the Wisconsin State Journal's Tom Mulhern, who broke the news that Andersen was the Badgers' new coach, Andersen called every one of his players after he took the job. He made 106 calls and finished up at 2:30 a.m., Mulhern said.
That's a classy way to leave a team.
That doesn't mean there weren't some hard questions or mixed feelings, and that was evident when the Herald Journal in Logan compiled tweets from Aggies players:
“Not gonna lie though it is a business man n u gotta think about ur family and life ! It doesn’t surprise me but he Told us he wasn’t leavin!” — senior wide receiver Matt Austin
“Its a Business everyone who plays this game knows that after highschool. Nothing but Love for Coach A he changed alot of peoples lives” — senior cornerback Terrence Alston
“Don’t know what to think anymore.... I was a believer #aggiefamily” — junior kicker Josh Thompson
“Wow... He jus gone leave like that smh” — freshman wide receiver Brandon Swindall
“Remember what we worked for and continue to work for. I Kno the situation is tough. If any of you need me let me know” — senior running back Kerwynn Williams
Swindall later said on Twitter, after Andersen called, "Much love to him." Treating players with respect, like men, can go a long way.
Many Aggies players voiced their appreciation for Andersen on Twitter, and defensive lineman B.J. Larsen had an eloquent and well thought-out series of tweets that seemed to sum up the mood:
"Coach A had been an important person in my life. His leadership and love for the game and players is unparalleled. The decision was his to make and he had his own reasons for his family and himself. I will miss him. The relationship and time I have had with him has been priceless, an amazing leader. U state will continue to climb regardless, the foundation for greatness has been set! Aggies all the way!"
Coaches leave after saying they won't all the time. It's not ideal, but it happens. More of them should take a lesson from Andersen in how to depart in the most gracious way possible.
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