Wendy Anderson, wife of Arkansas State coach Blake Anderson, dies after bout with cancer

·4 min read
Arkansas State oach Blake Anderson reacts to a call during the second half of the team's NCAA college football game against Troy, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, in Troy, Ala. Arkansas State won 35-3. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Arkansas State coach Blake Anderson is taking a leave of absence to be at his wife's side. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Update (Tuesday, Aug. 20 - 8:23 a.m. ET): Arkansas State coach Blake Anderson posted on Twitter shortly after 6 a.m. ET Tuesday that Wendy died overnight. She was 49.

“She passed as peacefully and gracefully as you could ever hope just a few minutes before midnight with me laying right beside her,” he wrote. “I have been so blessed to have her by my side each day for the past 27 years.”

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Later Tuesday, Arkansas State released a statement offering its condolences to Anderson and his family.

“The Arkansas State Athletics Department family was saddened to learn of the passing late Monday night, Aug. 19, of Wendy Anderson, wife of sixth-year head football coach Blake Anderson, and sends their deepest condolences to the Anderson family during this difficult time,” the statement said.

“Wendy’s courageous battle with cancer will continue to serve as an inspiration to many across the nation, and the outpouring of support far and wide for the Andersons and the A-State family has been overwhelming. Members of the Red Wolves’ athletics department and football program mourn the passing of Wendy, a treasured member of the Jonesboro community and wonderful ambassador for A-State and college football, with the Anderson family.”

Original story - Monday, Aug. 19 - 6:45 p.m.

Just 12 days before his team’s season opener, Arkansas State head coach Blake Anderson is taking a leave of absence.

In a statement, Terry Mohajir, the school’s athletic director, said Anderson is stepping away from the team to be at his wife’s side. Anderson’s wife, Wendy, is battling breast cancer.

“Coach Anderson has decided to take a leave of absence during this difficult time to be with his wife, Wendy, and his family. We will continue to pray for peace for his family and provide assistance any way we can,” Mohajir said.

While Anderson is on leave, Red Wolves assistant head coach and defensive coordinator David Duggan will serve as the team’s interim head coach.

“I will continue to be in communication with Coach Anderson both on a personal and professional level, but we will obviously respect and honor any amount of time he needs before he feels he can return. I have 100 percent confidence in Coach Duggan, our football coaching staff and student leadership on this team to move us forward with our academics and competition,” Mohajir said.

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Anderson: ‘It’s been a tough summer’

Wendy was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017. She was declared cancer-free later in the year, but the cancer recurred last year and spread throughout her body. When asked about Wendy’s condition last month at Sun Belt media day, Anderson told reporters that it has been “a tough summer.”

“It's been a long, hard summer but she's one of the toughest fighters I've ever met. We are still knee-deep in the battle, and I would just tell you the prayers are needed more now than ever before,” Anderson said.

“But we just continue to fight every day, and even my players have been inspired by just her willingness to fight and not make excuses and just battle every day. So I appreciate you asking and appreciate the thoughts and prayers, and please just continue, if you can.”

Anderson was away from the team over the weekend to be with his wife, according to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. With Anderson not at practice, it was Duggan running the show. Duggan had the assistant head coach title added earlier this offseason in an effort to prepare the program if Anderson had to step aside.

“I know there has been an outpouring of support for Coach Anderson, Wendy and their family, not only locally, but nationally,” Mohajir said. “Coach Anderson has expressed how grateful his family is for all the thoughts and prayers, and we are also thankful for everyone’s support.”

Arkansas State opens its season at home against SMU on Aug. 31.

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