<strong>LOGAN—</strong> The name “Andersen” has been a hot-button topic around Cache Valley for the past few weeks. It is the last name of recently departed USU head football coach Gary Andersen who took the Aggies to new heights before leaving to take the same position at Wisconsin.
Andersen’s hasty departure made for some interesting conversations as most fans were grateful for his contributions to Utah State, but some were unhappy with the way he left the program.
The Andersen name has picked up steam again as one of Gary’s youngest sons – his twin boys Chasen and Hagen played locally for Logan High School – backed off on a verbal commitment to the Aggies, and in a bit of a surprise, committed to in-state rival BYU.
“Things just got real hectic, and I was like I oh, I want to play at Wisconsin, and I want to play at Utah State, and then I want to play at BYU,” Chasen said. “There were a bunch of things that were happening at once, and once things settled down … I felt when I went on my official to BYU it just felt right and I felt like that’s the place that I needed to be.”
Chasen’s commitment to Utah State came when Gary was still the head coach of the Aggies, and when he moved on to Wisconsin, Chasen was offered a preferred walk-on spot there. However, BYU, who had already offered Chasen and shown interest for quite some time, doubled its efforts to secure the linebacker.
“I am proud of him. I think he weighed all the options and it was a hard decision. I think relationships in recruiting are everything, and I said that my four years at Utah State and I’ll say that my whole coaching career,” Gary said. “He built some very close relationships with some guys that recruited very well, and he felt very comfortable with it at the end of the day.”
Following Gary’s departure, newly named USU head coach Matt Wells stayed in contact with Chasen. When the final decision was made, Wells was the first person to receive a phone call.
Though one Andersen is now at Wisconsin and another is on his way to Provo, Utah State will still see plenty of that name for the foreseeable future. Gary’s oldest son, Keegan, is currently a tight end for the Aggies and will be a junior next season. Chasen’s twin brother (and older by a little more than an hour), Hagen, will also join Utah State as a walk-on, with hopes of playing receiver or safety. Hagen had multiple offers from FCS programs, but had planned to join the Aggies prior to the coaching change.
“It just felt right. My older brother is there, and they’ve got a bunch of kids (that I know) that are going in there as freshmen this year that I have a good relationship with,” Hagen said. “Having them, it was somebody to be around and have close friends. I don’t really want to leave it and go start over somewhere new.”
Hagen and Chasen’s decisions make the next few years very interesting for the Andersen family as Wisconsin and BYU are scheduled to play three times, and the Aggies and Cougars should continue to meet as well. With a husband coaching at Wisconsin and sons playing on separate teams in Utah, Gary said his wife, Stacey, will probably be the most stressed person in the entire family.
The games will certainly create some intriguing matchups and sibling rivalries within a very competitive family.
“When they first started recruiting him, when he was all Utah State, I was like, ‘Ohhh.’ I just kind of gave him a little bit of crap about BYU and how that would be like a sin against the Andersen family to go play at BYU,” Hagen said.
Despite the brotherly chiding, Chasen said at the end of the day, Hagen was his biggest supporter. He said he’s looking forward to going against his brothers and his dad, and creating his own legacy at BYU.
“From the beginning of BYU recruiting me, I always wanted to start my own legacy and BYU was an opportunity for me to go out there and start my own legacy,” Chasen said. “I turned that down the first time because I’d always dreamed of playing for my dad. Things changed real fast and I was able to talk to coach (Nick) Howell again and (BYU) kept recruiting me, and now I can go start my own legacy over at BYU – bring the Andersen’s to BYU now.”
Gary said he is happy about how both of his sons approached the decision process and that he supports their decisions. That support doesn’t come without a little bit of chiding – at least in the case of Chasen – from friends and coaches though, as the former Utah and Aggie coach has taken plenty of shots at the Cougars over the years.
“There’s disbelief and a few shocks and everything in between,” Gary said. “After Chasen made the decision to go, I’ve talked with Bronco, I’m pretty close with Bronco, and there was a couple texts shot back and forth and even a conversation shot back and forth of, you know, ‘Holy cow.’ He’s telling me I probably should learn the fight song now, and that’s probably something that won’t happen.”
At the end of the day, the Andersen family has made an indelible mark on the football scene in Utah from the high school to the collegiate level. As Gary upgrades the conference he coaches in and downgrades his cheese in Wisconsin, his sons will continue the Andersen tradition in Utah.
“I’ll say this, and it’s important to me. Utah State is a tremendous place, and BYU has such a tradition and is a consistent winner and a great university,” Gary said. “Some people are upset, some people are happy, and everything in between on all these decisions. Ultimately, I feel like my children are at two great universities, and I’m very blessed and lucky to have them in those positions with good coaches and surrounded by good people.”