Gary Andersen is happy right where he is.
Utah State wants to make sure that continues to be the case.
For the second time in less than a year, Andersen has signed a contract extension that will keep him as head coach of the Aggies through the 2018 season.
“The ability to have the six years (added) is really important to me and my family,” Andersen said. “It’s rare to have an opportunity in this profession to be in the same place for 10 years, and this contract will give us the opportunity to be able to do that.
“I’ve said it before, and I said it the last time: When you’re at a place you love and you get to coach the type of kids that you want to and you live in a community like this, the quality of life is important to me, and it matters for (my wife) Stacey and my boys.”
USU Director of Athletics Scott Barnes announced the extension Thursday — on the eve of the Aggies’ in-state showdown at BYU.
“When we signed Gary last year, we weren’t sure what conference we were going to be in,” Barnes said. “My promise to him at the time was if we moved to the Mountain West, then we would revisit the contract, so I felt it was real important to get that done as soon as we could.
“We know that we’ve got the right leader for our program long-term. For me, the sooner that we could sign it from a recruiting perspective, from a momentum perspective, the better.”
Andersen’s new deal could pay up to $765,000 annually with incentives. The fourth-year coach at Utah State is guaranteed $565,000 — it escalates over the life of the contract, Barnes said — per year.
“The fact that Gary wants very, very much to stay — he and Stacey — in Logan and at Utah State, we couldn’t be more excited about that,” Barnes said. “He’s got unbelievable conviction. We talk a lot about how easy this place is to love. This university and this valley is an easy place to love, and he shares that with recruits every day.
“I think that the success he has would suggest we might have concerns because certainly he is very sought after, but on the other side, this is his home. This is where he wants to be, and we couldn’t be more excited about that fact. We wanted to make sure that we took care of that contract and compensation as soon as we could.”
Rumors certainly have swirled as of late that Andersen was headed to greener pastures — something Aggie fans have become accustomed to with past football coaches.
“I think it helps the kids in the program to understand this is where I want to be because people talk, and people use it against us in recruiting, and that’s just the way of the world in college football,” Andersen said. “Hopefully, this will at least calm the waters and the rumor mill if you will, and I hope it does.
“It is something I am very happy, honored, pleased and blessed to have.”
Along with Andersen’s revised contract, the new deal also calls for continued salary increases for all of his assistant coaches.
“Probably the most important part of this little puzzle to me is really for the assistants, for the ability to keep them here with a little bit more financial help,” Andersen said. I really think that will help us in the future. It won’t give us the ability to hold off some places, but with the quality of life and the experience that the coaches have here with their families — with their young kids and teenager kids — to me that’s a big dollar figure with quality of life.
“I think this will give the coaches an opportunity to be in a better position to take care of their families and will get us more competitive in the Mountain West Conference as we move forward with assistant salaries.”
In his four years at USU, Andersen has rebuilt the football program into one that has won nine of its last 11 games — the Aggies’ best 11-game stretch since the 1972-73 seasons.
“It’s just great to see kids reach some goals; it’s great to see the support of the community,” Andersen said of the program’s turn around. “To me, it means a lot. It’s great to see hard work from assistant coaches, from players, from the community and the university, pay off.
“You know I hate to talk about myself, but is it rewarding? Yeah, it is, because it was something a lot of people thought I was crazy when I took this job and asked me what I was doing. My belief was there, my want-to was there, and it’s done nothing but grow in the last four years.”
Under Andersen, the Aggies are 5-3 against in-state opponents heading into tonight’s game against BYU.
Five games into the 2012 campaign, USU has a 4-1 record and is off to its best start since the 1978 team won its first five games of the year.
Along with all of the success the Aggies have had on the field under Andersen, they have been just as successful in the classroom as 66 players have earned academic all-Western Athletic Conference honors, while 84 players have graduated from the university. USU led the WAC with 18 academic all-conference honorees in 2011.
“Gary has led our program with great integrity and passion,” Barnes said. “It is a gross understatement to say our student-athletes like playing for him. They love him, and he cares deeply for them. It is important to Gary that they succeed beyond football, and he works toward this end goal with them every day.”
This is the third contract extension Andersen has signed during his time at USU. In September of 2010, he inked an extension to remain with the Aggies through 2016.
Last year, just days before USU played in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Andersen was rewarded with an extension through 2017.
“My love is for the kids; my love is for this university,” Andersen said. “There will be good days, there will be bad days and everything in between, but my goal is to try and represent the university well every single day and try to bring a kid in here that we can turn from a young man into a man who will represent the school well.
“I’m lucky because that fits Utah State, and I think it’s a unique fit for me and who I am, and how I grew up as a coach.”
Andersen, who led the Aggies to a 7-6 mark in 2011 and their first bowl appearance since 1997, has a 19-23 overall record with USU.