by Daniel Olsen
Farm team is another name for a minor league baseball team that develops players for the MLB. When the big leagues want to take players from the minors, they can do so with no questions asked. It is the same way in most cases in college sports. That is what makes long-term success difficult for most Group of Five/Mid-Major schools in college football and basketball. The Utah State Aggies have made successful hires in several sports in athletic director Jon Hartwell’s tenure. This year, they found themselves hiring new coaches for football and basketball for the first time since 1998. It’s time to predict which hire is the biggest splash.
Football: Another Anderson comes to town
Blake Anderson was hired by the Utah State Aggies following a disappointing end to their 2020 season. Hartwell and former Utah State Aggie coach Gary Andersen reach a mutual agreement to part ways after an 0-4 start. Interim coach Frank Maile worked led the team to their lone win of the season. The game was against the winless New Mexico Lobos on Thanksgiving Day.
Anderson brings half a decade of success at Arkansas State. He is the safe hire because he often wins about seven or eight games per year. It’s enough to keep going to bowl games but not enough for him to get snatched by a Power 5 school right away. In seven seasons, he qualified for a bowl game in six of them. He has gone 2-4 in postseason games. His motto for the team is based on the following three words: fast, physical and fun. His high octane offense should attract fans. If he can prove himself on the defensive side, then Aggie fans just might stay for the whole game to witness Aggie victories that were hard to come by last year.
It’s still a little too early to make predictions on win totals yet. However, it’s safe to say that Anderson can indeed turn this program back in the direction it was headed in before Matt Wells left for Texas Tech. It won’t happen overnight so Aggie fans may have to be patient. The Mountain West is a great league and the turnover on the roster and coaching staff might experience some initial growing pains. A bowl game would be a tremendous accomplishment for this team. An absence of one doesn’t mean the outlook is bad either. As long as the Aggies are competing, that’s what matters this year. Next year will be the time to raise expectations.
Basketball: Odom the perfect Cinderella story
Former UMBC coach Ryan Odom should be well known by many college basketball fans for one reason: coaching the first and only team that beat a one seed as a 16 seed. It was one of the sweetest Cinderella stories in college basketball in 2018 and the history of the sport. He has guided the Retrievers to respectable seasons in the last two years as well. He brings a unique style of coaching to the USU basketball teams.
Expect to see good things right away for the Aggie men’s program as has been the case in the last three years under Craig Smith. Odom is a Quin Snyder disciple which should excite Aggie Jazz fans. He believes in the concept of team basketball which will create a winning culture. The ball will never stay in one black hole of hero ball, so this won’t be a return to the Tim Duryea era. Odom has already acquired some UMBC players from the transfer portal.
Odom has rebuilt a team before as he drastically improved the UMBC program from where they were before he arrived. Now, his job will be to keep building on the already rich tradition of Aggie basketball. Expect to see the Aggies in some sort of tournament next year. The NCAA tournament would be great. However, the conference at this point is bringing in plenty of other great coaches. To even be among the top third in the Mountain West next year would be great considering the amount of production leaving.
While it might seem like comparing apples to oranges, it’s important to do that with the two sports that bring in the most revenue for the school. For example, the postseason for football only requires a .500 record to be eligible. More than half of the FBS becomes bowl eligible every year. On the other hand, only the best 68 teams get to play in the NCAA tournament out of 330 teams. That’s less than 20 percent. While that might be unfair, it’s important to take factors like these into account when measuring how value that coach is bringing to Utah State University. With the soapbox speech on each coach out of the way, it’s time to get to the predictions.
Short term success – Odom
Long term success – Anderson
Regular season success – Odom
Postseason success – Anderson
Overall best hire – Odom