Gary Andersen turns down buyout money for second time in bizarre coaching career

Sam Cooper
·3 min read

For the second time in his bizarre coaching odyssey, Gary Andersen apparently declined to accept the remainder of the money contractually owed to him.

According to The Deseret News, Andersen, who was fired by Utah State back in November, “refused to be paid the balance of his contract.” He reportedly told the school it “wasn’t his style” to be paid not to coach. He was owed $2.7 million — a $900,000 salary with three years remaining on his deal.

Andersen was in his second stint at Utah State. The Aggies went 7-6 in 2019 before getting off to an ugly 0-3 start in 2020. At that point, the school pulled the plug on Andersen’s second go-around in Logan. The first run went much better.

Back in 2009, Andersen inherited a program that hadn’t had a winning season since 1997. By his fourth year, USU went 11-2. It was a triumphant season that allowed Andersen to land the head-coaching gig at Wisconsin.

Andersen lasted just two seasons at Wisconsin. He amassed a 19-7 record over that span, only to shockingly leave Madison to become the head coach at Oregon State. On the way out, he bemoaned Wisconsin’s academic standards, saying that it was “highly frustrating” that “there were some kids I couldn’t get in school.”

Things did not go well for Andersen at Oregon State. The Beavers went 2-10 in his first season and 4-8 in his second season before he resigned out of left field following a 1-5 start in 2017. Notably, Andersen agreed to waive the remainder of his contract, which spanned through the 2021 season and would have paid him in excess of $12 million.

“Waiving my contract is the correct decision and enables the young men and the program to move forward and concentrate on the rest of this season,” Andersen said at the time. “Coaching is not about the mighty dollar. It is about teaching and putting young men in a position to succeed on and off the field. Success comes when all parties involved are moving in the same direction.”

Utah State head coach Gary Andersen in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019, at Air Force Academy, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Utah State head coach Gary Andersen in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019, at Air Force Academy, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

In a year where coaches like Gus Malzahn, Will Muschamp and Tom Herman were fired and will be paid exorbitant buyouts in the coming years, Andersen’s actions are certainly atypical. Some might say they are noble.

But it doesn’t paint the full picture of Andersen. He has routinely left his coaching staffs hanging out to dry as he went from stop to stop. And when he quit at Oregon State, he torched his assistants in a series of text messages published by The Oregonian.

One of the texts read:

"I hired the wrong (expletive) guys and are still working our way through a bunch of recruiting years that stunk!! It's year three! If these (expletives) can't get it right I will not just say fire them and start over!! That's not the way to go about it. If I (expletive) it up that bad I will take the bullet and ride off into the sunset! I will stay old school!! I will not die doing this (expletive)!! Stay tuned!"

Andersen also made headlines back in October as the Mountain West was about to begin its 2020 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Players across the country were opting out of the season, citing concerns about the virus. Andersen, though, said opting out is “not an option” for his players, per the Salt Lake Tribune.

“If you opt out, you’re not with us,” Andersen said.

That’s a pretty audacious stance from a coach who quit midseason just three years prior. Andersen later claimed to have misspoken. A little more than a month later, his latest coaching job had come and gone.

The program he once built into a Mountain West contender had fired him after just 16 games.

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