What’s not-quite-ironic is that, when Bryan Harsin bailed for Boise State, we really wanted to hire Chad Morris, who was the hot name at the time. The Red Wolves staff had already made an overture to Blake Anderson, a lessor known but successful OC at North Carolina. But Morris’ camp had fired a signal flare, and Arkansas State checked the temperature.
Turns out, there was more broth than beef in that soup. The offer went to Anderson, who accepted, bringing to Jonesboro a comforting level of stability it had not seen since the days of Steve Roberts. Meanwhile, Morris bided his time and became head coach for SMU before bombing spectacularly at Arkansas.
Anderson brought more than stability to Arkansas State – he infused the program with a shot of upright decency. He wore his faith on his sleeve, and he truly loved his players. He and his recently departed wife, Wendy, routinely opened their home to the team, entertaining with backyard barbecues and pool parties.
Faith, Family, and Fun was his mantra, one that I openly questioned. He reached out to me after I posted the column, explaining why it was important to him that the game of football remain just that – a game. Though Anderson sometimes said that Arkansas State was “Building a Monster,” he was not interested in creating monsters out of his players. He was interested in building up men. Let the Saban’s of the world create football machines.
Until this season, winning was part of the fun. He took over the team in 2014 and never failed to lead A-State to a bowl game. He won the conference championship in 2015, and again the following year. Anderson finally delivered a Power Five win this year, the team’s first since 2008. He defeated a Top 25 team (Troy) and mentored some of the finest QBs and wide receivers the program haas ever produced.
We will remember Anderson for those accomplishments, but we respect him most for his courage and determination during Wendy’s battle with cancer. We admire his dedication to his players. We appreciate his respectful presence at the podium and his appearances at his weekly coaching shows, no matter how poorly the team played. Some of us lost faith in his effectiveness as a coach, but Coach Blake Anderson never lost his faith in us.
Blake Anderson moves diagonally to Utah State, an isolated program that demands victory (which sounds awfully familiar). I suspect that Coach Anderson hasn’t lost his desire to coach; he needs only a radical change of scenery.
Go with Godspeed and our gratitude, Coach Blake Anderson.