<strong>LOGAN—</strong> I have been a beat writer for Utah State University football and basketball in some capacity for every season since 2007 – minus the 2010 season, when I was covering Syracuse football and basketball. I have been an Aggie, however, much, much longer.
It has been interesting covering the team that I grew up cheering for. There are times to wear the fan hat, but when I’m working I must remove it and objectively report on Utah State. However, growing up an Aggie long before I ever became a journalist also has put me in a unique position when covering Utah State.
I have been there.
I was there in 1993 when USU upset BYU, 58-56, to launch the Aggies’ late season surge for the programs only bowl win. I was there when the Big West dropped football. I was there for the wandering in the wilderness that was Independence (and really the Sun Belt), and I was there for the one win season in 2006.
On the basketball court, I was a USU ball boy for a few years during the Larry Eustachy days. I got in trouble at school for wearing USU tattoos when the Aggies were playing in the NCAA tournament. As a writer, I was able to cover probably the best four years of basketball in USU history, from 2007-2011.
I bring all this up not to wave my blue flag, but to simply show that I am well aware of where Utah State has been, where they are now, and where they’re going. I bring all this up because I believe this has been the most significant year in the history of Utah State athletics, capped by the football team’s first-ever road win over a top 25 team.
A lot has come together for Utah State.
There has been a commitment by the university to build an athletic program, the rewards are easily visible. USU Athletic Director Scott Barnes has been a tireless advocate for the Aggies. Gary Andersen was the right coach at the right time for Utah State, and a facelift courtesy of Nike has increased the image of the program. On top of all that, the Aggies are going to survive the massive (and often ridiculous) shifts in conference realignment as they head into the regional Mountain West Conference next season.
Nationally, the Aggies are becoming more well-known as well. The Spectrum – thanks to ESPN, YouTube, and Wild Bill – has become known as one of the most intense basketball venues in the country. The Aggies near upset of then defending National Champion Auburn in the 2011 football season opener also opened a lot of eyes.
Friday night football games on ESPN have also been good for USU. In 2010, the Aggies upset BYU at home for the first win over the Cougars since that 1993 game. Chuckie Keeton was in attendance at that game, and the atmosphere convinced him to be an Aggie – we all know how that turned out. In 2011, USU again faced the Cougars in a Friday night affair. That one went down to the wire, with BYU pulling out a miraculous comeback. Despite the loss, the game was seen by a lot of people and was named the favorite Friday night game of 2011 by ESPN viewers.
The Aggies have been featured in ESPN Friday night games twice in 2012. The first was the Aggies overtime win over rival Utah. Highlights from that game were turned into a commercial for ESPN Friday night football.
All of that exposure is paying MAJOR dividends for Utah State.
Just this week, Andersen said many recruits already know about Utah State when the Aggie coaches begin looking at them. Four years ago, that was extremely rare outside of Utah. There are multiple players on the current USU basketball team that said the atmosphere at The Spectrum was a major factor in their decision to come to Utah State.
A couple of nights ago on the post-game call-in show following the basketball team’s win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, I proclaimed that Utah State is positioned to become the next Boise State in college football. By no means is this guaranteed, but there are certainly a lot of ingredients there – most of which I’ve already mentioned.
At the end of the day, this is a new era of Utah State athletics and I’m excited to be a part of covering it.
Enjoy it. Go Aggies.