Aggie fans woke up to some shocking news Saturday morning.
Craig Smith is trading in his blue for red.
The University of Utah is set to announce Smith as its new head coach for men’s basketball. The Herald Journal has learned that will take place later this morning. A source told the HJ his contract at Utah will be for six years at $3 million a year.
Smith has spent the last three seasons at Utah State, where he has guided the Aggies to three NCAA Tournament berths, won two Mountain West Conference Tournament titles and tied for one regular season championship in the league. Over the past three seasons, USU has gone 74-24. In nine seasons as a head coach, Smith has a 225-108 record.
USU Athletics Director John Hartwell confirmed through an email that Smith had resigned and the search for a new Aggie head coach was underway.
“I would like to thank Craig and his family for their significant contributions to Utah State University,” Hartwell said in the statement. “Craig and his staff did an outstanding job making Aggie men’s basketball a nationally recognized program.We have a tremendous nucleus of student-athletes returning to our program that have helped create a culture of winning and we want to make sure we keep them our priority as we continue to strengthen that culture moving forward.
“This is an extremely attractive job and we have already had tremendous interest from some very good coaches. We will move as quickly and efficiently as we can with this search, but we want to make sure we have the right person to build upon our success of qualifying for each of the last three NCAA Tournaments and winning two of the last three Mountain West Tournament championships.”
In an interview with the HJ on Thursday, Smith said he was happy where he was at. He laughed about rumors of interviewing at Minnesota earlier in the week, saying he was home having a cup of coffee with his wife when some on social media had him in Minneapolis interviewing.
“I’m trying to figure out how we can get to our fourth NCAA Tournament in a row and win when we get there,” Smith said. “You see your name out there, and that’s what happens when you have success, right? But my plan is to be the Aggie coach and try to get us back there (NCAA Tournament) next year and build this into a powerhouse.”
That changed quickly after two candidates for the Utah job withdrew their names for consideration before the weekend. An agreement happened late Friday night for Smith to head south.
Smith had signed a contract extension at USU for five years at the beginning of the 2020-21 season with a base salary of $775,000, increasing by $25,000 each year. The buyout was 25 percent of what was remaining. So, the Aggies should get $1.1 million with Smith leaving.