New Mexico Utah St Football

Then Utah State interim head coach Frank Maile walks the sidelines during the second half of a game against New Mexico last month.

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If the last three days have not been crazy enough for fans of the Utah State football program, buckle up because it could be an even wilder ride.

While Aggie athletes and the administration at USU have not said anything publicly about what exactly took place during a Zoom meeting last week, interim head coach Frank Maile has broken that silence — sort of. Maile was not part of that call that included the USU President Noelle Cockett, Director of Athletics John Hartwell and the football team’s leadership council, which discussed Maile’s candidacy for the permanent head coaching job.

What came out of that meeting did not sit well with the team’s leadership council and the whole team as they were informed. The team practiced through Thursday in preparation for the season finale at Colorado State. However, Friday afternoon the game was called off as the Aggie players had taken a vote to not play as they questioned that Maile was not considered for the position because of his “religious and cultural background.”

Trent Wood of the Desert News was the first to report on a statement issued from someone representing Maile Sunday afternoon. The statement was not sent to The Herald Journal.

The following four paragraphs were reported by the Desert News as a statement from Maile.

“As all college football fans likely know by now, Utah State University’s final game of the season was cancelled yesterday after USU football players chose not to play in protest of something they feel very strongly about: discrimination and bias.

“It is my understanding — from members of the team leadership council who attended a meeting with Utah State President Noelle Cockett and Athletic Director John Hartwell — that I was not ultimately considered for the position of head coach at Utah State (my beloved alma mater) because of concerns that my religion and Pacific Islander culture would negatively impact the University’s future football program. I have twice served as interim head coach and have gone through the interview process but was not notified of a formal hiring decision until after Noelle Cockett and John Hartwell met with the team.

“As disheartened as I am to learn that this kind of religious and cultural bias exists (because I am Polynesian) at Utah State University, I am equally heart-broken for my players – many of whom are seniors who were preparing for the last game of their collegiate experience. I want to express my upmost respect and admiration for their decision to stand up for what they believe in — and I’m truly honored that they would stand up for me.

“As we move forward, it is important to me to protect both the institution and players that I love. My only hope for this painful and unfortunate situation, is that it will be a positive step in our community’s anti-discrimination journey. To accomplish this, Utah State University Trustees should demand a thorough and independent investigation of religious, cultural and racial discrimination throughout the Utah State University.”

On Saturday the USU Board of Trustees announced an independent investigation was to begin looking into the allegations made by football players. Later on Saturday, Blake Anderson was officially named the new head coach at USU. Anderson will be formerly introduced as the next coach Monday morning at a press conference.

Anderson and Hartwell met with the team Saturday morning.

Shawn Harrison is the sports editor at The Herald Journal. He can be reached at sharrison@hjnews.com or 435-792-7233.

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