LOGAN, Utah — Utah State football players have reportedly opted out of playing the team's season finale Saturday against Colorado State over comments made by the university's president this week.
Stadium reports Aggies players were angered after President Noelle Cockett said she was concerned over interim Head Coach Frank Maile's religious and cultural background.
According to the report, Players on the team's leadership council became upset after hearing Cockett allegedly say Maile's association with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would affect her decision on whether to name him the Aggies permanent head coach.
Players say Cockett's comments came during a zoom meeting Tuesday with her and Athletic Director Hartwell.
“I am devastated that my comments were interpreted as bias against anyone’s religious background,” USU President Noelle Cockett in a statement. “Throughout my professional career and, especially, as president of USU, I have welcomed the opportunity to meet directly and often with students about their experiences. Regardless of how difficult the conversations might be in the coming days, I remain committed to giving our students a voice.”
It is believed Utah State will soon announce the hiring of former Arkansas State coach Blake Anderson as the team's new head coach.
On Friday, during a players-only meeting, the players voted unanimously not to play the final game of the season, but said they have no problem with the hiring of Anderson.
In a statement send to Stadium, the players say they opted out due to "ongoing inequality and prejudicial issues between the players, coaches, and the USU administration."
"During the meeting, we voiced our support for Interim Head Coach Frank Maile. In response to our comments, their primary concern was his religious and cultural background. Players, stating their diverse faiths and backgrounds, then jumped to Coach Frank Maile’s defense in treating everyone with love, equality, and fairness."
The players say it's not the first time they have seen or felt discrimination within the Utah State athletic program. In a statement Friday, the school says it has hired an outside investigator to look into any previous incidents of racial discrimination.