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Utah State football game canceled after players reportedly vote not to play because of comments from university president – CNN

Utah State since has
announced the game has been canceled.

The Mountain West Conference released a statement Friday saying the game was canceled and that the official standing of the game will be determined at a later date.

Stadium said the team made the decision not to play following comments reportedly made by Utah State University President Noelle Cockett regarding the religious and cultural background of the team’s interim head coach, Frank Maile.

The comments came Tuesday, when Cockett was part of a Zoom call discussing Maile’s candidacy for the head football coaching job, according to the report.

“We thought it would be best by not playing the game to make this kind of statement,” Garrett Larson, a quarterback on the team, said to CNN affiliate KUTV.

A statement from the university posted on
Twitter on Friday said the school “has canceled Saturday’s game amid concerns voiced by Utah State football players about religious discrimination during the search for a new football coach.”

“The university will take this time to meet with players and hear their concerns in an open dialogue so it can address them,” the school said.

“I am devastated that my comments were interpreted as bias against anyone’s religious background,”
Cockett said in the school’s 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.”

The team released a statement to Stadium, saying, “The Utah State football players have decided to opt out of our game against Colorado State due to ongoing inequality and prejudicial issues between the players, coaches, and the USU administration.

“On Tuesday, December 8th, the Utah State University Football Leadership Council held a zoom meeting with Noelle Cockett, President of USU, and John Hartwell, the Athletic Director. The purpose of the meeting was to have a say in the search for our new head coach. 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.”

On November 7, Utah State
fired head football coach Gary Andersen, moving then-assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator Maile up to the interim position. According to
ESPN, Utah State is hiring Blake Anderson, who was the head coach at Arkansas State this season.
Utah State has not announced the hiring of Anderson. Arkansas State announced in a press release Thursday that Anderson
resigned as head football coach to accept the same position at another Football Bowl Subdivision program.

“We want our message to be clear that this has nothing to do with the hiring of Coach Blake Anderson, the recently-named head coach of the program,” the team said in its statement to Stadium. “We are sure he is an excellent coach; we look forward to meeting him and his staff. We are highlighting the ongoing problems of inequality and want to create a better future for the community of Logan and Utah State University.”

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