New Blood For Arkansas State Red Wolves Football
On Wednesday, Arkansas State head football coach Blake Anderson announced significant new changes – both for the staff and for himself.
It became evident that something was very, very wrong during the September road trip to Tulsa. Wendy Anderson, the enduring wife of an FBS football coach and the heart of her family, was not well.
“I could tell that her breathing, her cough and her energy level was starting to change,” said her husband, Blake, commenting live before a host of reporters on a topic as private as it gets. “I noticed. That’s when it started affecting me.”
Wendy had already defeated cancer once. But like the worst villains, it had somehow come back. Stage 4. Grade 3. Triple negative breast cancer. Nasty, vile and aggressive – a heartless antagonist that takes its toll on both the victim and her loved ones.
And yet, there is football to consider.
“I found myself spread too thin,” the raspy-throated coach admitted.
Billy Butler Yeats once wrote Things fall apart; the center cannot hold / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. Wendy is Blake’s center. In many ways, Wendy is the program’s center. After all, the Anderson’s make everyone on the team members of the family.
Wendy is the center. And Blake could feel the anarchy loosened upon one public part of his world.
“I became focused on her. I couldn’t do my job at times.”
The job – so critically important, and also so comically small. The team, though thin on personnel and beset with the usual injuries, was loaded with talent. It seemed destined for titles and possibly greatness. But there was sloppiness. Lapses in focus. Puzzling play calling. After the hard-fought victory over Tulsa, the Red Wolves would lose three of its next four conference game, making desperately remote any chance to win a conference championship (or crack into that pesky, AP Top 25).
The center just couldn’t hold. Anderson had already committed to play calling duties, after losing faith in OC Buster Faulkner. He was running the program. He was leading recruitment. He was making all the public appearances demanded of an FBS coach. All of this while Wendy was conscripted against her will back onto life’s grim battlefield.
When the press conference was announced, there was speculation: that Blake would take a leave of absence, or that Blake would simply quit. He was entitled to either. But that’s not really Blake Anderson. Instead, he make a more difficult choice.
“It’s the hardest thing I had to do as a head coach,” admitted Anderson. After the disappointing bowl loss to Nevada, Anderson met each of his staff and informed three that they would not be retained – offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner, offensive line coach Allen Rudolph, and receivers coach Christopher Buckner.
A former notary public, Jeremy Harper is a professional writer and Chief Instigator for Storm the Castle Creative. He spends much of his free time staring blankly into space.