Utah State athletics director John Hartwell has resigned from his position, the university announced Tuesday afternoon.
In a statement, Hartwell said his departure comes after 25 years in the athletics business, and it’s now time that he prioritizes his family.
“After 25 years in the business, my wife and I have agreed that our family, including Heather’s aging parents in Arkansas, need to be our number one priority,” Hartwell said. “We need to be there for them and for our beautiful daughters. This is the time.”
Hartwell called working for Utah State an “honor.” He was the athletic director for the past seven and a half years, and felt the entire department made several accomplishments across various sports during his tenure.
“It’s been outstanding and speaks to the strength of the program and its leaders,” Hartwell said.
USU President Noelle E. Cockett will announce an interim athletic director “soon,” a news release said, and a national search will begin immediately.
“We have made great progress at USU building a positive and supportive culture throughout the university, including within USU Athletics, and we will stay focused on that goal,” Cockett said in a statement. “This change in leadership will continue the momentum we have already built.
“In this search, we will be looking for an experienced leader who believes in collaboration with university leadership to advance the mission and vision of the institution through athletics and will continue to actively engage in USU’s work to improve the campus culture.”
Hartwell made a number of significant hires during his tenure in Logan, including revitalizing the men’s basketball program with the hire of Craig Smith (now head coach at the University of Utah) and bringing in Blake Anderson to lead the Aggies to their first-ever Mountain West Conference championship in football.
In an interview on the KSL Sports Zone radio station, Anderson said Hartwell’s resignation “took me quite by surprise that that was the direction things were headed.”
“We had a great run at Utah State,” Hartwell reportedly told ESPN. “It’s time to make sure my family comes first.”
Hartwell’s reported resignation comes days after former football player Patrick Maddox filed a lawsuit against the school and Anderson. Maddox says he experienced retaliation and harassment when it was revealed he recorded the coach and campus police chief making disparaging comments about sexual assault victims.
“There are a lot of things that are completely unrelated; time will show some things don’t have anything to do with others,” Anderson said without specifying further. “There were just some personal things I think John was dealing with on his own and he decided to handle it this way.”
Hartwell took the job as USU’s athletic director in June of 2015. The school has won seven Mountain West Conference regular season championships and four postseason titles. Six coaches have been named MWC Coach of the Year.
Some of those accolades belong to the men’s basketball team, which qualified for three consecutive NCAA Tournament berths from 2019 to 2021 under Smith.
In 2019 and 2021, the football team enjoyed 11-win seasons under two different head coaches. Both of those seasons came ended with bowl wins. Last season’s bowl win over Oregon State marked the team’s first-ever bowl victory over a Power 5 school.
The school’s volleyball team went 22-9 in 2021, its most wins since 2010, and won its first conference title since 2012. Additionally, both NCAA Championship appearances of USU’s women’s cross country team came under Hartwell.
From a business perspective, Hartwell negotiated a new deal in 2020 with Nike for footwear and apparel. He also was involved in making a deal with Opendorse so athletes can take advantage of name, image and likeness opportunities.
In 2020, the football program became embroiled in controversy. Former interim coach Frank Maile called for an investigation after Cockett reportedly said he was not considered for the head coaching job due to his religious and ethnic background.
Cockett and Hartwell were eventually exonerated by the Utah Board of Higher Education.
Hartwell said he is leaving with “wonderful memories and hearts of gratitude,” and gave a thank you for the USU chapter of the lives of him and his family.
“As I leave Utah State, I want you to know I have the highest regard for the student athletes, coaches, staff, student body, the Cache Valley community, and all of Aggie Nation,” Hartwell said. “There is an Aggie team spirit that permeates every part of Logan. It’s unlike any place I’ve seen.”