Utah State’s new AD says ‘we are looking at all options’ for conference realignment

Diana Sabau held an introductory news conference Thursday morning.

(Courtesy of Utah State University) Diana Sabau is the new athletic director for Utah State University. She replaces John Hartwell, who resigned last November.

Utah State University’s new athletic director doesn’t have any ties to the Beehive State. She’s coming to Utah after stints in the Big Ten Conference and Ohio State University.

But as Diana Sabau’s recruitment progressed, she became “touched” by the search committee’s passion for the university and deep desire to move athletics at the school forward. Now she’s the new leader of an athletic department that has had its fair share of difficulties in recent years.

“Our student-athletes will always be at the forefront of my decision-making because we are here for them and they are here to make our community proud,” Sabau said.

Sabau starts her job on Aug. 21, when she’ll take over during a tumultuous time in all of college athletics. More than a half-dozen schools across the country have switched conference affiliations. One of those is the University of Utah, which will head to the Big 12 next year.

It’s been reported that the depleted Pac-12 and Mountain West could merge in the future. MW Commissioner Gloria Nevarez said Thursday that possibility is “not off the table.”

Sabau addressed realignment, lessons from Gene Smith, and other topics during her introduction to Cache Valley.

On conference realignment as it relates to Utah State and the Mountain West

“I have not received my crystal ball yet and I’m still in transit. But I can assure you that Commissioner Nevarez is well prepared. It’s gifted in her leadership. Our university presidents are in alignment.

We are looking at all options. Everything is on the table. Obviously, it is changing daily. But the Mountain West is a strong brand. It is a competitive conference. And everyone is looking at us right now to shine brightly.

So I know that together our presidents and Commissioner Nevarez, as well as our athletic directors, are working to make sure that the future honors the student-athlete, but also does what’s best for the league.”

On what she learned from Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith

“I learned from Gene to slow down to be fast. That people are the most important thing in everything that we do. And that you need to listen to prioritize your decision making so that we can all move forward together.

I also learned from Gene [to] enjoy the moment, have fun, celebrate your successes. We’re going to do that because we have a strong foundation.

Quite frankly, the country knows about Utah State because of the Mountain West Conference and the success that you’ve had. But let’s make them really aware of Utah State University athletics.”

On what it means to be a ‘servant leader’

“To be a servant leader means that everyone will come before me. That I will listen. That I will make priorities based on our student-athletes, our coaching staffs and the community because you are what is most important.

And as we continue to achieve success, people are the juice of all that we do. I will honor them. I will respect you and I will make sure that you come first.”

On continuing to work with former interim AD Jerry Bovee

“I cannot wait. I’m very thankful for him, for all of the sacrifice that he gave during this transition period. It’s a lot of work. It’s hard work. Jerry was tireless in his efforts.

I could really see, as this process quickly came to an end and is beginning now as an athletics director, the department is behind Jerry and is supportive of Jerry. He has a wealth of historical knowledge and relationships that are going to be important moving forward.

I look to be his best partner, and I look for us to continue to grow Aggie athletics and really be arm in arm in our successes.”