LOGAN Whether or not Utah State officials took Scott Barnes on a sightseeing trip up Blacksmith Fork Canyon just south of Logan is not known. If they did, it was probably the little twist that helped seal the deal in hiring Barnes as the Aggies' new director of athletics.
"I'm a fly fisherman," Barnes said, explaining one of the reasons the AD job at USU was so appealing.
He cited geography, family needs and personal career goals as the three priorities he used to evaluate the job.
"It's a wonderful opportunity for us," Barnes said after being introduced as the replacement for Randy Spetman, who left USU a few weeks ago for Florida State. "Our goal as a family was to find a small, college community, and what we hear and know about Logan, it will be a wonderful fit."
Utah State moved quickly in hiring Barnes. According to USU president Stan Albrecht, there was a sense of urgency in finding Spetman's replacement and once those on the hiring committee met and interviewed Barnes, they knew they had found the person for the job.
"We were excited about the quality of the finalists," Albrecht said.
"But to me, one of those finalists clearly separated himself and stood out."
Barnes, 45, is no newcomer to athletics administration. With more than 20 years in the business most of it focused on fundraising Barnes brings a wealth of experience to the office.
Coming to Utah State from the University of Washington where he was in the initial phases of embarking on a massive renovation of Huskie Stadium, Barnes was the senior associate athletics director for advancement. He also oversaw the construction of a new press box and suite complex at Eastern Washington, where he was athletics director for six years.
Successful projects like those appeal to Aggie faithful who hope for a resurgence of the football program and see new facilities as an important step in that direction.
"Most of my time has been around helping to build football programs," he said, pleasing the several dozen long-suffering Aggie fans at his introductory press conference.
A former basketball player at Fresno State, Barnes said he hopes to use his proven skills in raising funds to elevate the on-field success of USU's athletic programs. His definition of success, when asked, included winning on the field, graduating student-athletes and running a clean program.
Winning on the football field, though, has proven difficult in recent years.
"Perhaps the biggest opportunity is to improve football," he said. "We look forward to giving our coaches the tools they need to succeed."
The new end zone complex at Romney Stadium is a start, and Barnes said he hopes to see more facility upgrades in the next few years. First, though, he will take 90 days to evaluate the state of the Aggies and implement a game plan for success.
"We need to create a sense of energy and urgency," he said in regard to increasing the community support for sports such as football. "We need to challenge all of our Aggie friends and alumni."
One program Barnes said he's not worried about is the men's basketball team.
"They're pretty good. I like what they're doing," he said. "For Stew (Morrill), it might just be staying out of the way."
Utah State, Barnes said, is in a position to grow. After floundering as a football independent for a couple of years, the school has found a home in the WAC and the damage independence did is slowly starting to be undone. The years of scheduling multiple big-money games against BCS teams may soon be coming to a close.
"Number one, you need to schedule for success and that means balance," he said, explaining there still may be one "money game" per year but that there will be more realistic scheduling as well. "The student-athletes crave that opportunity (to play top-level competition). But we want to make sure that we give our football team the very best opportunity to succeed."
Acknowledging Utah State does not have the same budgetary luxuries as he experienced while at Washington, Barnes said that is no excuse for not succeeding pointing to the Big Sky championships he was a part of while at Eastern Washington.
"If you can win there," he said, "you can win anywhere."
Those were words which brought a few chuckles from the boosters in the audience, but also brought assurance to them."We were able to build a budget and succeed (at EWU)," he said. "There is no reason that cannot be done here as well."
Born: June 23, 1962
Experience: Washington, 2005-08, senior associate athletics director for advancement Eastern Washington, 1999-2005, athletics director Humboldt State, 1997-99, athletics director Iowa State, 1994-97, director of athletic development Pacific, 1990-94, associate athletics director for external affairs U. San Diego, 1989-90, director of athletic development
Education: Fresno State, 1986
E-mail: [email protected]