Mike Terry, Deseret Morning News
University of Utah basketball coach Ray Giacoletti speaks with University Associate Athletic Director Liz Abel while his players speak with the media in regards to his resignation. This comes at crucial time for the Ute's as they face off against rival Brigham Young University tomorrow night in the Mountain West Conference Tournament. March 2, 2007. Mike Terry, Deseret Morning News.

In the late 1980s, I was in Lincoln, Nebraska, at the Utes’ team hotel, talking to Liz Abel, who that same year became one of the first female football sports information directors in the country. The subject got around to the team’s future.

She liked what she saw in the program. She also liked what she did and where she lived. Raised in the Midwest, she said it took her a few years to get used to the sense of the Utah mountains crowding up to her doorstep. But she loved it and never left. The U. announced Tuesday that she will retire in August, after 36 years. She and recently retired athletic director Chris Hill arrived in Utah from other regions and stayed for decades. They helped ensure the program today is both fiscally and competitively sound.

Not many schools can say that.

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It’s safe to say Liz and I didn’t talk that afternoon about the possibility of Utah ever playing in the Pac-12 championship game, the Final Four, the Sugar Bowl or the Fiesta Bowl. But she has seen the Utes through all that and more. One of her prime duties has been to oversee publicity for the nationally prominent gymnastics team. That’s all fun duty, but I can’t imagine many more stressful jobs. The SID oversees media relations for all varsity sports. That can result in some gut-wrenching days. At any school, there are arrests, controversies and crushing defeats that go along with the front-row seats at historic events.

She has been the first person the media went to whenever sports news broke at the U., going about her job of disseminating the news regardless of whether it was good or bad. That's what pros do. Meanwhile, she got to know all the best athletes Utah has produced in the last four decades. They can thank her for getting their names out in the public. I can thank her for getting them out to me.