LOGAN, Utah – Utah State University Vice President and Director of Athletics John Hartwell has been named the fourth-best non-Power 5 AD in the nation by Stadium Network, it was announced Thursday.
Stadium College Insiders Brett McMurphy and Jeff Goodman graded the football and men’s basketball hirings of the current Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) athletic directors. These grades are based on the success of the coaches hired, difficulty of opponents in their respective conferences, bowl appearances, NCAA Tournament trips, conference titles and national championships won. The grades do not take into consideration any fundraising or building of facilities by the athletic directors. Also, each athletic director gets credit for a coach’s hiring at each school — even after the AD moves on to another university and the coach remains at the original school.
“I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this recognition,” said Utah State University President Noelle E. Cockett. “John reflects integrity in everything he does and leads by example. He understands the value of the collegiate model of athletics and works hard to implement that model, both to the benefit of the individual and the larger institution. He also recognizes why we reference student first when we talk about the student-athlete and you see that in his personal care and concern for every Aggie athlete. John is a highly respected member of our executive committee, and through his leadership and fiscal stewardship, makes us better as an institution.”
Since assuming the duties of Director of Intercollegiate Athletics at Utah State University on June 2, 2015, Hartwell has established a pattern of growth and stability that would rival any athletics department in the country and is unmatched in the history of Aggie Athletics.
Under Hartwell’s leadership, Utah State Athletics has seen unparalleled success, led by a 54-15 record and consecutive Mountain West Tournament titles and NCAA Tournament berths in men’s basketball the last two seasons under head coach Craig Smith, who was hired by Hartwell. In all, USU has claimed five Mountain West regular season championships and four more postseason titles during Hartwell’s tenure, to go along with four bowl game appearances in football, while five total coaches have been named its Conference Coach of the Year.
Even more impressive is Utah State’s continued successes by its student-athletes in the classroom as they have a 93 percent graduation success rate, which is the highest in the Mountain West, and a cumulative 3.36 grade-point average, which is the highest in school history. During the 2019-20 academic year, USU had 186 student-athletes earn academic all-Mountain West honors, while 78 were named MW Scholar-Athletes. Additionally, USU recognized 212 student-athletes at its annual Joe E. and Elma Whitesides Luncheon for earning a 3.2 or better GPA.
In his time at Utah State, Hartwell has rebranded the fundraising arm of the athletics department with the creation of Aggies Unlimited, which puts all giving under one umbrella. He has also focused his time on maximizing and increasing the department’s revenue streams, along with planning for future facility renovations to both Maverik Stadium and the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. Additionally, Hartwell oversaw the completion of the $36 million, 85,000-square foot West Stadium Center on the west side of Maverik Stadium.
Hartwell’s strong business background has also proved to be valuable at Utah State as he negotiated a new footwear and apparel deal with Nike in 2020, in addition to a new partnership with the Larry H. Miller Sports & Entertainment Group to be its flagship radio station for Aggie Athletics.
During the 2019-20 academic year, Utah State men’s basketball won its second-straight Mountain West Tournament title, while the USU men’s cross country team won its first-ever MW Championship, followed by a 16th-place finish at the NCAA National Championships. In fact, USU’s men’s cross country team has advanced to the NCAA Championships twice in the past three seasons, its first two appearances in school history. Furthermore, Aggie gymnastics notched its first winning season since 1999, which included a pair of victories against top-20 opponents, as it finished the year ranked 29th in the nation. In all, the 2019-20 academic year marked just the fourth time in school history that football advanced to a bowl game and men’s basketball qualified for the NCAA Tournament, including for the first time in back-to-back years. Additionally, head men’s cross country coach Artie Gulden and head gymnastics coach Amy Smith were named its conference’s Coach of the Year, both of which are Hartwell hires.
The 2018-19 Utah State academic year saw both its football and men’s basketball teams nationally ranked as USU was one of just five institutions to have both programs ranked in the final Associated Press polls. Collectively, USU produced a combined 39-9 record between football (11-2) and men’s basketball (28-7), which is a single-season school record. That 39-9 mark was also tied for the fourth-best winning percentage and seventh-most wins nationally. Furthermore, football tied the school record for wins with its 11-2 record, while men’s basketball went 28-7 to tie for the third-most victories in program history. At season’s end, both program’s head coaches were named Mountain West Coach of the Year.
Not to be outdone, the 2017-18 academic year was arguably the best in school history under Hartwell as Aggie Athletics ranked 78th nationally in the Learfield Director’s Cup Standings, which is by far the best finish for USU in the Cup’s 25 years, while its 375-plus student-athletes achieved a school-record 3.25 grade-point average.
In 2017-18, Utah State’s men’s tennis program won its third-straight Mountain West regular season championship and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in as many years. Additionally, USU’s track & field/cross country teams had their best seasons in school history, highlighted by the men’s programs finishing the year ranked 10th nationally by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. During the 2017-18 seasons, the Aggie men placed 27th in their first-ever appearance in the NCAA Cross Country Championships, followed by a 28th-place finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships and an 18th-place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, as its student-athletes combined to garner 12 All-America honors. On the women’s side, USU’s cross country program finished 14th in its first-ever appearance at the NCAA Championships, while its student-athletes combined to garner three All-America honors.
Hartwell came to Utah State after spending three years as the Athletics Director at Troy, where he laid the groundwork for the future of Trojan Athletics. Troy’s athletics programs have also seen vast improvement on the fields of play due to Hartwell’s leadership and oversight, including the football program posting a 31-8 record during its last three seasons under Neal Brown, who Hartwell hired, not to mention the Trojans being the first Sun Belt Conference team to ever appear in either the Associated Press or Coaches Poll. Another Hartwell hire, Mark Smartt, led Troy baseball to a 42-win season and an at-large NCAA bid in 2018.