SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – For the first time in 31 years, the University of Utah has new athletic director.
Mark Harlan was introduced to the media on Monday, taking over for Chris Hill, who retired after 31 years on the job.
“I am so excited to be here,” Harlan said. “This is an unbelievable institution.”
Harlan helped resurrect South Florida’s athletic department, as evidenced by the Bulls 29-9 record the last three seasons in football. Harlan also has Pac-12 experience having worked at UCLA and his alma mater, Arizona. But at Utah, he wants to build on Chris Hill’s foundation.
“I’ve seen it from afar, competed against Utah,” Harlan said. “I met with the head coaches and told them when you played Utah, you were in a fight. It didn’t matter what sport it was, you were in a fight. So, I’m so excited to be a part of that going forward.”
It’s tough to follow a man who has been on the job for 31 years, but Harlan will consult Hill when needed.
“Gosh, I’ve got to follow a guy who’s on the Utah Mount Rushmore and done all these things, that’s going to be a lot of fun,” Harlan said with a smile. “But the foundation that he set forward for these student-athletes, coaches and this university, it’s so exciting to be able to build on that. He offered his support and help and I can bend his ear all the time.”
But Harlan has his own strategy and implement his own style at Utah.
“We’re going to win in three categories,” he said. “We’re going to win in the classroom, absolute necessity. We’re going to win in the community. We are the flagship of this entire state. We represent Utah and we represent Salt Lake City. And lastly, we’re going to win in competition. So get ready, buckle up and go Utes.”
Having successful, established coaches like Kyle Whittingham, Larry Krystkowiak and Megan Marsden will help the transition.
“Unbelievable coaches here, so I just look forward to seeing where can I help,” Harlan said. “What are the things that we can talk about to continue the trajectory of your program.”
There’s no question fundraising is a big part of the athletic director’s job. Harlan has a stellar reputation both at UCLA and South Florida. Millions of dollars have already been raised for expansion at Rice-Eccles Stadium, and Harlan hopes to finish that effort soon.
“This is an unbelievably gorgeous stadium,” Harlan said. “I’ve competed on the other side and saw the incredible fan base that is here. It’s a project I’m certainly aware of. I look forward to learning more about it.”
Harlan has already been indoctrinated into the Utah-BYU rivalry.
“We all compete like crazy, but we can all be friends,” he said. “I think some BYU guy made a fake Twitter of me, so I got it. I see how it works.”