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Aggies name new athletic director

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Hoping perhaps to heal some of the wounds between the athletic department and part of the staff and community, Utah State University has hired a personable new athletic director to replace Chuck Bell, who left for San Jose State after a stormy but productive five years with the Aggies.

Bruce Van De Velde, 43, who has been associate athletic director for development at the University of Missouri for the past year, is USU's new athletic director, contingent upon approval Friday from the USU Board of Trustees.In Van De Velde's little more than a year at Missouri, fund-raising reached all-time highs in three areas as he emphasized improving communications with donors and fans. Van De Velde also spent five years as associate AD at Kansas State, where he's credited with helping turn around that school's football program.

Van De Velde will receive a starting salary of $93,000 a year and assume his new post no later than July 20, according to Paul Norton, USU vice president of University Relations and Development. He was chosen from a field of 59 applicants.

"He and his wife, Debbie, are thrilled," said Norton in a news release. "This has been his life-long goal to be an athletics director at an NCAA Division I school."

"He has a wonderful record of external relations and got along well with the community and is bright and enthusiastic and is a student of athletic administration," says search committee chairman Art Jones, head of USU's Health, Physical Education and Recreation department.

"He has experience in intercollegiate athletics, he has managed large budgets, he's just completing a doctor's degree so he is a good fit with the academic community, and he has demonstrated success at two universities," Jones said.

"When we did reference checks," Jones added, "they were typically the same: That he gets along well with all the constituent groups - the booster clubs and the chamber of commerce and the faculty and those things.

"I don't know if it was a priority, but any athletic director has to have those kinds of skills."

Bell accomplished a great deal in his five years at USU, most notably hiring excellent basketball (Larry Eustachy) and football (John L. Smith) coaches who brought the school championships and post-season play, upgrading the football stadium and starting a new practice facility.

But Bell stepped on some Cache Valley toes and was heavily pressured by some individuals to the point that it was easier for him to move on when the San Jose State job became available to him.

Van De Velde is expected to be in Logan on Friday, said USU public relations director John DeVilbiss.