New kid in town

By Gus Bode

Chet Savage has worked rooms filled with potential donors and dealt with the day-to-day operations of an athletic program looking to improve its facilities.

Now Savage, 30, will take the lessons he learned while at the University of Missouri-Columbia into his new job as SIU’s assistant athletic director for external operations, a job he is scheduled to start on Jan. 29.

Financial terms of Savage’s deal with SIU were being negotiated late Wednesday, Assistant Athletic Director for Business Mark Scally said, adding that Savage “stood head and antlers above” the more than 20 candidates who also interviewed for the position.

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While the job title may sound unfamiliar to most Saluki fans, the position has been on the university’s organizational chart since at least 2001.

Savage’s job encompasses marketing, ticket sales and fundraising for both the Saluki Scholarship Fund, which helps cover scholarship costs for athletes, and the multi-million-dollar construction project Saluki Way.

Savage will report directly to Athletic Director Mario Moccia, who also came to SIU from Mizzou in August 2006. Moccia and Savage worked together at Mizzou and SIU’s top Saluki said he saw a little of his own history in Savage.

Missouri Athletic Director Mike Alden gave Moccia his first job in athletic administration while at New Mexico State and the two men worked together at two other stops before Moccia landed at SIU.

Moccia said he “looked at it, and I kind of really grew in that position and it was helpful because he knew me and I knew him so I almost look at it as that’s a little bit of part of my past.”

Savage said he looked forward to the chance to work with Moccia and the university after speaking with his new boss at SIU sporting events and over the phone.

“The more I talked to Mario I learned about the passion that the Saluki fans had and I had the opportunity to hear about the university’s commitment to the future through Saluki Way,” Savage said. “The more I learned about it, the more I wanted to be a part of it and I was fortunate enough to get that opportunity.”

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Moccia now plays the role of mentor and boss to a youthful administrator. Savage brings a little more experience to this hire than his new boss brought to his first job at UNMS, though.

Savage brings five years of experience at a Big 12 athletic program to his new job at SIU. During his stint at Missouri, Savage was charged with fundraising and the Riverside, Calif. native ran Mizzou’s Tiger Scholarship Fund for the two years leading up to his Tuesday hire.

“His territory was the St. Louis metro area so he was in there once a week and we’ve got 13,000 alumni in that area, and in order to raise all this money we’re going to need bodies out there. It always helps to have a body who has asked for major gifts before,” Moccia said.

The Tiger Scholarship Fund raised more than $6 million annually to cover the cost of athletic scholarships for Mizzou’s student-athletes while under Savage’s guidance. The Saluki Scholarship fund, which is tied into season ticket sales and donations, raised $600,124 in the university’s 2006 fiscal year. Athletic scholarships totaled about $1.7 million during the same time span.

Savage, like Moccia, brings experience as a former collegiate baseball player.

While at Kansas State, where he earned a bachelor’s in public relations and a master’s in public education, Savage earned an Academic All-Big 12 honorable mention selection as a catcher with the Wildcats in 1998.

Savage’s performance will be reviewed after June 30 of each year for at least three years before the job moves to more permanent status. His first review is set for the summer.

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