Four finalists named for SIU athletic director

By Aaron Graff, @Aarongraff_DE

Four finalists have been named for the SIU Athletic Director vacancy. The position has been open since former AD Mario Moccia started the same position at his alma mater, New Mexico State in January.

Tommy Bell was named the Western Illinois University Director of Athletics in July 2013. He previously served as the Director of Athletics at Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne.

Before that, he spent six years as the Constituent Development Office for SIU Athletics. He led the capital campaign efforts for the Saluki Way master facility plan.


He holds a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Virginia Tech and a master’s in health and physical education from Radford.

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Leon Costello has been the deputy director of athletics at South Dakota State University since July 2014. Before that, he held multiple positions at the University of Northern Iowa between 2002 and 2010, including associate athletic director/external relations.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in physical education-sports science from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa and a master’s degree in physical education-sports management from Western Illinois University.

“I want to create a one-of-a-kind experience for our student athletes first and foremost,” Costello said. “The ultimate goal is to build that experience to where we’re competing for championships, not only on the court, but academically as well.”

Costello said the job description matched with him well because of his familiarity to the Missouri Valley Conference and similar partnerships, such as Learfield Sports and Under Armour, which he currently manages at SDSU. 


Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget cuts to higher education would affect all of SIU, including athletics. Costello said he has some experience dealing with budget cuts at UNI, but not as much at SDSU. He said schools at SIU’s level deal with budget issues all the time because they do not have as much revenue. He said SIU would have to figure a way to maximize money, while still being relevant.

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Richard Darnell Jr. has served as senior associate athletic director-development at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign since 2012. He was previously the executive director of athletic fundraising at Baylor University.

He has a bachelor’s degree in marine transportation from the United States Merchant Marine Academy and a master’s degree in business administration from Washington University in St. Louis.

Darnell emailed a statement and said he would answer further questions at a later time, out of respect for the process. 

“As a leader, I have had an aspirational career goal to serve a nationally ranked university competing in one of the nation’s elite NCAA Division I conferences as Athletics Director,” Darnell said in an email. “Southern Illinois University Carbondale is an exceptional institution that has enjoyed national success.  I look forward to visiting campus in late April to meet with President [Randy] Dunn, campus leaders and the public.”   

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Rick Hartzell served as director of athletics for the University of Northern Iowa from 1999 to 2008. Since 2011, he has run a motivational speaking business.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education and English and a master’s degree in educational administration—both from the University of Northern Iowa.

“My main focus would be to build an athletic department family,” Hartzell said. “A group of people, coaches and staff, that cared about each other, that believed in each other, that helped each other, that supported each other and that represented Southern Illinois University in a way that the entire campus and community could be proud.”

Hartzell said he went through six or seven rounds of budget cuts at UNI, and said there are a million ways to deal with them if Rauner’s proposed budget cuts to higher education go through. Hartzell said he would start by figuring out if there was a way to offset the cuts by raising more money. 

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Matt Wells contributed to this story.

Aaron Graff can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3311 ext. 256.