By Jeremy Hoeck
So it begins again.
For the second time in two and a half years, the University of South Dakota has lost its athletic director to the Football Bowl Subdivision and Mid-American Conference (MAC) ranks.
The position was vacated again Thursday, Dec. 14, when David Sayler resigned to take the same job at Miami University of Ohio. Sayler, 43, was hired at USD in June 2010 after former A.D. Joel Nielsen left for Kent State.
This time, though, it was a family matter that spurred Sayler's desire to move closer to home. The mother of Sayler's wife, Katie, recently died suddenly, which set into motion the process of Sayler seeking the same position at a bowl-eligible school with Division I hockey.
"Anybody that really knows the situation, knows it's a personal move for him and his family," said USD football coach Joe Glenn, who was hired by Sayler in December 2011.
"He really wanted to close the deal on the arena project, but I think in almost all cases in life, family comes first."
The news of Sayler's departure was met with surprise during an early afternoon staff meeting Thursday at the DakotaDome in Vermillion, leaving senior associate athletic director ¬– and now interim A.D. – David Herbster to take control. The idea of Sayler potentially leaving was, according to associate A.D. James Bandy, "Way under the radar."
"Nobody saw this coming," Bandy, responsible for Internal Operations, said. "This was a situation where Miami came after him. That it happened to be in Ohio, and where their family concerns are included, we all obviously understand."
Sayler is no stranger to the state of Ohio. He earned his bachelor of arts degree from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1991, spent three years in the private sector in Cleveland and later served as associate athletic director for business operations at Bowling Green State University from 2001-05.
"I've always had my eye on it," Sayler said at his introductory Miami press conference in Oxford, OH. "It's a special day for me and my family. I always felt like this was a great fit for me when the job came open."
Though he was only at USD for two years, Sayler did not seek to immediately leave, according to head men's track coach Dave Gottsleben – the longest-tenured Coyote coach in his 29th year.
"Those (family matters) all have to be factors, but I would assume it was a really tough decision," Gottsleben said. "He wasn't the guy to suddenly start looking for a job once his contract here was signed.
"With us, he did a pretty good job here, he set some things in motion that whoever gets the opportunity will have some good things set up."
Chief among Sayler's accomplishments at USD was his involvement in securing Board of Regents approval for the 2015 Facilities Master Plan, which includes a new volleyball/basketball arena, a new outdoor track and a soccer complex. The $48 million project — $58 million in total with a research lab "connector" – is set to go to the S.D. State Legislature next month.
Fundraising for the project is within $10 million of the final pricetag, Sayler said during a speech at Yankton Quarterback Club two weeks ago.
Among the other items on Sayler's USD resume: He helped secure a multimedia rights deal with Learfield Sports earlier this year, and also helped implement a new athletic logo that was unveiled in August.
Sayler also hired two coaches in his tenure, Glenn and Amy Williams to lead the women's basketball program in early June. He was also instrumental in securing an apparel and shoe contract with Adidas in February 2012.
Sayler did not return messages left Thursday.
"I know that he loves this place a lot, but it has nothing to do with USD why he left," Glenn said. "We cheer for him."