If David Sayler had any doubts about what is Job One for him as Miami University’s athletic director, they were eliminated an hour after he was introduced to the public.
Sayler, the focus of a 3 p.m. press conference on Thursday at Miami, left at 4 p.m. for a trip to Chicago to meet with potential donors to the RedHawks athletic department.
“The top of my ‘To Do’ list is to get to as many alums as I can,” Sayler said. “Raising money is my main criteria. It’s the same as any school in the country.
“What I’m most excited about is having 200,000 alums who have close proximity to the school.”
Sayler, a graduate of The Miami Valley School in Washington Twp., was introduced as Miami’s 16th athletic director, replacing Brad Bates, who left in October for Boston College after 10 years in Oxford. The 43-year-old Connecticut native and 1991 graduate of Ohio Wesleyan, where he played basketball and earned a degree in accounting, spent the previous 2 1/2 years as athletic director at the University of South Dakota.
“This is a celebration for me and everybody here,” Sayler said during the press conference. ‘When I think about my predecessors — Eric Hyman, Joel Maturi and Brad Bates — I’m honored to be mentioned with them. This is a job that I always thought would be a great fit for me when it came open. I always kept my eye on it.”
Dr. David Hodge, Miami’s president, said the university was looking for somebody with “good business acumen,” somebody who could “enhance the revenue stream,” and somebody with the “ability to attract and develop really first-class coaches.”
“That’s a tall order,” Hodge said. “We were thrilled to find somebody who has the values, the commitment and the experience to make all those things happen.”
Sayler grew up in New York City before his family moved to the Dayton area. He attended a Miami basketball camp while in high school, but he had to settle for playing at the smaller Ohio Wesleyan and then earning his Master’s degree in sports management from the University of Connecticut.
He also remembers watching Miami’s 69-68 overtime loss to Maryland in the first round of the 1985 NCAA Tournament at University of Dayton Arena.
“That’s one of the best games I’ve ever seen,” he said.
His experience includes jobs at UConn, the universities of Georgia, Hartford, Houston and Bowling Green, where he met his wife, Katie. They have two sons — Connor, 5, and Liam, 3.
“I got you back home to Ohio,” he said, looking directly at Katie. “It took a little while, but we got it.”
He also worked at Oregon State and Rice before taking over at South Dakota, where Miami first showed up on his radar.
“My first football win as athletic director at South Dakota was over Minnesota, where Joel Maturi is the athletic director,” he recalled. “If Joel told me once, he told me five times that he loved Miami. This might get him into trouble, but he said it was his favorite stop.”
Sayler engineered South Dakota’s move into the Missouri Valley Conference for football and helped secure a $20 million private gift for the program, the largest single contribution in Coyote athletics history. He also raised the money for a new basketball floor and football turf.
Miami women’s basketball coach Maria Fantanarosa met Sayler just shortly before the press conference, but she’s heard nothing but good things about him from mutual acquaintances.
“They sincerely praised his commitment, and they have great respect for him as a person,” Fantanarosa said. “He hit a home run with the staff when he met with us. I’m already excited and ready to follow him.”