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SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah will again see a change to its athletic department administration.
After 36 years with the athletic department, Liz Abel, the department’s senior associate athletics director, will retire in August, the university announced Tuesday. Abel primarily oversaw the football and gymnastics for the university, while serving as the director of communications.
“Over more than three decades of service to the University of Utah, Liz has become synonymous with excellence in Utah athletics,” Mark Harlan, the university’s director of athletics, said in a statement. “She has been an integral part of the ascendency of our athletics program and such a tremendous asset to Chris Hill and to me. Liz will be missed by so many.”
Abel served alongside the university's former director of athletics Chris Hill throughout his tenure and helped lift the program’s status over the years. As such, Abel became one of the first female sports information directors in the country in 1989 after originally joining the athletics department in 1983.
Throughout her time with the program, Abel has served as a sports information director, assistant athletics director and associate athletic director before landing in her current role starting in 2011. In that time, she has overseen several programs, including women’s basketball, volleyball, softball and the ski teams.
“I have had a great time over the past 36 years helping publicize the many incredible student-athletes and coaches at the University of Utah and have formed lifelong friendships in the process,” Abel said in a statement. “The seismic shift brought on by Chris Hill when he became the athletics director in 1987 kept me here and our mover from a middling mid-major to a member of the Pac-12 Conference has been an exciting era.
“On a personal level, I am grateful to Chris for advancing my career by breaking a gender barrier when he made me the football SID,” she added. “I am also appreciative of Mark Harlan for the respect he has shown me. Mark brings a fresh perspective and new ideas and I wish him success in leading Utah’s athletics to even greater heights. I am going to spend the next five months doing everything in my power to help us get there and then I’m moving to the stands as a fan.”
Hill, who served as the department’s director of athletics for 31 years, retired from his post in July 2018, after announcing the decision during a press conference on last March. The university hired Harlan that summer to serve as the university’s next director of athletics.
Abel will continue to work with the gymnastics program as it looks to return to nationals this year, and will continue to oversee the program as it prepares for the 2019 season.
Harlan did not say when he plans to hire for the position to replace Abel.