LOGAN — While sitting at his office desk, Randy Spetman sees items hanging in the room that serve as constant reminders of his past, present and future.

To his right hangs his flying helmet, scarf and gloves his troops presented to him when he was the commander of the B-52 Unit at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.

Straight ahead of him, enclosed in a glass case, contains all the insignias of his ranks in the United States Air Force and ribbons and medals he received during his 28 1/2 years of service. He retired as a colonel in April 2004.

Behind him is a plaque and sabre from the Air Force Academy Cadet Wing.

And finally, to his right hangs his father's World War II flight jacket and a photograph of his crew.

They represent his storied past.

Also behind him — in every sense of the word — is a family picture with his wife of 28 years, Becky, and their two children.

They represent the all three — past, present and future.

To his left are windows that look across Cache Valley and straight ahead of him hangs a plaque with the first dollar he raised for the Aggie Athletic Department.

They represent not only his future, but the future of the Utah State University athletic department — a charge he has taken seriously since taking over as the athletic director in the summer of 2004.

DAD'S FLIGHT JACKET

When Spetman looks as his father's flight jacket, he sees more than just the tangible evidence that his father served his country, but it also reminds him of what his parents, Ed and Glenna, taught him while growing up on a farm in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

World War II, in which his father was a gunner and radio man for a B-24 crew, was well over by the time Spetman was born in 1952.

He very rarely heard stories from his father about his tour because it was such a difficult time for him, and he lost a lot of his friends and comrades.

It wasn't until a few years before his father died that he learned more. His father's tour included numerous missions in North Africa, three crash landings and being shot once.

"I keep his jacket, ever since he died, in my office to remind me of what those guys did for us," he said.

After the war, his father was a banker and his mother was a homemaker. Both actively volunteered in the community.

Spetman was raised in an atmosphere where integrity, respect, honesty, hard work and faith in God were taught by word and example.

"If you told somebody you were going to do something you did it," Spetman said.

A man's word and handshake were as good as a signed contract.

"My dad was incredible as banker because he could sit at his desk and ranchers and farmers would come in and talk about borrowing money, and he knew just by talking with them whether they were going to pay him back or not. He could read people that way," he said.

The family was Congregationalist, and they attended meetings every Sunday.

"I believe He (God) has a plan for each one of us. It doesn't always go the way we want and you wonder why. You can help guide what the outcome is going to be, but He determines whether I wake up tomorrow. Really, I based my life of that."

FLIGHT HELMET, SCARF, GLOVES, INSIGNIAS

The core values of the Air Force Academy — Integrity first, Service before self, Excellence in all we do — weren't new to him, he was taught them in his home as a child. As a student at the Air Force Preparatory School and as a football player and cadet at the Academy and during his tour as a pilot, trainer and commander, they were reinforced.

As a family, the Spetman's took a vacation to Colorado Springs when Randy was young, and they visited the Academy, and it seemed to spark his interest in the military.

"As I was going through junior high, for some reason, I thought it would be neat to go to some service academy," he said. "I did everything in junior high and high school to get into a service academy — student body, academics, tutoring."

At the same time he excelled in football.

"I never really thought about flying. I went to the Air Force Academy so I could play football. I never thought about being in the military long-term," he said.

He was a three-year starter for the Falcons and was a co-captain his senior year. His varsity letter and a plaque for being named the lineman of the week by Sports Illustrated are also in his office.

"As I went on and got the opportunity to go into pilot training, then I loved to fly and be a part of that," he said.

His pilot training took him to Williams Air Force Base (Arizona) and Castle Air Force Base (California), and he had additional training at the Pentagon, Maxwell Air Force Base (Alabama) and the National War College (Washington, D.C).

His assignments and commands took him to Fairchild Air Force Base (Washington State); Fork Air Force Base (North Dakota), Ft. McNair (Washington, D.C), Wurtsmith Air Force Base (Michigan), Minot Air Force Base (North Dakota), Stuttgart, Germany, and Colorado Springs as the athletic director of his alma mater.

In his military career he flew more than 3,000 hours in several different aircraft, and he trained hundreds and hundreds young pilots.

After earning his commission from the Air Force Academy where he also earned a bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering, he later earned a master's degree in management and supervision from Central Michigan University and a second master's degree in National Security Matters from National War College in Washington, D.C.

He was one of 40 chosen to do an internship at the Pentagon where he built briefings and sat in Congress with General Robert D. Russ, who was the lead congressional liaison, to sell programs and get program funding from the government.

In Operation Desert Storm, working in Saudi Arabia, he was the chief of the B-52 bomber mission plan of the night cell. In 40 days he was involved in the planning of 843 missions in which more than 20 millions pounds of bombs were dropped.

"It was one of the most interesting times of my life because I experienced more emotional highs and lows, working long hours, sending people into combat, wondering if you had done the right thing and wondering if they trust you," he said.

A FAMILY OF FOUR

Spetman's wife, Becky, has been by his side for 28 years. She also experienced the high and lows, changes, and family moves associated with military life.

"I have to give her credit for the family," he said.

They have two children, Brian, 24, and Kim, 21.

At times, Kim or Brian would stop by his office and he wasn't there, but he would find a note telling him that they loved him.

Becky would get involved in the kids' school and the kids would immediately get involved in activities to help them adjust.

"The kids saw her there and a part of it, and it meant a lot," he said.

By the time the Spetman's moved back to Colorado Springs for Randy's assignment as the athletic director at the Academy, Brian was going into the 10th grade and had already moved eight times.

Spetman was aware of the strain it could have on the family and tried to defuse it from Day 1.

"Becky and I, when we moved, the one thing we started when we had kids, the first room we did was their room, so they immediately had a home and felt at home," he said. "We did the rest of the home later."

Although change was difficult at the time, his children have learned in their adult lives to deal with change, he said.

Brian attended Arizona State University and was the captain of the swim team. He recently graduated with a degree in microbiology.

Kim, is a senior at ASU studying nursing. Spetman sent her on reconnaissance missions last year to find out information from the players on the team about their defensive coordinator, Brent Guy. Spetman later hired Guy as the head football coach.

THE VARSITY LETTER

While serving as Chief, Command and Control Division, Operations Directorate at the U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany, he was sitting at his desk as the day was winding down. An officer called from Colorado Springs, asking him if he was intending on applying for the athletic director position at the Academy.

At first, he thought it was one of his buddies downstairs playing a joke on him, but as the conversation progressed he realized it was serious.

He was one of eight who applied and he was eventually offered the position, becoming the first athlete and coach from the Academy named to the post.

"I thought I knew what I was getting into, but I had no idea what it took to run an athletic department," he said. "I played football as the Academy and was a football graduate assistant for a year after, but I had no idea what the management was."

He relied on the expertise of others while feeling his way around.

"I had a great staff there that helped me and taught me what to do and I worked off the credibility of the institution in the NCAA," he said.

He got involved with committees and had several mentors around the country that taught him the ropes.

In addition to governing over the institution's 27 intercollegiate sporting programs, Spetman also oversaw the physical education and intramural programs as well.

He, along with his staff, were also responsible for raising money.

"Most people think the Air Force Academy is totally funded by the government," he said. "We raised $16 million a year through sponsorships, donors and marketing and the likes . . . We paid for intercollegiate athletics at the Academy by the money we raised."

He also guided the program through its first major building facelift in 30 years with the addition of a new weight room, training room, locker rooms and administrative offices.

After 8 1/2 years as the Academy's athletic director he resigned Jan. 1, 2004.

THE MOUNTAINS OF CACHE VALLEY

As a civilian, Spetman began looking for another athletics director position and had actually interviewed at South Florida and East Carolina.

"What I got caught in a little bit, which I thought I would coming out of the military, many of the programs had perceptions that I was an Air Force colonel and had no idea how to run an athletic department and didn't know how to fund raise."

He also boldly told them how he was going to operate his program.

"I told them if I was running their program we were going to run it by the rules of the NCAA and we were going to bring great credit to the institution," he said. "If there was some doubt with that then they needed to go a different direction."

He wasn't offered either position, and their loss eventually equated into Utah State's gain.

In the meantime, former Utah State athletic director Rance Pugmire stepped down, and Spetman was contacted by two members of Utah State's search committee, one of which was Phil Olsen, a former player at Utah State.

Spetman's commitment to athletics, academics, enthusiasm and fund raising were the exact qualities the the University needed in an athletic director.

BLUEBIRD COFFEE CLUB

Spetman, who is in the second year of a three-year contract, admits he as some of the luxuries other athletic directors at Utah State didn't have, namely entry into the Western Athletic Conference.

"Timing is everything, and I was fortunate with good timing," said Spetman, who took over for Pugmire in July 2004.

On the flip side, the move to the WAC, which the community has been awaiting for decades, brings with it more responsibility.

Currently, Utah State's athletic budget is around $9 million and Fresno State and Boise State operate at nearly double that.

"It's going to be expensive to be there," he said. "We have some huge things to overcome."

Now more than ever, Spetman said, it is imperative the university takes those necessary strides forward. Plenty of promises were made to and by other athletic directors to coaches over the years, but they were never able to deliver.

"We have not been successful in football for 25 or 30 years now and I perceive that is a little bit because we haven't done our due diligence to put things into the football program to make it successful," he said.

"We brought in great coaches here, and we made commitments we were going to change this and that and we didn't."

This time, failure isn't an option.

"If we don't complete the stadium renovation then the program is not going to grow," he said. "That's how important it is. Some people think I overstate that, but there is no way."

A USU student bond has raised close to $10 million for the project, but $16 million more is needed.

Renovations on the south end of Romney Stadium have begun, but the east and west bleachers, a new press box, and coaches' offices, locker rooms and sports medicine facilities need to be completed also.

"We're moving forward," he said. "We have some big fund-raising things to complete to get it done, but we're making a move in the right direction."

Hanging on the wall directly in front of him is the first dollar he received under his administration, from the Bluebird Coffee Club in Logan.


E-mail: jhinton@desnews.com