March 29 2013
Special Awards Salute: Home is where the heart is: Duquesne's Dave Saba to receive a CoSIDA 25-Year AwardNote:
This is the 13th article in the CoSIDA Special Awards feature series which will highlight all 2013 Special Award recipients. All recipients will be honored at the CoSIDA Convention (June 12-15)
in conjunction with the NACDA and Affiliates Convention at Orlando's Marriott World Center.
See the full list of recipients and features schedule.
by Bill Little
University of Texas Special Assistant to Football Coach for Communications
CoSIDA Special Awards Committee
PITTSBURGH, PA –
“You can’t go home again,” wrote the author Thomas Wolfe - but Wolfe obviously never met Dave Saba, Duquesne University’s Associate Athletics Director for Media Relations whose 25 years in the SID profession will be recognized at the 2013 CoSIDA Convention in Orlando this summer.
At a June 14th Special Awards Luncheon, Saba will be among a group of CoSIDA members receiving a 25-Year Award for their quarter century of collegiate athletic communications service.
Saba’s odyssey from, and back to, his hometown of Pittsburgh began over thirty years ago when he graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1982 and headed to Ohio University in search of a master’s degree in Sports Administration. He completed his degree there in 1985. He worked as an intern with the Philadelphia Eagles that fall, and in 1986 he decided to follow sports administration in the college ranks, heading to the ticket office at The University of Texas at Austin in the fall of 1986.
“I showed up in Texas in October of 1986 with two suitcases, and my first day of work was in the will call booth for the Texas-Oklahoma football game in the Cotton Bowl Stadium at the State Fair of Texas,” Saba recalled, adding, “I had never been west of Chicago, and I lived my first year in Austin without a car.”
It didn’t take long for Saba to reconnect with sports journalism. Co-workers in the UT ticket office, including now-UT Associate AD Mike Bos, soon realized that his passion lay in the media relations side of college sports. So the ticket office guys and the SID staff soon got together, and a new career path was defined for the young man from Pittsburgh.
By the season of 1987-88, Saba had become the baseball SID for Texas, assisting with both basketball and football. It soon became apparent that not only was he very good at what he did, the teams with which he worked soon experienced amazing success.
In 1989, Saba accompanied the tradition-rich Longhorn baseball team to the NCAA College World Series in Omaha, where an admittedly over-achieving Cliff Gustafson squad lost in the championship game to Wichita. The 1989-90 basketball season brought Saba into the bright lights of national media, as he took over the UT basketball coverage for a Tom Penders team which surprised everyone by winning their way to the Elite Eight—falling when a last second three-point shot bounced off the rim with UT’s first trip to the Final Four in over 40 years hanging in the balance.
Saba captured national attention for UT in the spring of 1991, when he came up with the idea of an exhibition baseball game matching the Longhorns with the Texas Rangers. It was unique in that it matched the Rangers’ baseball icon Nolan Ryan against his oldest son (then UT freshman Reid Ryan) as the starting pitchers in the game. The coverage went way beyond anything the college baseball world had ever seen, including a live report on NBC Nightly News
In 1992 Saba became only the fourth full-time Sports Information Director in the history of The University of Texas, joining CoSIDA Hall of Famers Bill Sansing, Wilbur Evans, Jones Ramsey and Bill Little.
But while his success was growing in Texas, his heart remained in Pittsburgh. Always hanging proudly in his office, from the time he was an intern to his post as head of the UT office, was a 16 by 20 color picture of the Pittsburgh skyline at night.
By the late 1990s, Saba was one of the most popular members of the UT athletics staff, and had earned national respect as one of the best SIDs in the business. He had accompanied Texas to seven NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournaments, and worked five bowl games, including two BCS-level games. But all who knew him understood fully—if the chance ever came, Dave Saba needed to go home.
That opportunity came in the summer of 1998, when he learned of an opening in the athletics communications area at Duquesne University, located not too far from where he grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Reluctant at first, he followed the urging of his colleagues at Texas and applied for the job. In the fall of 1998, he accepted the job as the Associate Athletics Director for Media Relations at Duquesne.
And his life also took an unforeseen other turn. During his job interview, he met Shelly Heisey, a former Boston College athlete who was the head women’s soccer coach at Duquesne. The two married, and now have two daughters, Sydney, 9, and Avery, 7.
At Duquesne, Saba has continued a work ethic and excellence that have validated his career. He has staffed 730 basketball games, missing only one game when his first daughter was about to be born. He has accompanied teams to games in 38 states. He’s served as a regional Media Coordinator for two NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournaments. And he continues to mix new ideas into the concepts of a well-established modern media relations office.
“Dave is an integral member of the Duquesne University athletic department senior staff,” says athletics director Greg Amodio. “He is highly motivated and does a tremendous job promoting the academic and athletic achievements of our student-athletes. Dave is a true professional and we are pleased he is being honored with the CoSIDA 25-year award for service in media relations.”
His comment underscores the essence of Dave Saba, who has devoted his professional life— whether at Texas or Duquesne—to promoting his university, his coaches and his players. They are the people of his SID “playbook.” It has never been about him.
From “the Forty Acres” at UT to “the Bluff” at Duquesne, he proved his mettle in the lights of the brightest arenas, but most of all, he validated his heart—and he reinforces that as human kind’s greatest asset.
And for Dave Saba, his heart will always be in Pittsburgh.