Penn State and NFL experience helping to develop UVU athletics

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Photo courtesy of Lydell Sargeant

In 2015, Lydell Sargeant was hired as the Director of Development in the UVU athletic department. Sargeant handles the Wolverine Club, which is the sole booster club for UVU athletics. The club is primarily comprised of university alumni and local businessmen and businesswomen.

“The Wolverine Club is the people that provide the money for the scholarships for student-athletes, for new facilities and really the advancement of UVU athletics,” said Sargeant. “With UVU being a newer school in comparison to some other institutions, our alumni base is growing.”

Before arriving at UVU, Sargeant played football at Penn State, starting at defensive back for three seasons and earning second team All-Big Ten honors before signing as an undrafted free agent with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.

“The expectation was to get drafted; my mentor was Deion Sanders, and so I moved to Dallas and lived with Deion training with him for the combine,” said Sargeant. “I ended up having some medical red flags at the combine, which is something they take very seriously and…it kind of bumped me down, so based on how the draft went I became a free agent and…the opportunity at Buffalo for me to go in and make the team was good. I signed there as a priority free agent and was able to take advantage of that opportunity.”

After what turned out to be a brief stint in the NFL due to a knee injury, Sargeant returned to Penn State to earn his master’s degree and got involved in the athletic department. His prior experiences as an athlete, a student, and an athletic department staff member have all impacted his work here at UVU.

“It’s invaluable. There are things as a professional athlete you’re able to translate to the real world and the work world and it’s not sports specific but it’s more of a work ethic, the time that you have to put in to be at the highest level,” said Sargeant. “Those are things that you don’t lose as you move from field to field. I had to have a work ethic, and I had to have discipline. Those things that I learned, now being in the work force, those are things that directly translate.”

Going from Penn State to a smaller program like UVU may seem like an odd move, but Sargeant came to Utah because he recognized an opportunity. Ironically, given his background, Sargeant sees the lack of a UVU football program as an advantage for the school, financially speaking.

“I came here because I knew how much of a golden egg it is,” said Sargeant. “It’s an institution where we don’t have football and numbers-wise, there are actually very few schools that actually make money off of football. From a financial standpoint, I understood this as an advantage, because [UVU] can spread out that money to other sports that are now becoming a little bit more popular like soccer and baseball.”

The evidence of UVU’s efforts to popularize their soccer programs is easy to see. This spring, the Wolverine men’s program was able to sign one of the top recruiting classes in the nation after earning their first-ever bid to the NCAA tournament last season.

Photo courtesy of UVU Athletics

Photo courtesy of UVU Athletics

Sargeant also played a role in the fundraising for the basketball facility being built on campus. Coming from a major program like Penn State, he understands the importance of having high-quality facilities to maintain high performance from student-athletes. The new facility will be a valuable upgrade on the campus for UVU’s athletes, as the UCCU Center is often occupied by community events.

“The UCCU Center hosts a lot of events. It’s a part of the community as well as a part of the university, so it’s a positive in that we get a chance to be a part of the community and get people to come here,” said Sargeant. “But from an athletic standpoint, especially during basketball and volleyball, it kind of limits where we can practice. Having this facility is going to allow us to still retain that community involvement that the UCCU Center has and also give our student-athletes the opportunity to practice whenever they want.”

Despite the facility primarily getting used by UVU’s basketball programs, Sargeant says that the new structure will be useful for all of the teams on campus.

“We have meeting rooms, we have strength and conditioning down there so it’s just going to advance what we do as UVU athletics, not just for our indoor sports but for all of our sports,” said Sargeant. “It’s going to be great for UVU athletics as a whole but it’s also good for us to have another facility besides the UCCU Center.”

The new facility is just a symbol of what is happening on UVU’s campus. The athletic programs are growing and building right alongside everything else happening at the university. This is something that Sargeant sees not only in the community as he heads up the Wolverine Club, but  within UVU faculty and staff as well.

“I see the enthusiasm start to build up internally…people [are] realizing that UVU athletics is winning,” said Sargeant. “We’ve got to get that mentality that we’re not a small school. We’re in the Big 12 in wrestling. I’m starting to see it more and more…we’re starting to see how successful and how big UVU athletics can be.”

As a former student-athlete, though, Sargeant realizes that the athletes who don the Wolverine apparel on the field of play need more than just promises of a growing direction. They need the support of the school. They need to know that the students and faculty of UVU have their backs.

“When you go around campus and you see people wearing the colors or you just won a big game versus an opponent and everybody is just as happy as you are as a student-athlete; those are things when they talk about school spirit that really builds up the school,” said Sargeant. “And it really builds up the confidence of the student-athletes and lets them know that they’re doing things because there’s no name on the back of their jerseys. There’s one name that they go out with and it’s Utah Valley University. So they don’t play for themselves, they don’t play for the sport, they play for the same institution that all the students go to.”