Roughly six years ago, I was near the end of my sophomore year or beginning of my junior year at Utah State University and pursuing a degree in Business Administration. I was finishing up the last of my generals, and preparing for the future. The only problem was I really hated most of my business classes.
In classes that involved leadership, organization, and motivation I excelled, while I struggled to stay awake in others such as accounting and economics. Then I had an epiphany.
As a sports junkie, I had always dreamed of staying involved with athletics. I played multiple sports growing up, but football was easily my favorite. However, following a high school graduation and back surgery, my imposing 5-foot 8-inch frame was done playing football. My initial foray into college began with an Exercise Science major and aspirations of becoming an athletic trainer. While I had the right idea of staying involved in athletics, my initial avenue was just incorrect.
Throughout my middle school and high school years, I was an excellent writer but hated English classes. I got tired of writing essays about the same topics – abortion, somebody’s rights, gun control – and wasn’t a fan of dissecting sentences for adjectives and verbs. My attitude towards English classes hadn’t changed much by my second year of college when I was taking an English 2020 course and working on yet another 15-page research paper.
Rather than pursuing those same old topics that are often turned to for long English papers, I pursued a topic that actually interested me – Utah State Basketball.
The Aggies were coming off a decent season in 2006-07, where they had finished 23-12 and lost by two in the WAC championship game. They had also defeated regular season champion and national top 10 team Nevada twice – once in the second to last game of the regular season, and once in the WAC tournament semifinals.
That success, when added to what USU had done since the 2000 season, made the Aggies one of the five winningest programs in the country over the past seven seasons or so. The other programs in that category were Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, and Illinois – some serious national powers. USU had also dominated the Big West before joining the WAC, even being nationally ranked at one point. Despite all that success, Utah State received relatively little national love. (Wild Bill and a couple of 30-win seasons have since changed that some.)
This topic was the focus of my final research paper, and it was the most fun thing I had ever written up to that point in my life. I realized that I could take something I was good at – writing – and combine it with something I was passionate about – sports – and really have a lot of fun. But could I make a career out of it? I decided to give it a try.
Following that semester I switched my major (I did eventually end up with a minor in business) to journalism. I landed a position as an intern with the USU Athletic Media Relations department and began writing feature articles for game day magazines and their website. I had a lot of fun with that job, as I worked there for a couple of semesters, covered a football and basketball season, and got to write articles on some of the most exciting events in USU history, including former basketball player Jaycee Carroll setting the school’s all-time scoring record.
From there, things really took off. I got hired by The Herald Journal where I worked part time as a sports writer for a year, and then freelanced for another couple of years after that. I also joined the staff of USU’s campus newspaper, The Utah Statesman. While there, I worked as assistant sports editor for a semester before taking over the sports editor position full time. I was blessed to be able to cover more great USU moments, such as the hiring of Gary Andersen, and the basketball team’s near-upset of Marquette in the NCAA Tournament in Boise.
In December of 2009 I graduated from USU, and took a year off from covering the Aggies while I pursued a master’s degree in Magazine, Newspaper, and Online Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in Syracuse, N.Y.
I was able to write for multiple organizations there, and had a lot of great opportunities. I was able to cover SU’s first bowl eligible football team since 2004 as the Orange defeated Kansas State in the inaugural New Era Pinstripe Bowl. I was also able to cover the 2010-11 SU men’s basketball season, which included an overtime loss to Kemba Walker and eventual National Champion Connecticut in the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden.
Following my time in New York, my family and I returned to Cache Valley where I embarked on my own venture, an online sports magazine called Cache Sports Media. Though it only lasted nine months (the entirety of one prep season) – and would not have been possible without the support of my family and my incredibly understanding wife – it was also an incredible journey and one that led me to my current position at the Cache Valley Media Group with their website CacheValleyDaily.com.
In the past year, Cache Valley Daily has seen great growth and I have been able to cover more Utah State history with the incredible 11-2 football season, first top-25 ranking since the 1960s, and first bowl win since 1993. With so much momentum in football and a lot of positives in basketball despite two down seasons, I was really looking forward to carrying my coverage of Utah State athletics into the Mountain West. However, things have changed once again.
While my passion for sports, especially USU athletics, has not diminished in the least during my time covering the Aggies, I have also discovered a passion for the digital side of journalism as a whole. That love, along with the ability to better provide for my family (and golf year round), has led me to accept a job with The Spectrum & Daily News in St. George. Sports will no longer be my specific focus, and I will miss being involved so intimately with USU athletics, but it has been a great ride. I would like to thank those who have followed my writing and coverage of the Aggies, as well as other news and events.
Though I am leaving, Cache Valley Daily will continue to provide great local coverage and improve. The website set a record for unique visitors and pageviews last month. If you’d like to keep up with me, you can follow me on Twitter @TheRealTO, and if you feel like beating the winter inversion, give me a shout – I’ll make the tee time.
Timothy R. Olsen