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Posted: 4:03 PM- At his introductory press conference Friday, new Utah State athletic director Scott Barnes downplayed his ability as a basketball player at Fresno State two decades ago.

"I was the guy who was that defensive stopper," said Barnes, who proudly claimed that he once held Karl Malone to 32 points in the NCAA tournament game.

"Then halftime rolled around."

According to Utah State president Stan Albrecht, Barnes was hired after a month-long, nationwide search.

"A set of exceptional finalists" was interviewed in Salt Lake City last week, Albrecht said, but "one individual clearly emerged as the very best person to lead our program. ... This is a great day for Utah State University, a great day for Aggie athletics."

Barnes spent the last 2- years as a senior associate athletic director for advancement at the University of Washington. Previously, was the athletic director at Eastern Washington for six years.

Calling the job at Utah State "a wonderful opportunity," Barnes plans to spend the next 90 days assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the athletic program he inherited from Randy Spetman, who resigned Feb. 5 to accept the athletic directorship at Florida State.

Generally, Barnes said, his goals include wanting to "create a sense of urgency" among Utah State boosters and fan as well as "providing our coaches with the tools they need to be successful" in the Western Athletic Conference.

"That is something that is paramount," said Barnes.

Utah State finished 2-10 in football last season, snapping a 16-game losing streak with wins in its final two games at New Mexico State and Idaho. Coach Brent Guy has two years remaining on his contract,

"As you look at the opportunities we have, perhaps the biggest opportunity we have to improve is football," Barnes said. "So we are going to find ways to help coach Guy do just that."

One key, Barnes said, will be to avoid filling future schedules with big-money games against national powers like Oklahoma, Oregon, Alabama and Arkansas.

"We will schedule for success," said Barnes, who would like to play one big-money game a year.

"Playing the very best [teams] in the country, your student athletes crave that. But I think you need a balance, and I will be having conversations about that with coach Guy because it is absolutely a key component."

Barnes' hiring was greeted with enthusiasm by Aggie men's basketball coach Stew Morrill, whose program has been Utah State's most successful in recent years.

"Coaches always get nervous about the hiring of a new athletic director," Morrill said. "My sources tell me that everyone should be excited rather than nervous about Scott Barnes becoming an Aggie. He has proven that he is a leader who can help take our programs to new heights."