Leon Costello was not Montana State University’s first choice for athletic director. Costello, 39, will take over for outgoing Athletic Director Peter Fields. It was announced in February that Fields’ contract would not be renewed after 14 years. MSU hired the firm Parker Executive Search, and initially selected Kyle Brennan. Brennan was introduced as MSU’s sixth athletic director but declined the position before officially starting. On the same day that Brennan turned down MSU, they moved forward and named Costello Montana State’s seventh athletic director.
Costello joins Montana State after six years at South Dakota State (2010-2016) where he served as deputy athletic director. He joined the staff in 2010 as the senior associate athletic director for external affairs, overseeing a number of areas including ticket operations, marketing, sports information and broadcast services, as well as serving as sport supervisor for men’s basketball, wrestling and volleyball. He also served as department liaison to Under Armour and Jackrabbit Sports Properties, a division of Learfield Sports, along with assisting in fundraising and facility development for the recently completed Sanford-Jackrabbit Athletic Complex.
Prior to working at South Dakota State, Costello held a number of positions at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls from 2002-2010, including associate athletic director/external relations, assistant athletic director for marketing and promotions and director of athletic marketing and promotions.
Costello earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education/sports science in 1998 from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa and a master’s degree in physical education-sports management in 2002 from Western Illinois University. While at Loras College, Costello played for the Duhawk men’s basketball team. There he learned the values that he plans to use at MSU. “At a smaller institution you get to meet and know everyone on campus, and you’re part of a tight-knit community,” he said. “I want to get to know people. I want to get to know the personal side, the interests, the goals, of the staff. I want to get to know individual student-athletes, understand what drives the people in our program. And I’m really big on donor intent. I want to know how the goals and vision of donors line up with our goals and vision. I want to meet as many Bobcats as possible and learn what drives their passion. Building relationships is the most important thing right now.” It was at Loras where Costello was picked to serve on a search committee to find the next athletic director that opened his eyes to possibility of being in the position he is in now.
Costello joins a program that for the last decade-and-a-half has had 28 consecutive semesters with a cumulative team grade point average of 3.0 or better, and 18 of them with at least a 3.15. The Bobcat football stadium was upgraded to 17,777 seats with a capacity to up to 21,000 and new floodlights for night games. Brick Breeden Fieldhouse, where multiple sporting events are held, also received a considerable facelift with new flooring for track and field events, new individual seating, curtain system and a new sound system. He hopes to build on these improvements. “Montana State is a special place with special people,” he said. “It’s got a great foundation and it’s set up for success. Hopefully we can work together to expect great things but also to accomplish great things. I don’t think it would be right to expect anything less.”