Morris Kurtz to retire

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Photo of Morris Kurtz, retiring director of Husky Athletics

Morris Kurtz, director of Husky Athletics, will retire in 2012.

St. Cloud State Director of Athletics Morris Kurtz announced today that he will retire from his position June 30, 2012.

The University will conduct a national search for a new athletic director during the 2011-12 academic year.

St. Cloud State President Earl Potter has formed an Athletics Advisory Panel that will work with Kurtz to develop a vision for the future of Husky Athletics over the next 16 months, and Kurtz will continue in a day-to-day leadership capacity of the department until his retirement.

“With the help of this panel, we will build on the outstanding legacy that Dr. Kurtz has established at St. Cloud State through hard work and community outreach,” said Potter.

Potter said Kurtz has been a champion for student-athlete success, both academically and athletically. His legacy also includes enhancing the athletic opportunities for countless young men and women through building one of the largest and successful, broad-based athletic programs in NCAA Division II.

In 2010, St. Cloud State earned its highest finish ever, fifth among 288 Division II schools, in the Directors Cup Standing recognizing national team standings in all sports. Kurtz affected long-lasting and significant changes and his contributions reach beyond the SCSU campus into surrounding communities and throughout Minnesota.

He is a champion not only for student-athletes and Husky athletics but also for the role of intercollegiate athletics in higher education.

“It has been my pleasure to serve an outstanding group of student-athletes, coaches, staff, alumni and boosters over the past 27 years,” said Kurtz. “In addition to numerous athletic accomplishments, it is equally important to point out that during each of those past 27 years our student-athletes have graduated at a higher rate and earned higher GPAs than the regular student body at SCSU, all the while contributing countless hours of community service to our wonderful community. These are challenging times and I look forward to spending the next 16 months meeting these challenges to ensure the long-term stability and growth of Husky athletics.”

Among Kurtz’s boldest leadership efforts was the hiring of Herb Brooks as head coach of men’s hockey, the building of the National Hockey Center and the elevation of Husky Hockey to Division I.  “Morris and Herbie worked really well together,” said Patty Brooks, the widow of Herb Brooks. “Both were able to realize their dreams. At the time John Mariucci was quite ill and he and Herbie shared a vision that whenever possible they would promote new hockey programs and expand opportunities for Minnesota players. I always felt Morris also had that vision to expand programs at St. Cloud State”

Kurtz was named the men’s athletics director at St. Cloud State in 1984 and in 1995 became the director of athletics for the combined men’s and women’s athletics programs.

“I am disappointed that we will be losing a good leader and a good person,” said Steve Costanzo, head wrestling coach at St. Cloud State. “At the same time, I am happy for Morris. I felt like he cared about each one of us, and by caring he got the most out of his people. When people feel valued they tend to give more to their profession because it is much more than a job to them.”

Said head women’s basketball coach Lori Fish, “ Morris has been a great mentor and leader for me in my time here as a Husky. I have admired his ability to see a bigger and better future for St. Cloud State and all of our student-athletes.  He always has made me, and everyone around him, feel a part of the Husky family. It is difficult to see a friend leave and I will miss his humor.  I want to thank him for all that he has done for me and the university and wish him the best.”

During his tenure Kurtz developed several signature programs including the Wolters Kluwer Top Ten Club that recognizes the top ten percent academically of the St. Cloud area high school seniors, and invites them to campus annually for a recognition event and home athletic games.

His emphasis on academics is also reflected in his development of the SCSU Student-Athlete Honor Roll that annually recognizes Husky athletes who maintain a 3.0 or better grade point average (on a 4.0 scale) during the academic year. He takes personal pride in recognizing these athletes and their parents for their success in the classroom and on the playing field.

Throughout his career, Kurtz has championed gender equity and opportunities for women to participate in sport. His coaching hires have included women in several high profile sports including basketball, volleyball, soccer and softball.

In the athletic arena, Husky teams have won 39 North Central Conference Championships and five Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference team titles. Husky Hockey won the 2001 Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff title and has advanced to the NCAA Division I tournament eight times.

Since 2004, three Husky teams reached the Final Four of their respective NCAA tournaments, including softball in 2004, women’s basketball in 2006 and men’s basketball in 2010. Individually, 13 athletes have won national championships since 1984.

Kurtz oversaw the transition of Husky hockey from the NCAA Division III ranks to NCAA Division I and the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA). He also led the athletic department through the transition from the North Central Conference to the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. In addition, he provided leadership in the growth of women’s sports on campus that included the Nordic ski and women’s ice hockey programs. He also co-chaired the WCHA expansion committee that championed the inclusion of women’s hockey in the association.

His contributions to the development of athletic facilities include the construction of the National Hockey Center, renovation of Halenbeck Hall gymnasium, and most recently the construction of Husky Stadium. Kurtz also secured private funding for new basketball, football and hockey scoreboards.

Kurtz raised the funds to expand the St. Cloud State Athletic Hall of Fame and created the public display area for the inductees in Halenbeck Hall. More than 150 athletes, coaches, administrators and supporters have been inducted into the Hall of Fame since 1984.

He spent a semester in Japan helping to develop the Minnesota State University-Akita Sports Program, increased television, radio and on-line coverage of Husky sports, coordinated the process to develop a new athletic logo to better brand the university and athletic department, and coordinated the development of a long-range strategic plan to help shape the future of the program.

Kurtz developed the corporate sponsor program and major fundraising efforts for athletic scholarships at St. Cloud State that resulted in a doubling of athletic scholarships awarded over the last 10 years. He has developed lasting relationships with athletic alumni, boosters, community members and donors.

“Morris has run a first class sports program at St. Cloud State and put his heart and soul into the department,” said George Torrey, SCSU Foundation Board member and athletics supporter. “I am very thankful for his commitment and what he has done for the University. To me, he has been a good friend. I feel good about supporting SCSU sports and feel very close to the University. He raised more money and has done more than I thought an athletic director could do.”

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