Athletics advisor hired

Friday, February 25, 2011

Photo of Gino Gasparini, newly appointed special advisor to the president for athletics

Gino Gasparini, newly appointed special advisor to the president for Husky Athletics.

St. Cloud State University President Earl Potter today announced that legendary hockey coach John “Gino” Gasparini has been appointed special advisor to the president for athletics starting March 1.

Potter said Gasparini, who spent decades at the University of North Dakota and leading the United States Hockey League (USHL), will work with the existing athletics staff and the Athletic Advisory Panel to create a new and expanded vision for the future of Husky Athletics.

Among other things, Potter said, Gasparini will focus on Division I programs, the expansion and redevelopment of the National Hockey and Event Center (NHEC), the anticipated changes in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA), fan, donor and sponsor experience and the connection between Husky athletics and the community.

The position is funded by the St. Cloud State University Foundation.

Gasparini’s insights as a former athletic director at UND, depth of understanding in the hockey world, reputation and relationships will be invaluable “as we work to elevate the stature of Husky Athletics regionally and nationally,” Potter said.

“We are engaging Gino who has decades of experience with first class-athletic operations as we’re building a new and renovated facility,” said Potter. “We will seek his insight and he will work with us to help shape the future of Husky Hockey and our overall athletic programs.”

St. Cloud State is in the planning stages of a $31.1 million renovation and addition project for the National Hockey Center. The 20-year old structure, on the south end of the university campus, will be renovated and expanded into a regional events center and multipurpose venue for hosting sporting events, concerts, family shows and other campus and community events.

“I have known Gino for the past 25 years and have always enjoyed working with him,” said Morris Kurtz, director of athletics.  “The characteristics that enabled him to be successful as both an athletic director and coach will make him a valuable addition here at St. Cloud State.”

Gasparini, currently a sports facility consultant for JLG Architects which has designed the NHEC project, builds business models to coordinate and design venues for communities, higher education institutions and professional sports teams.

Gasparini said he’s excited to help shape the future of St. Cloud State athletics. “When I first met President Potter I loved his vision for where he would like to see hockey and the National Hockey and Event Center go, as well as the athletic department and the impact in the community and the state. I was inspired by that vision. The renovation and expansion of the NHEC will have a major impact, not only for the athletic department, but for the entire university and State of Minnesota.”

Gasparini’s work at St. Cloud State will also include a review of the athletic department’s organization and structure, provide a tactical plan to guide the University in the expected transition of the WCHA, coordinate the work of several groups meeting as the NHEC Leadership and Coordination Team and review and elevate the current marketing efforts for Husky athletics.

Gasparini brings a lifelong connection to hockey, athletics and the WCHA to St. Cloud State. He played at the University of North Dakota from 1964-67 and played in two Final four tournaments.  After serving as an assistant coach at UND, he served as head hockey coach of his alma mater from 1978-94. During that time, his teams made five Final four appearances, won three national championships, four WCHA regular season titles and three WCHA Final Five championships. He compiled a 392-248-25 overall record including a 277-197-21 mark in WCHA games. He was voted the WCHA Coach of the Year three times. From 1985-90, he served in the duel role of head hockey coach and athletic director at UND.

In 1994 he became the commissioner and later president of the USHL and served in that capacity until 2009.  During that time Gasparini led the USHL becoming America’s only Tier I junior hockey league.  There are 156 active USHL alumni in the NHL and 239 college commitments on USHL rosters. Under Gasparini’s leadership, the USHL’s annual attendance exceeded 1 million fans and continues to grow.

According to a published article in “Let’s Play Hockey:” “Gasparini helped reshape the USHL from another run-of-the-mill junior circuit to a player development machine that now routinely sends well over 100 players to NCAA schools on an annual basis and is being mentioned in the same sentence as the heavyweights of the Canadian Hockey League when it comes to putting players on track to reach the NHL.”

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