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Message from the President: Athletics successes

Feb. 15, 2010

Dear alumni friends: 

I love big-time collegiate sports as much as the next fan. When I was at the University of Maryland, I was a proud basketball and football season-ticket holder, and on my basement wall hangs a framed memento of the Terps’ 2002 hoops national championship. 

But major sports at the Division I level now constitute a multibillion-dollar industry, to the point where the phrase “student-athlete” gets harder and harder to utter with a straight face. If you want more proof, consider the latest proposal to expand the NCAA national basketball tourney to 96 teams. Before long it will be harder to miss the tournament than to make it.

Which is why I’m so thankful for Division III athletics. D-III schools don’t offer athletic scholarships; our students play intercollegiate sports because they love the competition, they love the personal challenge, and they love representing their schools. D-III takes the cynicism out of the concept of student-athlete.

And for Green Knight student-athletes (and their supporters), this has been a pretty wonderful week.

Last Wednesday, the men’s basketball team under Coach Gary Grzesk (it’s pronounced “Gresh,” by the way) beat Ripon to secure the regular-season championship of the Midwest Conference—just the third such title since we joined the conference more than 25 years ago.

Friday night, the men’s hockey team clinched yet another regular-season championship in the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association, always a great accomplishment but especially so in a year that Coach Tim Coghlin figured would be more about rebuilding.

Then the next day, women’s basketball Coach Connie Tilley led her athletes to a rout of Lawrence to clinch at least a tie for the conference championship. As you know, Connie has won so many games in her lengthy SNC career that last year we named the Schuldes court in her honor.

I hope Athletic Director Tim Bald has stocked up on energy bars, because clearly it’s going to be a busy postseason around here!

For me, though, the athletic highlight of the week occurred off the court.

Our Board of Trustees was back on campus for its winter meetings, and at dinner last Thursday night the Trustees were joined by the Green Knight coaches and a student representative of each of their teams.

It was a festive and at times moving evening. It didn’t matter if the speaker was one of our better-known coaches or newer but equally impressive leaders like women’s volleyball Coach Bethani Thibodeau, men’s tennis coaches Paul and Carrie Miller, or the coach of our upcoming women’s hockey team, Rob Morgan—the pride they take in their young charges, and the passion they have for St. Norbert College, were unmistakable. Whether they are full-time or part-time, it’s fair to say none of our coaches do this labor for the remuneration, but instead for love of intercollegiate athletics as they were always intended to be.

This is a tribute to them but also to their boss, the aforementioned Tim Bald, who sets an outstanding example personally and in his institutional expectations. Like his coaches, Tim is here precisely because we keep collegiate athletics in its appropriate perspective.

And the student athletes, well … it’s hard to know where to start. The stories of their individual and collective success both in and out of the classroom are remarkable. Indeed, we are perhaps most proud of the fact that our student athletes have been awarded the honor of academic All-American 41 times—more than any other institution in the Midwest Conference, which contains some of the nation’s most prestigious colleges. 

You can read about those honors, and follow all our programs, at

Go Green Knights!