Saturday, March 30, 2013

Kurtz Joins PSU as Special Assistant

Morris Kurtz coached the Icers as they became the first collegiate team to play in Europe in 1976

Morris Kurtz, who coached the Icers to a 24-6-1 record from 1974-1976, has been hired by Penn State as a special assistant for athletic operations and will start Monday, as reported by the St. Cloud (MN) Times.
“I started talking with them because I still had a lot of friends from my time there,” Kurtz said. “It was just a progressive type of thing. I was thrilled at the opportunity. Penn State’s been significant for me. I met my wife in Happy Valley. It gave me the foundation that allowed me to eventually springboard to St. Cloud State.

“We never thought hockey would become a Division I sport. It was a pipe dream back when I coached. Thank goodness a lot of people worked hard to make it happen.”
After leaving PSU, where he earned a master's degree and a Ph.D. from 1973-1979, Kurtz, as mentioned, moved on to St. Cloud State, where he enjoyed a successful 27 years as athletic director before the 61-year-old retired late last year. Notably - and stop me if this sounds at all familiar - he oversaw SCSU hockey's transition to NCAA Division I in 1987 shortly after starting there. The Huskies, at the time, made quite an entrance, including the hiring of legendary coach Herb Brooks in 1986 and the construction of the 5,763-seat National Hockey and Event Center in 1989.

Since then, they have become one of the more stable programs in college hockey, making nine NCAA Tournament appearances (including this season, as they open their run with Notre Dame on Saturday afternoon) against just three losing seasons since 1996. Kurtz helped steer SCSU through the recent conference reshuffle by landing a spot in the NCHC, which will be one of the premier leagues in the country when it begins play next season, while several of their current WCHA rivals were left behind in the league, which is losing much of its luster.

His role at Penn State apparently will start with a heavy focus on hockey, but will broaden to include all areas of the athletic department.
“There are a lot of other assignments for me [outside of hockey],” Kurtz said. “But a lot of my time will be spent on hockey the first six to nine months with their transition to the Big Ten. My responsibilities will be department-wide.

“Sitting in the AD chair at St. Cloud State will certainly help me deal with things from budgets to fundraising to personnel issues. I’ve had invaluable experiences here that will allow me to help moving forward.”
It's a move clearly intended to help support PSU AD David Joyner, who has filled the role since the Jerry Sandusky scandal engulfed former long-time AD Tim Curley, but is often criticized for his lack of relevant experience as well as the manner in which the former Board of Trustees member acquired the job.

Even while still working at St. Cloud State, Kurtz had consulted with Joe Battista and Penn State's hockey people during throughout the Nittany Lions' DI launch and knows what awaits him at University Park.
“They’ve had an unbelievable reaction to hockey out there,” Kurtz said. “They’re putting seats into the arena this week. It’s going to be a wonderful place to play.”

“Retirement wasn’t what I thought it would be,” [he continued]. “I did some consulting work and that was OK. I just missed being around young people. I know the challenges that await me and I look forward to meeting them."
Notably, Kurtz also told the Times that he "definitely intends to make [an annual non-conference series between Penn State and St. Cloud State] happen. He'll also "do what [he] can" to continue to assist St. Cloud State with fundraising efforts for the National Hockey and Event Center, which is presently undergoing a renovation and expansion.

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