University of St. Thomas athletics director Steve Fritz has announced plans to retire in the spring of 2019, wrapping up a consecutive daily run of 52 years affiliated with the St. Paul university.
Fritz' career as a standout basketball student-athlete started in 1967, and that began a 52-year legacy at 2115 Summit Avenue.
After graduation in May 1971 and throughout his early career, Fritz worked staff positions in the admissions and financial aid offices, and was a nine-year assistant basketball coach. In 1980, he started his 31-year tenure as Tommie head coach.
Fritz capped his successful coaching career by guiding the 2010-11 Tommies to the NCAA Division III national championship, the first won in that sport by any Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference men's team. He left his coaching post in May 2011 to concentrate full time as athletics director, a job he began in the summer of 1992.
During his current 27-year run as athletics director, St. Thomas teams have captured seven NCAA team championships and won 242 MIAC regular-season championships in 21 different sports. St. Thomas also has 31 NCAA individual or relay champions, and received CoSIDA Academic All-America honors 91 times in the Fritz AD era.
The respected Fritz has been a visible ambassador for St. Thomas and witnessed and influenced groundbreaking changes at Minnesota's largest Catholic university. His 52-year era has bridged a large swath of the university's history, which saw the college admit its first female students in 1977 and add a multitude of undergraduate and graduate students and programs over the last four decades. He worked here under Presidents Terrence Murphy, Dennis Dease and Julie Sullivan.
Fritz grew up in southern Minnesota and was raised with his four sisters by a single mom after the death of his father when Steve was five. He led Blooming Prairie (population, 1,750) to qualify for the eight-team 1966 Minnesota one-class state tournament games at Williams Arena as a prep junior, and was a leader on Rochester Lourdes' unbeaten and private school state championship team of 1967.
His wife Bev and their children Joe, Peter and Maura are all St. Thomas alumni, and Bev and Steve have six grandchildren.
Not counting JoAnn Andregg's year as interim athletics director in 1991-92, St. Thomas has had just two permanent ADs over the last 51 years with Frank Mach and Fritz.
And with Fritz' former coach, Tom Feely, and current head coach John Tauer -- who was recruited by, played for and coached with Fritz -- St. Thomas has has just three men's basketball head coaches since 1954.
Fritz' last three St. Thomas teams posted the best won-loss percentage in all of NCAA men's college basketball from 2008-2011 (83-8, .912). He had just one losing season in his 31-year head coaching run, and guided his team into postseason play 23 of his final 24 seasons.
His Tommie teams won 16 MIAC regular-season and 10 playoff championships; earned 12 NCAA tournament berths capped by the 1994 NCAA Final Four and the 2011 NCAA title; and built a 594-296 (.702) record. Fritz' athletes received nine MIAC Player of the Year awards, eight All-America honors, and three CoSIDA Academic All-America awards.
A member of the St. Thomas Athletics Hall of Fame and the Rochester (Minn.) and Rochester Lourdes High Sports Halls of Fame, Fritz was named the 2011 NABC National Coach of the Year. He also was a 14-time MIAC Coach of the Year and a NACDA Region AD of the Year.
Fritz was involved in 1,199 consecutive Tommie basketball games (829 wins) as a player, assistant coach and head coach over a 44-season tenure from 1967-2011. He still ranks among the school and state leaders with 1,944 points and 915 rebounds on his St. Thomas career. He helped St. Thomas reach the NAIA national tournament field in Kansas City during his junior and senior years.
An advocate for girls' and women's sports, he guided the debut of varsity Women's Hockey program in 1997 and dramatic growth of all 11 St. Thomas women's teams. He also played alead role in design and details in the run up to the 2010 opening of the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex.