Steve Fritz will start his 26th year as St. Thomas athletics director in fall 2016. He came to St. Paul as an undergraduate student in 1967 and has been a prominent Tommie ever since.
Under Fritz’ leadership, St. Thomas athletics has emerged as a conference and national power over the last two decades. In the Learfield Division III Directors Cup all-sport compettion, the Tommies have placed in the top 10 percent (top 40) all 21 years since the format was created. That includes top-15 national finishes in eight of the last nine years.
In Fritz’ first 25 seasons, Tommie teams won seven national championships in four different sports; had nine NCAA runner-up placings; and had a top-five national team finish in 16 of their 22 sports.
In that same span on the conference scene, St. Thomas has won the men’s and women’s all-sport championship 35 of a possible 50 times, including sweeping both genders in each of the last nine seasons. The Tommie women have won 111 of a possible 276 regular-season MIAC titles, while the men have claimed 108 of 276.
Fritz was one of four nationally named a 2009-2010 Under Armour Division III Region Athletics Director of the Year. The award is sponsored by the National Association of Collegiate Athletics Directors (NACDA).
In 31 years as men’s basketball head coach, Fritz' teams had only one losing season and compiled a 594-246 won-loss record (.707 win%). Fritz guided the 2010-11 Tommies to the NCAA Division III championship in a field of 403 teams -- a first for MIAC men's basketball. En route to its 30-3 finish, UST beat four top-seven ranked teams in the last nine days of the season, capped by its Division III championship-record 24-point victory over Wooster (Ohio) in the national finals.
He also served in several administrative positions in his first two decades at St. Thomas, including assistant to the President, director of financial aid, and director of admissions.
Fritz is a member of the St. Thomas Athletic Hall of Fame. As a three-time All-MIAC performer, he helped lead the Tommies to a combined 84-24 record and two conference titles from 1967-71. He led his team to the NAIA National Tournament in Kansas City, Mo., in 1970 and again in 1971. In his junior and senior years, the Tommies went 30-2 in league play, and he won UST’s coveted Mr. Tommy Award his final season. He finished his playing career with 1,944 points, a school record at that time, including a then-school-record 43-point performance in a postseason win over Lakeland. He is still ranked second on St. Thomas’ all-time career-scoring list, and among the top 30 Minnesota collegians, and also ranks third in St. Thomas career rebounding with 915.
He and his wife, Bev, reside in Mendota Heights. They have three grown children, all St. Thomas alums -- Joe, Peter and Maura.
The Blooming Prairie, Minn. native and Rochester Lourdes graduate was affiliated with St. Thomas men's basketball for 44 seasons as a player (1967-71), assistant coach (1971-80) and head coach (1980-2011). That stretch covered 1,199 consecutive St. Thomas games since his freshman year.
Fritz was selected as MIAC Coach of the Year by his peers 14 times. His Tommie teams won 16 MIAC regular-season championships, including the last six crowns. UST also advanced to the conference playoffs 23 of his last 24 seasons, with a league-best 10 titles and seven second-place finishes.
The Tommies also reached the NCAA playoffs 12 times, advanced to the national quarterfinals in 2009 and played in the NCAA Final Fours in 1994 and 2011. The Toms were ranked No. 1 in Division III for six weeks in winter 2009, and also beat defending NCAA Division II champion Winona State in November 2007.
Fritz swept the three Division III National Coach of the Year awards for 2010-11. He was three weeks shy of his 62nd birthday when he guided the Tommies to the championship and became the oldest coach to win a Division III men's basketball crown.
Fritz replaced his St. Thomas coach Tom Feely as head coach in 1980. He's been such a fixture here that he might be the lone individual in college basketball to coach teams in three different on-campus home venues. His first season of 1980-81 was the final one in UST's O'Shaughnessy Hall gym. Fritz' second Tommie team rang in the new in his era Schoenecker Arena. His final team in 2010-11 opened the new Schoenecker Arena inside the new Anderson Athletics and Recreation Complex and posted a 15-1 record there.
His basketball players won three CoSIDA Academic All-America honors. In his last 10 seasons alone, Fritz' players won All-America honors eight times and conference Player of the Year honors five times.