Bill Jurgens Reminisces About His 40 Years As Florida Tech Athletic Director
By Ben Block // April 3, 2016
PANTHER AD SINCE 1976
ABOVE VIDEO: As the athletic director of Florida Tech, Melbourne native Bill Jurgens has guided the Panther sports program from its infancy, and was inducted into the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame.
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – As the athletic director of Florida Tech, Melbourne native Bill Jurgens has guided the program from its infancy.
“You have to be able to be successful with a little if you’re ever going to be able to be successful with a lot.”
That is the philosophy of Jurgens, Athletic Director of the Florida Tech Panthers for what will be 40 years in April. Jurgens has overseen Florida Tech’s growth from seven varsity sports, to the 22 varsity sports and four national championships the school sits at today.
“All the names on the buildings of this campus,” Jurgens says. “I knew all of them; they were some of the founders of this school.”
Jurgens is what you would call a Florida Tech lifer. His career at Florida Tech started with him as the rowing coach in 1969.
Jurgens says rowing has always been his passion, “I love rowing; I probably spend a little time thinking about it every day.”
He rowed for four years at Jacksonville University where he majored in biology. After his college career, Jurgens almost immediately, and according to him unexpectedly, stepped into coaching.
“I never even planned to be a coach, but every time I turned around I was coaching,” Jurgens said of the start of his coaching career.
When Jurgens first started as the rowing coach at Florida Tech, he was still teaching science at a local junior high school.
“I was coaching in the morning before 8, and I was coaching after 3:30 in the afternoon,” Jurgens said.
At the start of Jurgens career in 1969, Florida Tech didn’t even have an athletic director. According to him, they just had someone they called the “head coach.”
The head coach coached the baseball, basketball, and men’s golf teams. “There wasn’t a whole lot,” Jurgens went on to say.
From 1969 to 1975 the school had three athletic directors. Jurgens was hired as athletic director in 1976, and remains in that position today.
Before he was hired he made a promise to Florida Tech’s Vice President, Ray Work, “I can assure you that we can do well, and that I’ll be here much longer than the other athletic directors.”
Jurgens had a plan for the position and was not going to let the school’s small amount of resources determine its success. That’s where his philosophy from the beginning comes in.
According to Jurgens, it’s all about attitude and determination. His belief is that if you have the right attitude, you’re going to be an overachiever no matter what.
When Jurgens started as AD, he was the only full time staff member of the athletic department. When asked what his goal for the position was when he first started, his answer was very simple, “I said I would love to be a part of a very diversified athletic program that would strive to be highly successful.”
It could be said that Jurgens has gone above and beyond that goal. Florida Tech has 22 varsity sports and in the past six years alone has added men’s and women’s track & field, men’s and women’s swimming & diving, men’s and women’s lacrosse, and football.
According to Jurgens, the job is not easy, but that’s what he loves about it.
“If it weren’t for the challenging aspect of it, I don’t think I would be able to do well,” he went on to say.
One of Jurgens’ favorite aspects of facing the challenge is building a team around him that can help him and the program succeed. He understands that the team development process is one of the most important parts of the job.
As athletic director, Jurgens appreciates what coaches do for the program, “I think coaching is one of the great career paths because you can have a huge impact on the people you’re with.”
As a former coach himself, it is this understanding of the coaches’ perspective that makes Jurgens successful. He made it his goal to help coaches. In fact, Jurgens developed what he calls “12 Leadership Principles for Coaches.”
It is an in depth look at aspects of personal and profeesional development for coaches that can help them better look after and guide their student-athletes.
Collegiate athletics do boil down to the athletes in the end, and Jurgens knows that.
“The student-athletes care so much,” Jurgens says, “All I do is give them praise.” In today’s day and age coaches have a lot more to worry about concerning their athletes than just their athletic performance, and Jurgens recognizes this as well. “You really have to care for their well-being,” he says of the student-athletes.
He gets to know these students better because of where he’s at. Florida Tech provides Jurgens with the small college environment he has grown to love.“You get to know everyone,” he said of the school.
That’s not to say he doesn’t recognize the challenges the small school faces. But according to him, they’re healthy for the program. Jurgens sees no limitations to the future for Florida Tech athletics, or the school itself. And sets his sights on strengthening each individual athletic program.
“I’ve watched the whole thing grow,” he says proudly, “Now to see what we have; I don’t take anything for granted and I believe we can accomplish anything.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ben Block is a 2013 graduate of Merritt Island High School and a student in the University of Central Florida School of Journalism.