WATCH: Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame’s Bill Jurgens Champion of Florida Tech For Six Decades
By Space Coast Daily // August 16, 2021
SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME
ABOVE VIDEO: The FIT athletic department has expanded under Bill Jurgens’ watch to include 22 sports and hundreds of student-athletes. The Panthers’ first-ever college football team will debut in the fall. As Florida Tech’s number and variety of sports teams has grown over the years, interacting and building relationships with the student-athletes has taken on added significance for Jurgens. “I always give them advice. They may not ask, but I give it to them,” he said. “I try to set myself in a position to help people.”
• Dedicated Steward of FIT Athletics, Member of FIT & JU Hall of Fame , Championship Rowing Coach
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – The long association of Bill Jurgens and athletics at Florida Institute of Technology may best be remembered for a career spanning 44 years and counting, but that would overlook his storied success as a coach, administrator and a role model for generations of students.
A resident of Melbourne since he was in third grade, Jurgens never dreamed growing up that he would one day lead a college athletic program or champion Florida Tech’s fortunes on and off the playing field for nearly six decades.
It has earned him induction into the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame as the 2013 Sports Visionary Award recipient.
A 1964 graduate of Melbourne High School, Jurgens attended Jacksonville University and majored in biology. He also competed in rowing for four years and became captain of the school’s team as a senior.
After graduation, Jurgens took a job at Arlington Junior High School in Jacksonville to teach biology. Within a week his principal moved him to physical education where he also served as JV basketball coach and assistant track coach.
At the end of the year, he received a grant to attend the University of Florida to teach biology to students of diverse backgrounds. He returned to Melbourne in the fall of 1969 and was hired by Florida Tech on a part-time basis to coach the rowing team. At the same time, the principal at Eau Gallie Junior High School was impressed by Bill’s work with diverse students at UF and hired him to teach special needs students.
GUIDING & STEADYING FORCE
As Florida Tech rowing coach, the team won its first five races and even defeated arch-rival Rollins College. By the following fall, Jurgens became a full-time coach at Florida Tech. In 1976 he became the school’s athletic director.
He applied for the position because, as he put it, “I wanted a broad-based program. It never occurred to me that having many teams means more work. I thought our athletes could benefit from a positive spirit and not get caught up in what we didn’t have. My goal was to help all of our sports succeed.”
Besides fulfilling his duties as athletic director, Bill continued to coach Florida Tech rowers. Serving 20 years as the team’s coach, he led the squad to the state title in 1974, and in 1975 FIT claimed its first national championship.
In all, Jurgens led the Panthers to 20 NCAA team and individual titles until stepping down in 1988. With his coaching days behind him, Jurgens poured his heart and soul into developing a level of excellence for the athletic department. FIT programs flourished with the men’s soccer team winning NCAA Division II championships in 1988 and again in 1991.
“Vince Lombardi is often misquoted about saying ‘winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing,’ when what he really said was, ‘winning isn’t everything. The will to win is the only thing,’” Jurgens said.
“I consider success to be when you have people who don’t worry about a loss, but keep the desire to win.”
As Florida Tech’s number and variety of sports teams has grown over the years, interacting and building relationships with the student-athletes has taken on added significance for Jurgens. “I always give them advice. They may not ask, but I give it to them,” he said. “I try to set myself in a position to help people.”
MENTOR TO GENERATIONS OF ATHLETES
Jurgens encourages FIT athletes to get involved in the community in service-oriented endeavors and programs, such as working with handicapped children or volunteering in a food pantry.
The FIT athletic department has expanded under his watch to include 22 sports and hundreds of student-athletes. The Panthers’ first-ever college football team will debut in the fall.
“I know I’ve done my job when I see them graduate and they see what they’ve become. They see what they achieved and they are more prepared and more successful and more able to deal with the ups and downs,” Jurgens said.
“It impresses me that we create that environment and I’m confident in the product that we have and nothing prevents us from being the best we could be.”
Jurgens, who is a member of the Florida Tech Sports Hall of Fame and the Jacksonville University Athletic Hall of Fame, has indeed been the right man for the job at Florida Tech, and his vision for athletics at the school has created a model program that others try to emulate.
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