Tag: athletics

McCarthy Named Vikings’ New Head Football Coach

Rob McCarthy is the new head football coach at Lawrence University, Director of Athletics Mike Szkodzinski announced today.

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Head Football Coach Rob McCarthy

McCarthy, the defensive line coach at Carleton College and former long-time defensive coordinator at St. Olaf College, becomes the 28th head coach in Lawrence’s 122-year football history. A native of Deer River, Minn., McCarthy brings 25 years of coaching experience to Lawrence.

“I just think it’s a great, great opportunity,” McCarthy said of coming to Lawrence. “During my visits, I found a great excitement for football and a passion for excellence among the administration, faculty and alumni. That made me really want to be part of Lawrence’s rich football tradition.”

McCarthy said his first priority will be to build the Lawrence football family, and he wants to see greater depth in the program.

“No. 1, we want to build a football family where “I” is replaced by “we”, “team” is replaced by “family.” We will provide Lawrence student-athletes with a great experience. Winning will be a byproduct of doing things the right way,” McCarthy said.

“In addition, recruiting will be a priority. We have to get the numbers up to provide a quality experience. We want to recruit young men who want excellence in their lives, both in academics and athletics. We will recruit the top student-athletes from the Fox Valley, the state of Wisconsin and the country.”

Lawrence President Mark Burstein praised McCarthy’s commitment to the student and the student-athlete.

“One of the distinctive aspects of Rob’s candidacy was his strong support of students’ interest to pursue more than one passion or – as we like to say – ‘multi-interested students,'” Burstein said. “To reinforce this commitment, Rob has served through most of his career as the assistant men’s and women’s track coach where his student athletes have had significant success.”

“During my visits, I found a great excitement for football and a passion for excellence among
the administration, faculty and alumni. That made me really want to be part of
Lawrence’s rich football tradition.”

— Head Coach Rob McCarthy

Szkodzinski said McCarthy emerged from a talented group of candidates to be the next leader of Lawrence’s football program. A committee consisting of Lawrence administrators, faculty, students, trustees and alumni-athletes considered more than 100 applicants identified in a national search.

“We are very excited to welcome Rob to our staff as the next head football coach,” Szkodzinski said. “The applicant pool was tremendously competitive and Coach McCarthy distinguished himself as one of the top recruiters in our pool.”

Szkodzinski added that bringing McCarthy to Lawrence serves the best interests of the program and will keep the team moving forward. With the hiring of the McCarthy and the renovation of the Banta Bowl taking place this year, Szkodzinski reiterated the administration’s commitment to football and the Department of Athletics as a whole.

“Rob’s connections throughout the Midwest, Florida and nationally will serve our program well,” Szkodzinski said. “Not only will he be able to attract tremendous student-athletes to Lawrence, as he has at other excellent institutions, his experience as a coordinator led us to believe that he has the tools to help us succeed on the field as well. We know Coach McCarthy will be an asset to the entire department and look forward to watching our program move back toward the top of the Midwest Conference.”

This past fall was McCarthy’s first at Carleton after spending the previous 12 seasons at St. Olaf College. While at St. Olaf, McCarthy was part of a coaching staff that put together the best 12-year record in school history with a 73-47 mark. McCarthy was responsible for bringing a number of stellar players to St. Olaf, including one (Horace Gant Jr.) that went on to play in the NFL, a number of All-Americans and many All-West Region and first-team All-Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference picks.

“The applicant pool was tremendously competitive and Coach McCarthy distinguished
himself as one of the top recruiters in our pool.”

— Director of Athletics Mike Szkodzinski

McCarthy served in a variety of roles, most notably as defensive coordinator, for the Oles. He also worked as the special teams coordinator and recruiting coordinator for St. Olaf, which won eight games in four different seasons during that 12-year span.

McCarthy began his coaching career at Concordia (Minn.) College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1989 with a double major in English and speech, communications and theater arts. A standout defensive lineman for the Cobbers, McCarthy earned All-MIAC honors and helped his team to conference championships in 1986 and 1988.

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Rob McCarthy and Mike Szkodzinski attend a press conference announcing McCarthy’s appointment as Lawrence’s new head football coach.

After serving as an assistant coach at Concordia for the 1989 season, McCarthy moved to the University of St. Thomas (Minn.) in 1990. He served with the Tommies for five seasons and helped them win the MIAC championship in 1990. McCarthy then coached at Northwestern (Minn.) College and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire over the next five seasons. He helped Northwestern win the 1995 Upper Midwest Athletic Conference title and was part of the UW-Eau Claire team that took the 1998 Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship.

McCarthy earned a master of science of education degree in learning disabilities from UW-Eau Claire in 2000. He then returned to coach for one season at St. Thomas and one season at Pensacola (Fla.) High School before moving to St. Olaf.

After coaching for most of his career in Minnesota, McCarthy said Lawrence provided him exactly the opportunity he was seeking, both for himself and his family. McCarthy and his wife, Angie, have three children.

“It’s a great place to raise a family,” McCarthy said. “I wasn’t just going to leave. It needed to be the right program. When this came up and everyone raved about Appleton and Lawrence, we knew this was the one.”

Lawrence has been playing varsity football since 1893 and ranks third in Midwest Conference history with 16 league championships. The Vikings have won 496 games during their storied history, and that includes the distinction of being the first Midwest Conference team to host, and win, a NCAA Division III playoff game.

Lawrence has nearly 450 All-Midwest Conference selections since the league began choosing teams back in 1937. The Vikings have 66 All-America selections, starting with Claude Radtke in 1949. Lawrence also is the only school in the Midwest Conference to have a player, Scott Reppert in 2003, selected for the College Football Hall of Fame.

Watch a video of a press conference introducing Coach McCarthy. (Note: The press conference actually begins at the 15:50 mark of the vide0.)

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Summer Makeover: Lawrence Tennis Facility Receives Significant Upgrade

The Lawrence University tennis teams have been honing their games on the banks of the Fox River for more than 75 years, and thanks to a generous donation, those courts have never looked better.

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Lawrence men’s and women’s head tennis coach Steve Francour says the Vikings’ updated facility is now “one of the best in the Midwest Conference.”

The Lawrence Courts, located at the bottom of Drew St. hill, underwent a makeover this summer thanks to an anonymous alumni donation.

“The new tennis facility allows Lawrence to provide its men’s and women’s tennis teams with a first-class facility to compete and train,” Lawrence coach Steve Francour said. “Potential student-athletes will also see that they can reach their full potential at Lawrence with an outstanding facility. I would like to thank the donor and Lawrence for making this facility one of the best in the Midwest Conference.”

The six courts, which are located in a picturesque location next to the Fox River, were completely resurfaced with Nova’ProBounce. The new court surface, which is in use at tennis clubs all over the country, is an extremely high-quality, multi-layer product.

The complex, which received a new windscreen, also has been prepared for the installation of lights. A new storage building is in place, a new retaining wall was built and seating for fans also is on the drawing board.

“The new tennis courts will help give us an opportunity to become an elite program once again,” Director of Athletics Mike Szkodzinski said. “Coach Francour did a tremendous job in his first year with us last year. The new courts will allow him to better attract the best scholar-athletes to our programs. The courts also enhance our ability to interact more frequently with the Appleton community and invite them on campus.

“We are very thankful for the generosity of our alumni who made the courts possible. Without the support of our alumni, we would have a more difficult time reaching our full potential. The support of past Vikings is crucial to our success.”

The Lawrence women’s team gets its first chance to take on an opponent on Wednesday when the Vikings host Ripon College in a Midwest Conference North Division match at 4 p.m.

“The new courts are beautiful,” Lawrence junior Ali Heiring exclaimed. “No better way to kick off a season.”

The Lawrence Courts have been in use by the Vikings since the spring of 1939 and were most recently renovated when the facility was impacted by the construction of Hiett Hall in 2003.

“Having new courts shows the team that we really have the school and athletic department supporting us, which really means a lot,” said senior Allison Juda.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Lawrence University Mourns the Loss of Football Coach, Athletic Director Ron Roberts

Former Lawrence University athletic director, long-time football coach and Professor Emeritus of Physcial Education Ron Roberts passed away Sunday, Dec. 2 in Oshkosh. He was 81 years old.

An icon in the annals of Lawrence athletics, Roberts joined the athletic department in 1963 as the football team’s offensive line coach under another Lawrence legend, Bernie Heselton. Roberts also coached the wrestling and men’s tennis teams upon his arrival on campus.  He later served as athletic director for many years, overseeing the introduction and expansion of varsity sports for women.

Ron Roberts

Named head football coach in 1965 — the year the Banta Bowl opened — Roberts won his first of six Midwest Conference championships the following year, compiling a 7-1 record. In just his third season, the 1967 squad finished 8-0, becoming only the fourth unbeaten/untied team in school history en route to another conference title. Roberts’ teams would go on to win Midwest Conference titles in 1975, 1979, 1980 and 1981.

A 45th-year reunion honoring Roberts and the members of the 1967 undefeated football team was held on campus in October, an event he called “one of the best evenings of my life.”

Gracious in victory and uncomplaining in defeat, Roberts posted 14 winning seasons in his 20-year football coaching tenure. During an impressive 10-year stretch (1974-83), the Vikings never lost more than two games in a season and posted a 77-15 record that included a school-record 18-game winning streak.

The 1981 season was arguably the pinnacle of his coaching career. Lawrence won the Midwest Conference championship and finished with a 9-0 regular-season record, becoming the first Midwest Conference team selected for the NCAA Division III playoffs. The Vikings  became the first Midwest Conference team to host and win a NCAA playoff game, defeating Minnesota-Morris 21-14 in overtime. Lawrence reached the NCAA national semifinals, the only Midwest Conference team ever to advance that far in the Division III playoffs.

A tireless recruiter and an unabashed optimist, Roberts stepped away from football after the 1983 season but returned as the team’s head coach for a final season in 1992 before retiring. When he ended his football coaching career, he had amassed the second-most wins in the history of the Midwest Conference.

He owns the Lawrence school record with 121 victories and his 121-54-1 record upon retirement was the 12th-best winning percentage (.690) in NCAA Division III football history at the time. Nearly two dozen players who played for or were recruited by Roberts earned all-America honors.

He coached the wrestling team for 19 seasons in three different stints (1963-69, 1972-74, 1985-93) and the men’s tennis team for six seasons from 1964-69. His 1968 tennis team won the conference championship.

A charter member of Lawrence’s athletic Hall of Fame, Roberts also was inducted into the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1996.

Born in Chicago, Roberts was a standout football player and wrestler at the University of Wisconsin. He helped the football Badgers reach the 1953 Rose Bowl and was selected as an alternate to the U.S. wrestling team for the 1956 Pan-Am Games in Mexico City.

Roberts earned a bachelor’s degree in history and physical education and a master’s degree in educational administration from Wisconsin, an advanced degree from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in educational administration from Brigham Young University.

He began his coaching career at his high school alma mater, Crane Tech, taking over a program that had not won a game in three seasons before he arrived. Roberts’ first team won a divisional championship and advanced to the city playoffs three consecutive years under his guidance. He also coached three seasons at East Leyden High School in suburban Chicago before coming to Lawrence.

He is survived by his wife, Marlene, three children: Ron Jr. ’84, Appleton; Carrie ’86, Lombard, Ill.; and Elizabeth (Fredrick) Leijonhufvud, Stockholm, Sweden; and two grandchildren, Lovisa and Matilda.

A visitation will be held Friday, Dec. 7 from 4-8 p.m. at Wichman Funeral Home Tri-County Chapel, 3212 S. Oneida St., Appleton. A celebration of Ron’s life will be held Saturday, Dec. 8 at Calvary Bible Church, 1450 Oakridge Road, Neenah. Visitation at 1 p.m. until time of service at 2 p.m. Burial will be at Kingston Cemetery, Prairie du Sac, Wis.

Memorials can be directed to the Lawrence University Athletic Department, 711 E. Boldt Way, SPC 18, Appleton, WI  54911 or the Charcot-Marie-Tooth Neuropathy Research Association, P.O. Box 105, Glenolden, PA 19036.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a world-class conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2013 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,450 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries. Follow Lawrence on Facebook.