At the Clemente Center, Florida Tech Athletic Director Bill Jurgens exits his office and descends the staircase, passing the view of senior point guard Patrick Anderson getting some shots up on the practice court. Along the way, he greets members of his staff, each hard at work making the program the best it can be. As Jurgens walks into the main gym of the center, volleyball practice is underway, but the coach stops to talk with him. The athletic director compliments the team’s energy in their last home game. As he makes his way to the varsity training center, lacrosse players greet him as they complete their daily training.
The tour Jurgens takes is a common part of the family environment permeating through the athletic department, and a staple during his 41 years as AD. With the challenges the job provides, the gratitude expressed by the student-athletes from those talks is one of the job’s pleasures.
Since Jurgens was named athletic director in 1976, Florida Tech has achieved much in the field of play. The Panthers’ programs have two NCAA men’s soccer national championships, one NCAA individual national championship, one NCAA swim relay national championship and one Intercollegiate Rowing Association national championship. The athletic program has also won 33 Sunshine State Conference team championships, as well as seven individual SSC championships.
A Melbourne native, Jurgens was an accomplished rower while earning his bachelor’s degree at Jacksonville University, where he rowed from 1965 to 1968. In his junior year, Jurgens earned the IW Bull Award, voted by the team as the most outstanding leader of the squad. He was also nominated captain in his senior year. Even after Jurgens joined Florida Tech as the team’s head crew coach in 1969, he remained a successful rower. As a member of the U.S. National Team in 1974, he won the national championship in pairs with coxswain. His time as Florida Tech’s coach was just as successful. Under his tenure, Florida Tech won 17 national championships, including men’s and women’s national titles in 1982 and 1987, and men’s overall titles from 1986-88.
Jurgens’ success earned him school hall of fame selections at both Jacksonville University in 1996, and Florida Tech in 1999.
Being the Best You Can
After seeing much turnover at the athletic director position, Jurgens saw the again-open position as an opportunity to make a greater impact on others than his job as head crew coach offered. Jurgens also looked forward to the work involved with being an athletic director, such as accumulating proper resources to assist the student-athletes, something that had not been done prior. Jurgens made it his mission to make sure his programs were in the best position for success.
“If you look at this job for what it is, it’s an opportunity to help people be the best they can be,” Jurgens said. “There’s no excuse that you don’t have the resources, and then you realize you don’t have a reason for not succeeding.”
Walking around the Clemente Center, picturesque aquatic area, top-level dining hall and varsity training center, it is clear Panther athletics has the resources for student-athletes to perform their best. In addition to Jurgens’ work and determination to better their programs, others were dedicated to see expansion in the early years. People such as Satellite Beach co-founder and Mayor Percy Hedgecock, who saw the role athletics played in students and helped Florida Tech establish an athletic scholarship fund. As the program has grown, Florida Tech athletics have kept an emphasis on academics. Jurgens discussed the importance students and faculty place on education in addition to competition.
“We don’t have any students who didn’t earn their way in here; in other words, there are no special admissions,” Jurgens said. “They all qualified to be at Florida Tech. So consequently, we don’t have many serious problems due to students not being able to do well. If there’s a reason, they can look in the mirror. They have to work hard.”
A Family Environment
The family environment among the athletic program is the result of a concerted effort among Jurgens, athletic administrators and coaches to support one another throughout the seasons.
“I think having a good culture is something we have to work at, and fortunately our coaches are supportive of one another,” Jurgens said. “You want a coach who believes he or she is part of a bigger team and realizes the
importance of academics.”
Over the years, Jurgens has been instrumental not only in expanding Florida Tech athletics, but he has worked with many to see the program rise to prominence. Jurgens can still be found at the Clemente Center and other athletic facilities, talking with students, listening to them and providing advice. When Jurgens joined Florida Tech, he entered looking to make a difference in the lives of those associated with its athletic programs, and still looks to do so today.