BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Longtime University of St. Thomas athletic director Steve Fritz has been selected as the 2019 recipient of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) Distinguished Service Award, the Conference announced today. The award is presented annually to an individual who has made a significant contribution to their institution and the Conference. It is the highest honor bestowed upon an individual from the MIAC.
Fritz has been affiliated with St. Thomas and the MIAC for last the 52 years. He became a Tommie in 1967 when his career as a MIAC basketball student-athlete began. After graduating from the school in 1971, Fritz spent time working in the admissions and financial aid offices while breaking into the coaching world as an assistant at his alma mater. In 1980, Fritz was named head men's basketball coach, a position he would hold for the next three decades. In 1992, he was also named the school's athletics director.
His coaching career reached its pinnacle in 2011 when he guided the Tommies to the NCAA Division III National Championship. After becoming the first men's basketball coach in MIAC history to guide his team to the NCAA crown, Fritz stepped away from the bench, electing to dedicate himself full time to being UST's AD. St. Thomas thrived under Fritz's leadership in the athletics department, with Tommie teams winning seven NCAA team championships, 31 NCAA individual championships, and nearly 250 MIAC regular season titles in 21 different sports. Additionally, he has been a strong advocate for women in athletics, highlighted by his efforts to bring varsity women's hockey to St. Thomas in 1997.
The lifelong Tommie has left an indelible mark on St. Thomas, the MIAC, and NCAA Division III as a whole. Fritz has positively affected the lives of thousands of young men and women, student-athletes and beyond.
"I have had the great privilege to work with Steve for the last 20 years and I have come to know him as a man of extraordinary character and fierce loyalty," MIAC Commissioner Dan McKane said. "He is the embodiment of what we believe college athletics are all about - hard work, discipline, sportsmanship, and a commitment to excellence without compromise."
Fritz is the 26th recipient of the award since its inception in 2001 and only the second Tommie to be honored with the distinction, joining 2014 recipient JoAnn Andregg. Fritz was presented with the award on the opening day of the 2019 MIAC Softball Playoffs at St. Thomas.