Changes brewing across the river: New athletic director brings the magic

Stephen Exarhos

Coach Mike Szkodzinski took over as athletic director for the Lawrence University athletic department last fall after a brief dual interim appointment the year before. It may have been a surprise appointment to some – given his youth and seeming lack of experience – but after his first year he has proved himself to be the right man for the job.
The most apparent personality trait of our new director is his modesty. He insists that “nothing can be accomplished in this department by one person” and never refers to things that he personally has done this year, but to things that the department has accomplished as a whole.
Szkodzinski continues to serve as the men’s hockey team’s head coach, but that detracts in no way from his directorial duties. This may have actually aided his performance in that it has forced him “to learn how to delegate and trust the entire athletic staff.” According to Szkodzinski, the staff has “done nothing but make it easier for [him] to be able to perform both roles adequately.”
One of Szkodzinski’s main goals for the department is to solidify it as a source of “pride, unity and camaraderie” in the university and to connect it more with the academic side of campus and the surrounding community. He never misses the opportunity to brag about our student athletes taking the initiative in this respect, especially regarding the teams who participated in the Friends of Jaclyn program this year.
Szkodzinski also stresses academic excellence, and even presented the interesting fact that many student athletes’ GPAs actually increase while they are in season. He rests the praise on the shoulders of the coaches and the student athletes themselves, saying that “our student athletes have done a great job at recognizing that playing and competing in collegiate athletics is an absolute privilege here.”
Now that Szkodzinski has developed his reputation as a solid hockey coach as well as a solid administrator, the offers are sure to come flowing in from bigger and better schools.
He insists that he is committed to Lawrence and stated that he is “emotionally invested in Lawrence University athletics and [he] fully believe[s] that we can be an example for all other small liberal arts schools like us” and that he is determined to reach our “full potential.”
The coaches who serve under Szkodzinski are just as excited for the future as he is. Football coach Chris Howard praised his organizational skills as well as his persistence within the college administration. Szkodzinski is working at making sure each coach’s needs are met by the administration. As Howard put it, “Out of sight, out of mind – and we’re no longer out of sight.”
There is real excitement in the athletic department here regarding our future. With Coach Szkodzinski at the reigns, we will continue to receive adequate attention from the administration, and our student athletes will continue to perform well in the classroom and in the community.
Szkodzinski has high hopes for the near future as well, saying, “There is no doubt in my mind that we will be even better next year.” Hopefully Szkodzinski will continue this trend and take our athletic department to much greater heights.