Coaching Coaches; Bill Jurgens Honored with Jack Kelly Award

From the time he first picked up an oar at Jacksonville University, Bill Jurgens felt a strong connection to the sport.

“I first saw rowing on TV,” said Jurgens. “I knew I wanted to row in college, which led me to pick a college that had a rowing program. I grew up playing sports and rowing looked like a sport that I would really enjoy, never thinking that I would end up being a college rowing coach for 20 years.”

As a coach, administrator and teacher, Bill Jurgens has, for nearly five decades, shaped the lives of thousands of student-athletes as he continues to expand the athletic department at the Florida Institute of Technology.

For his years of service, USRowing will award Jurgens with the 2016 Jack Kelly Award on Nov. 17, at the 2016 Golden Oars Awards Dinner in New York City.

“It is an honor to receive an award named for the family of a friend. I have many great memories with Jack Kelly, Jr., and it is special to win this award named for his father, who was such an outstanding man and oarsman.”

The Jack Kelly award, given each year, recognizes an “individual who represents the ideals that legendary Philadelphia sculler Jack Kelly lived by; has accomplished superior achievements in rowing or serves as an inspiration to American rowers.”

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For more than 47 years, Jurgens has been synonymous with Florida Tech Athletics. As the school’s athletic director since 1976, he has helped build Florida Tech into a strong NCAA Division II program. Under his tutelage, the Panthers compete in 22 varsity sports, have enjoyed four national championships, one NCAA individual national championship title and countless conference awards.

More important than his accolades, however, are the values that he instills in his athletes.

“The reason I enjoy teaching is because I think we can help people shape their dreams to become the best they can be in their respective sports and with their careers,” he said. “If there were just one skill I would want a student-athlete to have, it would be a good attitude. It feeds positive relationships, work ethic, trust, empathy and other beneficial qualities that will help student-athletes achieve outstanding success throughout their lives.”

The first rowing coach at FIT in 1969 after its inaugural season, Jurgens led the Panthers to 17 national championships including two men’s and women’s overall championship titles in 1982 and 1987 and three men’s overall titles from 1986-88. His tenure was marked by varsity eight wins over Temple University in 1982 and 1988 at the Dad Vail Regatta.

Jurgens also coached the U.S. lightweight men’s eight that finished fourth at the 1980 World Rowing Championships, was honored as the Dad Vail Coach of the Year in 1986, served on the USRowing Board of Directors from 1976-1987 and was a member of the U.S. Olympic Rowing Committee from 1977-80.

He was named to the Dad Vail Rowing Association Board of Directors in 1990 and continues to serve today.

“Rowing has had a profound impact on my life,” said Jurgens. “Not only from the values I have learned by participating in the sport, but also by having the privilege to be associated with an exceptional group of individuals whom I competed with. These were my role models.

“Rowing is a unique sport in that, there is a strong correlation between what you put into it and what you get out if it. Rowing has taught me that there is no substitute for hard work, and hard work pays off.”

Information on the Golden Oars Awards Dinner, ticket information and sponsorship opportunities may be found at

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