Dream on

Michigan State coach accepts women's track and cross country job

MADISON, Wis.—Jim Stintzi is making his dreams come true. The head coach of the men's and women's cross country teams and an assistant for the men's and women's track teams at Michigan State will now head Wisconsin's track and cross country teams. As of July 1, he will officially replace Peter Tegen, who will end his 30-year tenure in June.

"It's a dream job and a dream opportunity," Stintzi said.

Stintzi brings a wealth of knowledge to Wisconsin, particularly in the area of distance running. A Badger distance runner who graduated in 1981, he served as Michigan State's men's cross country coach from 1984 to 2003 and added a stint as the women's cross country coach from 2000 to 2003. During these times, he was an assistant with the men's and women's track teams. His Big Ten coaching experience, along with his knowledge of both the state and the university, were aspects that separated Stintzi from the other five candidates for the position.

"Knowing the league is important," UW-Madison Athletic Director Barry Alvarez said. "Being at the Division I level as far as hiring staff, putting staff together, understanding how to operate your scholarships, how you break down, the difference between winning and losing, then tie in his awareness of the university, of our state. Plus, the fact that he's been very productive and has been very successful. … The combination separated him."

At Michigan State, Stintzi racked up a plethora of accolades for both the men's and women's teams. He coached the men's cross country program to six NCAA Championship appearances—including a seventh-place finish in 1997—and led the women to three showings at the championships in the last four years. He was named the men's Big Ten Coach of the Year in 1987 and 1988, and earned the same honor while coaching the women's program in 2001, as well as the 2001 Great Lakes Regional Coach of the Year. The list of accolades extends beyond team titles and the honors he received. He has coached 24 All-American and 42 All-Big Ten athletes at Michigan State, just another reminder of his success at MSU.

"He's a proven commodity … at this level and also has 20 years of successful coaching in the Big Ten," Alvarez said.

Although Stintzi revitalized the Michigan State men's program in the mid 1980s, turning a team in the doldrums into a competitive program at both the conference at national levels, he leapt at the opportunity to coach at Wisconsin, his alma mater.

"It was Wisconsin that tripped the trigger," Stintzi said. "I had been at Michigan State for 20 years and it's a great institution and I enjoyed every minute of it, great memories there. But Wisconsin is special. There are not many athletic departments like the University of Wisconsin has and there are very few that have track and field programs with the tradition that Wisconsin has."

At Wisconsin, Stintzi earned seven All-American awards and six Big Ten Championships and took second place at the NCAA Championships in the distance medley relay in 1978 and the two-mile run in 1979. In 1981, he was named the Big Ten athlete of the outdoor championship after placing first in the 10,000 meters and second in the 5,000 meters and 3,000-meter steeplechase, an impressive feat for a distance runner.

"Very tenacious competitor, hard worker," Ed Nuttycombe, the men's track and field coach said of Stintzi as an athlete. Nuttycombe was in his first season as an assistant coach in 1981 when Stintzi was a fifth-year senior.

Flash forward to today. Stintzi will take over a legendary program at Wisconsin and replace an institution in Peter Tegen, the only coach the Badger women's programs have known. A year full of challenges awaits Stintzi, as he will be called upon to revitalize a program critics say is in decline.

"I think every program has ebbs and flows and I think there's some work to do," Stintzi said. "I think it's going to be a rough year next year. I don't know everyone that's coming but I think that the tradition at Wisconsin is so strong that—I'm not here to say that it's going to be easy to go out and win a national championship or even a Big Ten Championship—but I know that Wisconsin, the tools are here to have a great program."

"He's going to recruit good quality people. I think that he understands what it is going to take to be successful here," Nuttycombe said. "There's some name recognition in the state that will help."

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