Monday, December 15, 2014

Coach Bill Fritz Retires after 41 years as Track and Cross Country Coach at Rowan University


Bill Fritz with used running shoes donation for charity from his runners.

When Bill Fritz and Oscar Moore arrived at Glassboro State College (NJ) together in 1971 from Southern Illinois University not even the most knowledgeable track aficionado could have predicted that they would be one of the most successful track and cross-country coaching duos in NCAA Track and Field and Cross Country history.

The relationship was unique. Fritz was to assist 1964 Olympian Moore as they started the first track and field team at Glassboro. Their roles were reversed for the already established Glassboro State cross-country team with Fritz the head coach and Moore the assistant. The Glassboro “Professors” cross-country team they inherited was an all-male squad in an overwhelmingly female school known as a “teaching college”.
Bill Fritz and Oscar Moore
The team ran through the peach and apple orchards surrounding Glassboro.
Like many wildly successful partnerships, Fritz and Moore’s start was inauspicious as the first words from the Glassboro Athletic Director Fritz and Moore were to “get a haircut”.
“We just ignored him,” remembers Moore with a laugh over 40 years later. “Fritz is a Native American and had beautiful long flowing hair, and I had an afro.”
 Despite ignoring their first bit of South Jersey “advice”, the coaching duo would continue to coach together until Moore’s retirement in 2003.
Together they coached 130 All-Americans and 24 NCAA individual champions in track for men and women, dozens of All Americans in Cross Country, as well as 44 Division III National Champions, five straight Division III National Championships, dozens NJ  Conference Championships and a name change to Rowan University.
Fritz continued coaching until his retirement this summer. Coaches Fritz and Moore were reunited with a large number of their runners at a Rowan University bar b que honoring Fritz for his 42 years of coaching at Rowan. As their former runners shared laughs and reminisced over great times with Coaches Moore and Fritz some mentioned probably their greatest legacy—the number of their runners who went on to successful coaching careers, most in New Jersey. A quick tally produced over two dozen coaches, men and women who ran for Fritz and Moore.
One of the former coaches is Ken Kling, Bill Fritz’s first runner at Glassboro State College. Kling remembered:
” The coach before Fritz and Oscar Moore was a guy who was in the Physical Education Department, a Gymnastics Coach who took Cross Country on a whim. Although we had winning teams, he did not know what he was doing. He would ask other coaches he met what they did for workouts. If the coach said hills, we would do hills for the week... If it was intervals, we did intervals for the week. You get the idea. I had to tell him how to set up workouts and what type of workouts to do. I even gave him a copy of Tom Osler’s book “The Conditioning of Distance Runners”. There was no structured program.
Before the end of my junior year, we were told that the School was hiring two new coaches from Southern Illinois University, Bill Fritz for Cross Country and Oscar Moore for the first ever track team that was to start the following spring. The bio on the two was very impressive. We knew about Oscar, as he was a well -known Olympic runner.
When we were introduced to Bill Fritz, here was a young guy in his thirties with a goatee, mustache, glasses, big physique but slim, who looked very distinguished. He had an easygoing style and was quick with a laugh. Fritz was a very likeable person from the start. Talking to him it was clear about his knowledge and love of the sport as it radiated from his demeanor.
When Fritz and Oscar came onto the coaching scene, they brought a detailed step-by-step program that included long distance, intervals and hills that was challenging and pointed toward the big meets. He contacted us over the summer and wanted us to do at least 500 miles during the summer.
Before the meets he would say, “I want you to warm up so you are glistening before the race.” When he would explain about a hill workout he would say, “I want you to work the hills real hard and I want you to remember that the hills are your friends” When we would do intervals, it was all scientific. Sometimes he would time our rest period and sometimes we had to take a pulse count until our pulse was back to normal resting rate. For instance  we would run 20 x400’s and each time after that he would reduce the time and reduce the rest period. After tough workouts, he would say, “Yeah, you are going to be tough to deal with!”
Bill Fritz surrounded by some of his runners
With his varied workouts, he made it fun and challenging. We only had eleven on the team. Our record was something like 9-5 and we took second in the District championships, which qualified us for nationals. We did not get to go to nationals as the Athletic Director, said even though we qualified there had to be a written policy in place on the criteria to go to nationals.
Oscar would run with us each day which was an inspiration to the team, as he was so smooth and fluid and he moved effortlessly. He would give us tips for warming up for races, race strategy, weekend workouts, rest and diet.
Fritz with runners Heath and McArthur
Although I only had the opportunity and the privilege to run for Coach Fritz for one year, it was one of my most enjoyable cross-country years ever. My only regret was that I did not have more years to work under his guidance.”
When asked how long he had been coaching at Rowan Fritz would often answer with his trademark  good humor, “Well, let’s see, it’s been six decades, two centuries and two millenniums.”
Fritz downplayed his many National Coach of the Year awards: “I don’t even worry about those [individual accomplishments] because most of those are political anyway,” he says. “Track is all settled out on the field, it’s all in feet and inches. There’s no voting, it just comes out the way it comes out.”
I consider myself extremely lucky to have Browning Ross as my high school coach (Gloucester Catholic), and Fritz and Moore as my college coaches at Rowan/Glassboro. All 3 were great coaches but even greater men.

Fritz with runner Sid Holzer
At his retirement Bar-b-que, I asked Fritz if there is anything about coaching that he would not miss. He quickly answered, “The time between competition.  After a while you do get tired of the time spent away from home waiting for the competition to start, and also the time between events.”
 I quickly had a flashback to the long track meets when I ran for Glassboro State  spent in Long Island, New York  waiting for the 10k race walk, 400-meter relay and other events to finish so I could run my event the Steeplechase, and then sitting through another 4-5 hours of events before we could leave. My mind boggled at the thought of doing that and the required travel for over 40 years.
At the Bar-B-Que, Coach Moore had a confession to make to his gathered runners, “All of those times I ran with you guys in cross country I was spying. I would go back to Fritz and say “So and so can run a lot faster, he just kept up with me for 8 miles,(Moore was the top ranked Masters runner in the country at the time), I don’t think he is pushing enough in the races. Fritz would have that inside information and tailor his workouts and use it to try to positively motivate that runner.”
Fritz was always positive. His most common words of encouragement were “Good effort!” He was also quick with a laugh or a joke to break the tension for the entire four years that I ran for him.
Oscar Moore, Pete McArthur, Bill Fritz, Jack Heath
I was pleasantly surprised that one of Fritz’s favorite memories was from the years when I ran on the team. The Glassboro State Track bus would pick me up on Route 42 a block from my house, on the way to meets in New York City and Philadelphia and other destinations. One time while waiting for the bus, a New Jersey State Trooper stopped and asked me where I was headed in my Glassboro tracksuit. When I said “Kings Point, Long Island he offered to relay me most of the way up to New York via NJ state troopers barracks. I told him the bus would be taking me up in a few minutes. Ironically, the team bus came flying by me at 60 miles an hour. I waited and it circled back and picked me up in a few minutes. In 42 years of coaching, Bill Fritz never forgot anyone.
My Glassboro track and cross country teammate Pete McArthur summed up the experience of running for Coach Bill Fritz and our universal respect in these words. “I have a son who is going into college next year and hopes to play sports, I couldn’t think of a better thing to have happen to him than to have a coach as fine and caring as Bill Fritz and Oscar Moore were to us.”
Note: This article written by Jack Heath, Appears in Runners Gazette Magazine
 Best of luck to Justin Dimit, named as Bill Fritz's replacement as Mens Track and Cross-Country Coach at Rowan. Dimit and Women's Coach Ringo Adamson will look to continue the long tradition of excellence set by Bill Fritz and Oscar Moore.

Fritz with many of his former runners dating back to the early 70's
Bill Fritz and Rowan Women's Track and Cross Country Coach Ringo Adamson

Tom Osler and Bill Fritz

Retirement cake signed by Fritzs' runners

Coach Fritz with Lady Prof Runners
Tom and Kathy Osler with Bill Fritz