Mike Urtz has been making waves at SUNY Cortland since 1990, when he was a standout baseball outfielder for the Red Dragons. He earned his undergraduate and master's degree from the college and held a number of coaching positions before being hired as director of athletics in 2010.
We recently spoke with the Ilion, N.Y., native about Cortland's seven straight Cortaca victories, his vision for the college, and his favorite way to spend a weekend in the Crown City.
What made you decide to call Cortland your home?
I've appreciated the opportunities that the coaches and administration gave me, and the confidence they gave me to step into where I am today. I've felt a sense of family and loyalty here. When I came back I was lucky to have my coach encourage me to come back here and go to grad school and coach sports. This community’s been fantastic to me. I tended bar at Paddy’s Pub and got to know the locals. I ended up marrying a local product in my wife. I am originally from Ilion, and it used to be that I looked forward to coming "home." Eventually, it got to a point where driving to Cortland felt like coming home.
Do you see more men’s and women’s sports coming onto campus?
That's a tough one. Every sport has a cost crunch, but you never know. I would consider it with an open mind, because I like to be proactive on these issues.
How does it feel to be athletic director during one of Cortaca’s longest winning streaks by either team?
For us, this is by far the longest streak we’ve had. Even though we don't talk to one another, if you watch the score of games over the course of the season, you can sometimes make a prediction of how this is going to unfold. It looks like it’s going to be a close game unless something crazy happens.
Do you see any new facilities or renovations coming to campus in the next 5-10 years?
We are very fortunate to have the new Student Life Center on campus. I am pushing everyday to enhance our athletic facilities. In a year or two, we hope to upgrade our soccer field.
You created the Hall of Champions. How has that been received?
It's always been referred to as that, but we came up with a concept for it. Jaclyn Lawrence brought it from concept to reality by finding a way to fit everybody in.
It seems like Cortland is top notch at every sport this year. How do they keep that winning momentum?
It's been a unified effort by coaches, staff, and student athletes. They have accepted the challenge. We also have a longstanding record of success in our conference and nationally, and a few great young coaches.
This Saturday, the men’s basketball team is playing Cornell. Next week, the women's team is playing Binghamton. Have these teams played Division 1 schools before?
We have not, to my knowledge. Many times, games like these are the result of a personal connection, be it through a coach or another player.
How have you seen the campus evolve over the past two decades?
It's been nothing short of a transformation. I've seen almost every building on campus get renovated or expanded. We literally have rehabbed every single dorm on the campus. I think we've also done a nice job of diversifying our majors. We're not just a teaching school anymore. We have great programs in physical therapy, criminology, and sports management.
What’s your favorite way to spend a weekend in Cortland?
Watching Cortland win a close game with my kids in tow, spending the day at Hollenbeck's, and going out to eat at one of the local restaurants to finish off the night.