Thursday, November 10, 2016

Hello Jen, Goodbye Yurko

Jen Cross didn't need to tell TigerBlog to be nice to her, even though she did.

TigerBlog can't remember the last time he saw Jen, the wife of Mike Cross, who used to be the No. 2 person in the Princeton Department of Athletics. It had been years, though, enough years that somehow her two little boys are now in 9th and 8th grades.

Jen was one of the first people TB saw when he walked in to the annual meeting of the College Athletic Administrators of New Jersey, an organization for which TB once served as president. Jen was there to give a presentation on the dreaded Millennials and how college athletic administrators can better understand them, advise them, coach them, motivate them.

She asked if TB was going to write about this. When TB said yes, that's when Jen asked him to be nice.

Mike Cross is one of TigerBlog's all-time favorite co-workers. It started from the very first day TB met Mike. There are just some people you meet that you're immediately drawn to, right?

TigerBlog and Mike Cross spent a lot of time together, working on any number of projects. They laughed more than anything else, especially when, no matter what the issue of the day was on the table, Mike would reassure TB that they had "never been closer" to have it resolved.

Mike is a member of the lunchtime basketball Hall of Fame, or would be if there happened to be such a thing. He started out overseeing compliance, and he ended up overseeing intercollegiate programming. Back when Gary Walters, then the Princeton Director of Athletics, was the chair of the Division I men's basketball committee, Mike was basically in charge at Princeton for a full year. 

Mike left Princeton to become the Director of Athletics at Bradley. These days, he's a senior administrator at Penn State.

Jen is a consultant. Her presentation yesterday was a good one. She's polished, with a lot of energy and funny quips mixed in with the points she makes about her subject. She kept her audience engaged and interested, and the 90 minutes or so during which she spoke flew by.

The CAANJ event always has a speaker who tries to address a subject that is germane to athletic administrators from schools from Division I through junior colleges. As someone who has helped put some of these together, TB can tell you it's not always easy to do.
Jen's talk managed to accomplish that. Plus it was good to see her.

There. That was nice. And she didn't have to ask.

The second part of the CAANJ meeting is the awards luncheon.

Princeton won both of the Division I/II student-athlete of the year awards. Emily de la Bruyere, from women's track and cross country, was the women's winner, though she wasn't able to be there, as she is studying in France this year.

The men's winner was Chad Powers, the Ivy League Pitcher of the Year in baseball and one of the main reasons that Princeton went from seven wins in 2015 to the Ivy League championship and NCAA tournament in 2016. Powers pitched a great game in the NCAA regional at Louisiana-Lafayette, a game Princeton ultimately lost 5-3.

Princeton also won the CAANJ Cup as the top athletic program in Divisions I/II in New Jersey. There are also team winners from Division III (Stevens Tech) and junior college (Rowan College of Gloucester).

TigerBlog accepted the CAANJ Cup for Princeton and as such had to make a few short remarks. He spoke about how fortunate Princeton is to have the resources it does and how he respects everyone in the room for their own commitments to the values that Princeton calls "Education Through Athletics."

Then he gave the Cup, a rather heavy trophy, to Ryan Yurko, the Associate Athletic Director for Finance and Administration. And what did Yurko do?

He broke it.

About 30 seconds after TB gave the trophy to Yurko, the base was on the floor while the glass cup was still in Yurko's hands.

Destroying the trophy will be one of the last things Yurko ever does at Princeton. He is leaving, heading back to his native Indiana, having taken a job with the Indiana Pacers.

It would be hard to find someone at Princeton who doesn't like Yurko. Certainly TigerBlog does.

Yurko is a Midwestern boy, through and through. He's nice and polite, and he has a great work ethic. He's spent seven years at Princeton, and yet somehow he still looks like he's about 16 or 17. Maybe 18 tops.

Yurko is always smiling. He will help anyone do anything at any time. He is completely focused on what his responsibilities are, and he'll give a hand to anyone in the department who needs one. Yeah, he always say, I can help you. No problem .

When TB spoke while accepting the Cup, he mentioned how fortunate he is to work at a place with such a great group of people.

Now one of those great people is moving on. TB is happy for him. He's moving back home, and he'll be working for an NBA team.

It's part of how it is at Princeton. People come and go. They move on to other jobs, move up in their careers.

Ryan is just the latest to do so.

TigerBlog wants to thank him for everything he's done, whether it's been something specific from the business office or just for making Princeton Athletics a fun place to work.

And say that he will miss Ryan Yurko. 

Just like he misses Mike and Jen Cross.

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