I know of no one better to highlight the evolution of college athletics more than Dan Starr, PhD. Doc, as most of us called him, was sort of an accidental athletics director. He is a history professor and ended up AD at Canisius College for nearly 26 years, during the time when conferences were forming and the split between Bowl Game schools and the rest of Division I.
As the story goes, the college paid $600 in repairs to future NBA thug Larry Fogle’s car…so the AD gets fired and they ask squeaky clean Dan to come in and take care of things. His first order of business was cleaning up the mess with the NCAA. Timing, as they say, is everything and during this major infraction era conferences were born. That train passed our probation station but Doc made the best of it.
He got us into a conference that fits not only the philosophical mission of our institution but is also financially aligned with it. He elevated women’s sports to varsity and can even boast the first NCAA Woman of the Year, Mary Beth Riley. But that is his press pack…I know SO much more…
I know that if you wanted a good laugh, watch him clean his office. When I say clean, I really mean look through the many piles of papers and books stacked up on every surface. When he announced his retirement he started to organize and pack…I think it took him two years and I think at the end he just put the rest of the stuff in boxes and brought it to his new office on the other side of campus where the history professors are located.
…and to this day I still get a random newspaper clip or book in my work mail, sometimes with a note of a funny memory and other times with no note at all. Other of my colleagues get the same thing…Doc must be cleaning again! I have kept most of them because he is so observant and his timing impeccable.
I have so many travel memories of Doc…the time he and I were at Disney having port wine with Father Cooke (president of the college at the time) and Father Dugan (longtime chaplain of the athletic department) in their hotel room with the door propped open for propriety…traveling to the NCAA Men’s Basketball 1st round in 1996…driving back from Albany the night we won the MAAC in a mother of a snow storm when we stopped at every rest stop for coffee and to clean the windshield.
The best one was at the end of his AD career when our softball team made another trip to the NCAA tournament, this time in Los Angeles at UCLA. I was senior women’s administrator at the time and it was clear the new AD, whose name will never be mentioned in any of my writings, was not going to keep me in that role. Dan got to the airport before I did and arranged for us to travel first class (particularly helpful for a trip across the country in less than 48 hours). After our game on Thursday we went to the JP Getty Museum then on to Marina Del Rey for some great Mexican food and cocktails. Anyone who knows Doc knows that a good cocktail is always a good idea! I’ll never forget the toast. “You know Jude, it’s been a great run. I’ve had a lot of fun. Thanks for whatever you did and for putting up with me all these years.”
Cheers to you, Doc, forever enshrined in the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame!
Life is good!