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Northern State AD Bob Olson Retiring

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ABERDEEN – Northern State University President James Smith has announced the retirement of NSU Athletic Director Bob Olson, effective at the end of the 2011-12 academic year in May. 


Olson’s retirement marks the end of a 37-year career at NSU that saw him fill the roles of student, athlete, professor, coach and administrator.


“It’s been a privilege to be a part of such a great university,” Olson said. “I am honored to have been given the opportunity to work with many fine folks at Northern State over the years. I feel our athletic department is as strong as it has ever been and the timing is right to turn the reins over to someone new.”


“It has been an absolute pleasure for me to work with Bob Olson in his role as athletic director at NSU,” Smith said. “Bob is student-centered and student-focused. He cares deeply about the student experience and is dedicated to making every athlete as successful as possible. Bob has assembled an outstanding set of coaches, and those coaches, in turn, have stressed athletics and academics simultaneously.


“As a testament to Olson’s dedication to the whole athlete experience, our average GPA for athletes is currently greater than the mean GPA of non-athletes on this campus,” Smith continued. “That is truly an outstanding statistic.”


Olson has served the Wolves in the role of athletic director for the past 13 years, taking over the position in 1999 for the retired Jim Kretchman. Prior to that, he coached the NSU men’s basketball team for 14 seasons, taking the Wolves to national prominence on both the NAIA and NCAA Division II levels. Olson amassed a career record of 305-129 and coached his players to 27 all-conference, five NAIA All-America, one NCAA II First Team All-America and eight Academic All-America honors.


Under his direction, the Wolves made five NAIA national tournament appearances, including championship national runner-up runs in 1994 and 1995. The program’s success at the NAIA level translated seamlessly to the NCAA Division II stage, as the Wolves earned national tournament berths in each of their first four seasons under the NCAA umbrella. Those post-season runs were highlighted by a North Central Region championship and Elite Eight berth in the 1997-98 season.


An Aberdeen native, Olson attended Northern State from 1973-1977 and played collegiate basketball under the legendary coach Bob Wachs. He earned his bachelor’s degree from NSU in December 1977 and returned to the hardwood as an assistant coach under Wachs for the 1977-78 season and again from 1979-1982, earning his master’s degree from Northern in 1980.


Olson returned to the NSU sidelines in 1983 after a brief stint as the Roncalli High School boys’ basketball coach, this time as the head women’s coach, a position he held until taking over the men’s program.


Olson was selected as the Wolves’ 19th men’s basketball coach in 1985 when Wachs retired from coaching, and racked up a career record of 305-129 over the next 14 seasons before assuming the role of athletic director and handing the reins of the basketball program to Don Meyer in 1999.


While most known for building a nationally respected basketball program, Olson has worked tirelessly for Northern State outside of the coaching realm. He taught in the school’s health and physical education department from 1983-1999 and worked as an admissions counselor from 1979-1981. He has also filled the roles of administrative assistant to the athletic director, compliance coordinator and assistant coach for the football and track teams.


He has also served on the NCAA Championships Committee and has overseen the start of the Barnett Center expansion project, which is due to be completed in early 2012.


Olson was recognized as the recipient of the Kretchman Coaching Award by the NSU Foundation at the 2011 Gypsy Day celebration.


“I’m very proud of the accomplishments of our coaches and student-athletes here at NSU,” Olson said. “They do things the right way, both in the arena and in the classroom. Because of the leadership of Dr. Smith and Dr. Hawley, this university is stronger than ever and because of their commitment, the university is poised for further greatness.”


“I wish Bob well in retirement,” Smith said. “I know we’ll continue to have his support and his commitment to Wolves athletics. Personally, I will miss his insights and his supportive spirit. He has been a tremendous part of NSU as both a coach and athletic director. He will be missed!”


A national search for a replacement will begin immediately.

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