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Starr Retires After 26 Years

Dave Rook
North Buffalo Rocket

Dan Starr, retiring after 26 yearsA legend in action, Dan Starr networks with a connection across the country. photo: Eric Ortner

May 2000: North Buffalo resident and Canisius College fixture Dr. Daniel P. Starr has announced his retirement as Canisius Athletic Director, effective June 30, 2000. Dr. Starr spoke privately in order to explain his retirement, and examine other issues which developed during his tenure of over 25 years in the same position as head caretaker of Canisius sports.

The biggest question was "why?" Dr. Starr, of course, had several answers. He recalled an NCAA Athletic Director's meeting in Reno, NV where he said that it dawned on him that, "most guys were a lot younger," and, "many good friends had retired." Shortly thereafter he came to the conclusion that he should, "move on gracefully," and that it was, "time for new blood." As full-time Athletic Director since 1974, he felt that it was a "sensible time to move on, out on my terms."

Dr. Starr joined Canisius College in 1962 as a History Department faculty member. He began his work in athletics in 1969 by working part-time for then Athletic Director and Men's basketball coach, Bob MacKinnon. Following that, the Koessler Athletic Center opened in 1970 and Starr assumed the role of promotions manager and faculty athletic representative. He continued in that position until 1974 when he became Athletic Director. 

During his tenure, Starr has seen the overall position of Athletic Director undergo many changes. The biggest change he felt could come in one word, "compliance." With the advent of NCAA regulations, the Athletic Director and his assistants have been forced to take a much larger role in the examining of the College's compliance with the various regulations and eligibility standards. They must instill an environment in which the student-athletes are meeting national standards for eligibility as well as maintaining a program free of NCAA violations with regards to the recruitment of athletes.

Another major role that Dr. Starr contributed to was the participation of Canisius in athletic conferences. First, he steered Canisius to the North Atlantic Conference, where they were able to have some success. The schools of that conference were mostly centered in New England and were non-Catholic colleges. In the late 1980's, Canisius joined the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, where is still resides today. He notes that the conference members, "share many of the same values and are similarly sized institutions like Niagara, Siena and Loyola." Most of these schools were of equivalent enrollment and budgetary constraints as well.

When asked to discuss his accomplishments, Dr. Starr was very quick to point out the strong move forward of women's athletics at Canisius. With the passing of Title IX in 1972, the women's program began to take shape as Canisius became further co-ed, especially along athletic lines, as it was predominantly male prior to that. He mentions women's soccer, gymnastics, synchronized swimming, softball and cross-country as some of the programs which blossomed on the women's sports side.
His "best of the best," so to speak, started with Mary Beth Riley, a cross country runner who was selected as the first ever NCAA "Woman of the Year." That award was based not only on athletic performance and contribution, but on academic excellence and service to the community as well. 

He was also quick to mention the hiring of John Beilein as men's basketball coach from Lemoyne College, as it raised the basketball program up to another level. With regards to Beilein he also clearly remembers Beilein winning at St. Bonaventure, which Canisius had not been able to do for many years.

Other notable names included Stacy Wagenseil, a captain of the women's soccer squad, who was named to all-MAAC twice and was MAAC Most Valuable Player twice. Off the soccer field, she was a fine student and was head of the ROTC program for Canisius. He also mentioned Pat Aronson, the first Canisius women's basketball recruit. She also became the first 1000 point scorer and is now in Griffs Hall of Fame.

With so many accomplishments in 25 years, it's tough to list them all. He discussed the great strides of the men's hockey team, which has succeeded with no rink on campus, the track team, who also exists with no on-campus facility, the creation of a men's lacrosse program, football, and women's volleyball. 

As for the future, Dan Starr will still be a part of the Canisius family, as he will continue in a part-time History teaching role. He also hopes to do some research and writing, especially on sports in Buffalo. Golf and tennis will take up part of his time as well, though he admits to not being a great golfer. In addition, Starr will continue his volunteer work with Meals on Wheels, which he does on Thursdays. He is also sure to be seen in many of his local spots. At the top of this list will be Wellington Pub, where he admits to being the "perpetual president of the Wellington Pub Chowder and Marching Society," though he quietly admitted that there "have been no parades."

Legends are just as hard to find as they are to forget. Dan Starr's legacy is a fine example. Especially when considering the tradition of excellence he has provided to Canisius College and collegiate athletics. Dr. Starr will be gone from Canisius Athletics, but certainly not forgotten. His contributions will remain for many years, as will his presence to the many lives he touched.

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