Milwaukee Talks: UWM Director of Athletics George Koonce
As a linebacker for the powerful Packers teams of the 1990s, George Koonce became a fan favorite with his blue-collar approach to the game.
Now, he's going to apply that same work ethic and dedication to his new position and hopes to win fans more along the way.
Koonce, 40, was hired as the athletic director at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he replaces Bud Haidet. Koonce prepared for his new position by spending nearly two years as senior associate athletic director at Marquette. Before that, he worked as the Packers' director of player development. He also worked in fundraising for his alma mater, East Carolina University, for three years before rejoining the Packers.
Koonce, who holds a master's degree in sports management from East Carolina, is working on a doctorate in sports administration at Marquette.
We caught up with Koonce to chat about his new position and what it's like to be a former Packer.
OnMilwaukee.com: You are a couple weeks into the new job. How are things going?
George Koonce: It's been a dream come true for me. I mean that. But, we have some great coaches and a great staff. I'm just leaning on them to show me the way right now. I'm learning. I'm looking forward to a having great marriage between UWM and George Koonce.
OMC: The situation you're walking into seems solid on two fronts. First, the athletic program is in pretty good shape. Second, and perhaps more important, you are familiar with the community because of your time with the Packers and with Marquette. Are those big advantages.
GK: This isn't my first rodeo. I used to come to Milwaukee all the time when I was up in Green Bay, playing. I come from an organization -- the Green Bay Packers -- that is rich in tradition, rich in history. I'm bringing all that with me to UWM. the bar is going to be set very, very high, but I'm very, very confident in the staff and the coaches and the student-athletes we have. We are going to meet all those expectations.
OMC: You've been in this state long enough to be considered an honorary "cheesehead." That has to help you sell the program.
GK: I tell you what -- I came to Wisconsin when I was 23 years old. I went back to North Carolina, probably about three years. I'm an old guy now -- I'm 40 years old. I've been in Wisconsin about 13 years. I tell everybody that I was born and raised in New Bern, N.C., but I'm from Milwaukee. I'm from Wisconsin. I became an adult here in Wisconsin. I've spent basically my whole adult life in Wisconsin. My family and I are very happy to be in Milwaukee. I'm looking forward to spreading the gospel of UWM.
OMC: What are your main goals heading into this job?
GK: My job and our staff's job is to try to be the best 15 sports from top to bottom in the Horizon League. That's what we're going to do. It's been a long winter, but I'm looking forward to the fall, so I can see the men's and women's basketball team and the men's and women's soccer teams play.
OMC: Things are probably a little quieter now than they will be when school starts again. What is an average day for you like right now? Have you had an average day yet?
GK: I think that's probably going to happen in the fall. I'm so happy to have an opportunity to be an athletic director. There are only 325 athletic directors in the country. I'm happy to be one of them, most importantly to be in Wisconsin. I know a lot of people. A lot of people know me. It's a great fit. I'm happy. We've got a great chancellor and a great leader in Carlos Santiago. I'm happy.
OMC: When you were in college, did you think about being an administrator?
GK: Yes. My junior and senior years, a lot of guys talked about how they wanted to play in the league. Every student-athlete tries to play at the highest level. I wanted to play in the league. a lot of my teammates wanted to play in the National Football League and coach. I never wanted to be a coach. I had to put so much time and effort into being a player. A lot of it didn't come naturally to me. I had to go over and beyond the call of duty when it came to studying, watching film, eating properly, training and all that. I said "I don't necessarily want to be a coach. i want to be an administrator." I wanted to be at the highest level -- an athletic director. I wanted to live vicariously through student-athletes. I can't do it any more. I get a chance to watch them compete and win championships. That's what it's all about. That, and giving them an opportunity to live a dream and get a college degree so they can stay in Milwaukee or go back to their hometown and be leaders. That's what it's all about.
OMC: Many retired athletes have to find something to quench their competitive thirst. Will being an athletic director do that for you?
GK: I think so. I'm having more fun right now than I did when I was playing for the Packers.
OMC: Well, you're not getting hit ...
GK: I'm not getting hit. I would trade that helmet and shoulder pads. I prefer to wear the suit and tie (more) than the helmet. I get a chance every morning when I leave the house to impact the welfare of 325 student-athletes. It's a lot of responsibility. I'm having a lot of fun at it.
My coaches, my staff and myself -- we are truly in the service industry. We're serving the student athletes so they can have the best possible college experience.
Page 1 of 2 (view all on one page)
hi im Danye'l R. Koonce and i was looking up my family background and you came up and i just want to no was we related in any way please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
George Koonce was an excellent choice in becoming the next AD at UWM. He has been a respectable figure in the state since his time in the Packers in the 1990's. UWM has had the potential to dominate the Horizon League but has always been missing a few piece, hopefully Mr. Koonce is one of those missing pieces.
KOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONCE... http://bit.ly/6bHra Didn't win this game against the vikes, but GK scored on this pick return. I do, however, believe he "just barely" stepped out of bounds. Great interview, I think Koonce will be great for UWM.
3 comments about this article.
Post a comment / write a review.
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.