Plinske ready for new challenge at Nebraska-Kearney
WHITEWATER--Paul Plinske's impressive tenure at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater has come to an end.
The athletic director's last day with the Warhawks will be Aug. 23, and he'll take over the same position at the University of Nebraska at Kearney on Sept. 1.
The schools announced Plinske's move on Wednesday morning. Plinske beat out three other candidates to land the job with the Division II Lopers.
“The move to Division II was obviously appealing to me, but what made Kearney a special draw is the fact that the chancellor and I connected just like I connected with UW-Whitewater chancellor Dick Telfer,” Plinske said. “There's no doubt this was a tough decision, because the campus and community support that we've gotten has made it such a special place.”
In its press release, UW-W said Telfer will name an interim athletic director and a national search for Plinske's replacement will be conducted.
Plinske spent nine years at UW-W and helped guide Warhawks athletics to new heights.
The sports programs won nine national championships under his watch and were the runner-up seven more times. The programs won 42 conference titles.
“He was able to create a culture within the athletic department, among the head coaches, where everyone was pulling together and enjoying everyone's success, because we could all see it benefited everyone,” UW-W head football coach Lance Leipold said.
Plinske said a key moment early in his tenure at Whitewater came when the baseball team won a national championship in 2005.
The volleyball team followed with a title that fall, and the football team made a trip to the Stagg Bowl—the Division III national championship football game—shortly thereafter.
“Winning the Stagg Bowl in 2007 was probably one of the more special moments that I will hold dear in my heart,” Plinske said. “I'm overly thankful for the coaches and staff for what they've done to support me.”
“If you look at D-III athletics, schools are good at football or good in basketball, good in track, but Whitewater has really risen to a unique level of about 10 schools in the country that are really good in everything,” added former UW-W baseball coach Jim Miller, who worked as an assistant to Plinske after his coaching days. “That has been really, really unique.”
Financially, Plinske worked to secure more than $12 million through fundraising to support facility enhancements, including an $8 million outdoor athletic complex renovation.
“I thought he was absolutely nuts when he told me what his ambitious plan was for facilities at Whitewater,” Miller said. “But they certainly came to a reality.”
In UNK, Plinske saw an opportunity to embrace similar challenges that he took on at Whitewater.
For instance, the Lopers joined the Mid-American Intercollegiate Athletic Association, which Plinske said is referred to as the Southeastern Conference of Division II, in 2012.
“With UNK transitioning, it's a tremendous challenge,” he said. “I was looking for a place that would present that challenge.
“It was broad-based competitive excellence that I think we were striving for (at Whitewater), and I'm proud of the fact that we can say we did that. Now I'm hopeful to bring that same model of excellence to UNK and their athletic department.”