That’s the ballgame!

Brian Kimmes

Brian Kimmes

Ron Lenz, South Dakota State University’s sports information director for the past 29 years, will retire this summer. His last day is June 30.

Lenz was hired as sports information director (SID) in 1977. He graduated from SDSU in 1970. As a student at SDSU, Lenz worked in the sports information department. Before returning to SDSU as SID, he worked at the University of South Dakota for a five years.

Lenz has been SID through massive changes in sports information.

“A lot happens in 29 years,” said Lenz.

When Lenz first started, fax machines and computers were not used. He did not even have a hand-held calculator. Now, everything is done on computers and the Internet.

“For old guys like me, it is hard to keep up with,” said Lenz. “The students who work in the office know more about the Internet than I do.”

Jason Hove, assistant sports information director, said so much has changed in the business, technology wise, since Lenz started. Lenz has bridged the gap. In many ways, the job is easier today than it was when he started.

Lenz has been through other changes here at SDSU. “The biggest change is the overlapping seasons,” he said. When he first started, the three seasons – fall, winter and spring – did not overlap. Now they all run into each other. Lenz has also witnessed SDSU’s transistion from a Division-II school to a D-I school.

Lenz said the thing he has enjoyed the most throughout his career is the people, the coaches, athletes and media people he has worked with. He said he has worked with “a lot of really good people.”

Lenz said the main reason he is retiring is so he can find something with “not nearly as many hours and not every weekend.” He said he thinks it is time to get somebody younger in the position.

Lenz is not sure what he will do with his free time. He expects to work somewhere, but he is not sure where. He plans to stay in Brookings and continue attending sporting events as a spectator.

“I will now have more time available for myself and my family,” Lenz said.

Lenz has three children and three grandchildren.

Lenz said one of his favorite moments at SDSU is one that a lot of people probably do not remember. In 1981, ABC had a contract to broadcast one non-Division-I football game per year. The network selected the SDSU vs. University of North Dakota game at Coughlin Alumni Stadium. The Network sent out the ABC Monday Night Football crew to cover the game. Lenz said in this business to work with people like that is a treat.

Lenz’s passion for SDSU sports and his job have not gone unnoticed or unappreciated in the athletic department. Coaches and staff are amazed at the passion Lenz has for SDSU.

“Ron has an unbelievable work ethic,” SDSU Athletic Director Fred Oien said. Oien said he doesn’t know many people that have dedicated their lives to student-athletes and have worked toward making the program better the way that Lenz has.

“He has a real feel for student athletes,” Oien said.

“Ron Lenz is, in bold, bold letters, a Jackrabbit,” Football Head Coach John Stiegelmeier said. He said that in order to receive label, a person must live and die and serve SDSU.

“The time he spends is mind-boggling,” said Stiegelmeier. “He doesn’t just wear the colors (blue and yellow), he lives them. That doesn’t come with the position – it comes with the passion for the job.”

“I have enjoyed Ron’s passion for South Dakota State,” said Head Women’s Basketball Coach Aaron Johnston. “He has a passion for women’s basketball, like all SDSU sports.”

“If you were to cut him open, he would bleed yellow and blue,” said Micah Grenz, head of marketing and promotions. “His passion is amazing.”

“Ron has been the face of SDSU athletics since he has been here,” said Hove.

“People don’t understand the amount of hours he puts in. The amount of time he puts in is incredible,” Head Men’s Basketball Coach Scott Nagy said. “He did it because he loved it.”

The only thing that might surpass Lenz’s love for SDSU sports is his knowledge of Jackrabbit sports. Having worked for the university for 29 years, and been a Jackrabbit himself before that, Lenz has seen it all. Lenz said he has been around Jackrabbit sports since basically 1962.

To quantify the knowledge of SDSU athletics Lenz has in his head is impossible. Oien summarized Lenz’s knowledge in one sentence: “Ron Lenz is the living historian of SDSU sports.”

Grenz said, “One of the big things about Ron is the knowledge he has in his head … the guy just knows it … it is pretty unbelievable the stuff he knows.”

Grenz said if Lenz were asked a question about SDSU sports that most people would need to look up, he knows the answer off the top of his head.

“It (the knowledge) just happened from being around so long,” said Lenz.

Lenz has been able to stay at his job as SID because of how good a job he does.

“Everybody says he’s the best,” said Oien.

“He did a great job,” said Nagy.

“Ron and his entire staff are great to work with,” said Johnston.

Stiegelmeier said Lenz is invaluable for what he has done.

As Lenz prepares for his last few weeks on the job, the rest of the athletic department prepares for life without Lenz.

“We are going to miss him. He is a hard guy to replace,” said Stiegelmeier.

“He has been a great mentor,” said Hove. He said it has been a great experience to work with Lenz and that Lenz helped push him into the field of sports information after having spent a couple of years in the newspaper business.

“I hope he sticks around and continues to be a resource for us here in the department,” said Hove.

Oien said a national search to find a replacement for Lenz is about to begin.