Where are they: Erv Inniger

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Where are they: Erv Inniger

Postby rlee » Sun May 30, 2010 5:48 am

Athletic department fixture Erv Inniger announces his retirement

By: Jeff Kolpack

Erv Inniger is the winningest coach in NDSU men's basketball history. North Dakota State athletics

Erv Inniger has driven and flown the equivalent of around the world a few times in his career as the senior associate athletic director at North Dakota State. He just wants to watch a few games now.

That’s another way of saying he’s retiring.

Inniger will end 33 years with the university next January and he will depart as the former head men’s basketball coach who brought fans to the Bison Sports Arena and the relentless fundraiser who financially brought NDSU to Division I athletics.

It’s a two-phase career that is as prominent as any athletic figure in the history of the school.

“It’s time,” Inniger said. “I think there are so many good things that are going to happen in the next couple of months. I can help get some things finalized and that will complete my career. I want to go out that way. I don’t want to be on the downhill slide.”

Inniger was a mainstay in getting NDSU’s budget to NCAA Division I standards when the school announced it was leaving Division II in 2002. At the time, it wasn’t a popular decision with many people.

“I’ve had people come up to me and apologize later,” he said. “They said, ‘I thought you were crazy.’”

It wasn’t easy. Inniger said one year his budget was about $250,000 short of meeting its goal, but he said a group of 25 people helped take care of that.

“The budget jumped so quickly,” Inniger said. “But we did it. You had to be very aggressive and I’m sure people didn’t appreciate me at times because I was knocking on their door an awful lot.”

This year, he went six straight weeks without returning home, at one point hitting all four corners of Florida. People don’t volunteer their money, after all.

It’s the job former athletic director Bob Entzion had in mind when he hired Inniger in 1992 to spearhead fundraising. The scholarship endowment fund has gone from $356,000 to over $10.5 million.

That translates into 120 scholarship endowments.

Success as the head coach was in the form of victories and fans, which filled the Bison Sports Arena at an unprecedented clip. He’s the winningest coach in school history with a 244-150 record in 14 seasons, but success wasn’t at expectations late in his career.

“At the time, Bob Entzion gave me a choice: you win next year or you’re out,” Inniger said. “It wasn’t nasty. He gave me the opportunity and it worked well.”

And by next January, he will have put in more years as an assistant athletic director then he did as the head basketball coach.

“I’ve liked everything about it,” he said. “Look at the athletes; that’s who you’re working for so they get an education. I have story after story.”

One of them: He got 22 no responses in trying to sell the naming rights to what is now a successful Newman Outdoor Field. There was public scrutiny of Inniger on the project.

“That was hard on me,” he said.

And so was the Division I transition.

“The hardest five years of my life and yet the most rewarding,” he said. “We got beat up a bit but people appreciated the story.”

Inniger’s retirement announcement and his saying he wants to go out in a positive manner is yet another sign the renovation of the BSA is closer to being finalized.

And when he leaves his office for the last time?

“I’m going on vacation,” he said. “I want to see more games.”
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