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Telegraph Herald (Dubuque, IA)



When Dan Runkle took the job as University of Dubuque athletic director, facilities on campus weren't something to write home about. Following a 21-year stint as Minnesota State-Mankato football coach, Runkle came to Dubuque in 2002. The university was coming off a period in the late 1990s where people wondered if the institution was going to keep its doors open.

Athletic programs, said Runkle, reflected that, hovering in mediocrity with questionable futures.

"We were just terrible, bottom of our conference in everything," Runkle said. "I think the ability to hire coaches and build new facilities has allowed us the ability to compete quite favorably in our conference."

Thanks in large to alumni donations, Runkle said every academic and athletic facility has either been renovated or built anew since he started as AD. And with the facilities upgrades, he's able to mark success in Dubuque athletics programs as a result.

Since 2008, UD has returfed its soccer field; upgraded its baseball and softball fields; renovated the Stoltz Center; and built the Chlapaty Rec Center, football stadium/outdoor track, tennis courts, Debra Runkle Center and the Mercer-Birmingham Office Complex.

Architectural Showcase: Chlapaty Recreation and Wellness Center/Football Stadium Renovation University of Dubuque

Spartan athletics have experienced a renovation too. In the last 10 years, Dubuque has won conference championships in men's and women's soccer, men's and women's basketball and football, among other accomplishments. Men's soccer, men's basketball and football each took part in the NCAA Division III playoffs within the last two years.

"Our goal when I got here was to be able to give a student-athlete the opportunity to be successful and facilities they can be proud of," Runkle said. "And then you go from there. In doing that, it's helped recruiting tremendously. We have coaches committed to their sports.

"In the late 1990s, there were questions of whether or not UD was going to survive as an institution. There became some people who stepped up. Donors. They had a plan. The plan is coming to fruition. It's not done yet & but it's been a transformation."

Runkle said every private school at the Division III level is in a "facilities race." Without the ability to offer athletic scholarships, facilities are one of the main ways schools try to maintain an edge in recruiting. But another pride point for Dubuque is its diversity. Women's basketball coach Mark Noll said more than 20 percent of the student body is from a minority, adding that it's one of the highest rates in the Midwest.

"When they see that we have (diversity) on our campus, that opens the door for athletes to want to come here," Noll said. "Socially, they feel they can be successful on our teams and in other aspects of our campus."

UD's recruiting profile is heavy on the big Midwest cities. More than 28 percent of athletes (132 of 472) come from Chicago and the suburbs. Another 33 are from Rockford, Ill. and surrounding communities, and 32 come from the Quad Cities.

Here's a look at other UD recruiting trends:


The soccer and tennis teams contain 11 international students combined. Men's and women's rosters for both squads contain players from: Brazil, Colombia, England, Germany, Italy, Mexico and Spain.


Another 30 Dubuque athletes are from the West Coast, including 15 from California and eight from Arizona. Ten football players are from the Pacific Time Zone, including quarterback Conor Feckley, of Alaska.


In all, UD has recruited athletes from 28 states. Aside from the Iowa-Illinois-Wisconsin territory, other major states represented are Texas (seven athletes), Minnesota (10) and Florida (seven).

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May 15, 2017


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