Courtesy of Fredonia Sports Information Department
After playing freshman basketball at Fredonia, Greg Prechtl moved to varsity as a sophomore. Pat Damore was the head coach.
"I was a 6-1 power forward from a mile down the street (Dunkirk)," Prechtl recalls. "Looking back, I'm thinking Pat was thinking 'What the heck am I going to do with this kid?' So he did what I probably would have done. He handed me a clipboard and said 'Sit down next to me, son. '''
"I've always told him," Dr. Damore jokes, "that holding that clipboard made him a better coach. He learned how to watch the game more closely."
Thus began a working relationship that spanned six decades: Damore moving from coaching to athletic administration, eventually becoming the first commissioner of the State University of New York Athletic Conference, and Prechtl graduating from Fredonia, studying for a year at the University of Oklahoma, then returning to his alma mater to begin a career that lasted 44 years.
Prechtl's active service ended last May when he announced his retirement as Fredonia Director of Athletics. This May at the annual conference meetings, he and Potsdam Athletic Director Jim Zalacca will receive the SUNYAC Retiree Award.
Prechtl will also be honored as the 2018 recipient of SUNYAC's Dr. Patrick R. Damore Distinguished Service Award, named after the man who set him on a lifetime path in college athletics.
"Greg was very dedicated, coachable, reliable," Dr. Damore said when asked what about Prechtl first stood out. "I could tell that he was probably going to stick to anything that he was interested in."
"I learned a lot of life lessons from Pat," Prechtl said. "He was my mentor here through my 44-year career (and) I saw Pat as someone who was always well prepared and highly organized. He did the best with the resources he had to make his organization successful."
The same might be said of Prechtl, who kept Fredonia athletics viable despite it having one of the lowest student activity fees in the conference. The holder of two Fredonia degrees -- a Bachelor of Arts in English (1969) and a Master of Arts in Education (1972) – he taught high school English in the Gowanda (N.Y.) Central School District for one year before receiving his first Fredonia appointment as Alumni Hall residence director on Aug. 8, 1973.
At the same time, he became assistant men's basketball coach. He was elevated to head coach in 1978, a job he held for 21 seasons. He coached the Blue Devils to the championship of the 1984-85 ECAC Upstate Tournament, the first post-season championship in program history. His 1991-92 team posted a program-best 22-9 record and the 1992-93 team won the SUNYAC championship and made the program's only NCAA Tournament appearance.
In 1992, he was named SUNYAC Coach of the Year, New York State Division III Coach of the Year, and National Association of Basketball Coaches East Region Coach of the Year. He twice received the Schoenfeld Award from the College Basketball Officials Organization as the college coach who best exemplified the highest degree of sportsmanship, character, and ethics.
He served as assistant athletic director from 1990 to 1998 before he took over as director of athletics in 1998. Facility projects during his tenure included the Steele Hall Natatorium, University Stadium, the Blue Devil Fitness Center, and an on-campus softball field.
From 1998 until his retirement, he served as director of the Blue Devil Booster Club and the Blue Devil Hall of Fame Committee. He also served on numerous SUNYAC and campus committees and as president of the Rotary Club of Fredonia. He received Rotary International's Paul Harris Fellow award (2000-01). Additional awards include the Fredonia Alumni Association Outstanding Achievement Award (1994) and the Fredonia President's Award for Excellence (2006).
Fredonia honored Prechtl and his wife, Linda, a 1971 Fredonia graduate, by renaming the main athletics offices as the Greg & Linda (Ferry) Prechtl Office Suite during Homecoming Weekend in October. An endowment of $50,000 was also established in the Prechtls' name.
"Greg should be considered a pillar of the profession," said Dr. Cedric Howard, Fredonia's Vice President for Enrollment & Student Services, who has named Prechtl as Fredonia Director of Athletics Emeritus. "His contribution not just to Fredonia but to Western New York and to the SUNYAC has simply been remarkable.
"If you look over the totality of his career, whether it be as a coach or as an athletic administrator, you realize he was a part of some of the brightest moments in our campus's sports history. He certainly is one of the faces that is on the Mount Rushmore of Fredonia history, not just in athletics but in campus history."
Prechtl said receiving the Damore Distinguished Service Award carries special meaning not only because as its namesake but also because the list of past honorees. "There are a lot of people," he said, "who have won this award whom I have a great deal of respect for, a lot of people who provided terrific service to the conference, one of the top Division 3 conferences in the country."
"Greg made many recommendations for the conference throughout the years," Dr. Damore said, "that assisted in the growth of the organization. I'm very pleased that he's been accepted for this award. It's well-earned recognition."