Father K....Or Coach K?
Published: Friday, February 8, 2013
Updated: Sunday, February 10, 2013 17:02
This past week we were able to sit down with Father Anthony Kuzniewski to discuss his involvement with the men’s basketball program. Father K has been a professor in the History department since 1981 and the chaplain for the football, basketball, and lacrosse teams. He is also the college historian and author of Thy Honored Name, which chronicles the history of the college.
You have given us all a background on Holy Cross. Could you give us your background regarding your beginnings with the Society of Jesus?
I grew up in Milwaukee and went to Marquette High School and Marquette University. I wasn’t lucky enough to go to boarding school, but I went to Marquette on the bus and lived at home. When I was in high school I thought about the Jesuits but not very seriously, and then in college I dated and thought I would get married. Then I came out to Harvard for my Ph.D and while I was living in Cambridge I met the Jesuits who had just moved in. They used to have their seminary in Weston and just moved their seminary into Cambridge. I saw how life had changed since Vatican II and I liked what I saw and enjoyed my association with them. So when I was coming to the finish of my doctoral studies I applied to the Jesuits and they accepted me. So I’ve been here ever since. As a novice I spent a year and a half in Boston at the Novitiate and then in the spring semester of my second year I was at the Center of Concern in Washington near Catholic University. Then they missioned me to Holy Cross for two years. So I was here as “Mr.” Kuzniewski SJ for two years and then I went to Chicago, did my seminary training and worked at Loyola University for a couple of years. Finally, they assigned me back to Holy Cross, so I’ve been here in this phase since 1981.
When did you initially begin your involvement with the athletics program?
I always liked college sports, went to a lot of games and had a number of athletes in my class who I talked to about their sports. There was always a chaplain for the football team, Father George O’Brian. The Bishop decided to call him back to work in a parish in the diocese. So at that point the head coach was Peter Vaas and he called me and asked me if I would consider being the chaplain for the football team. That was 14 or 15 years ago, so I’ve been doing that ever since. By extension, I started working with basketball and lacrosse as the years rolled by.
Father Boroughs began his tenure last January. What has his input on the athletic program been so far? And how has he differed from Father McFarland?
For starters, Father Boroughs and I go back to Chicago. We were in the same small community together when we were studying for the priesthood in the 1970s. So I’ve known him for many years although not actively like I do now. I think he’s committed to the whole package at Holy Cross, particularly for raising the money to keep athletics strong. Everyone is aware that we have a facilities issue. We could use better facilities than we have, but they’re expensive. Last week the college trustees were in Florida on a retreat, and I think on the agenda was a new capital fund campaign. I imagine within that campaign will be enhancements to our athletic plant. They haven’t announced the plan publicly yet, but it will be one of the items on the agenda going forward.
You were here during the school’s transition to the Patriot League. What changes have you seen across the athletics program for better or for worse?
The Patriot League is in many ways a good fit for Holy Cross. When I was writing the book [Thy Honored Name] Father Brooks was still the president and he gave me permission to look at sections of his papers. So when I was writing about the Colonial League, I looked at his papers concerning the founding of the league [Patriot League]. It started when Holy Cross played football at Dartmouth. Ron Perry, the then athletic director, got into a conversation with the then AD at Dartmouth, who asked him if Holy Cross had any interest in joining the Ivy League. We pursued that lead as actively as we could, but it turned out that there were a number of schools that would like to affiliate with the Ivy League. Instead of expanding the Ivy League, they encouraged us to found the Patriot League, which was to have a similar philosophy of the Ivy League and play non-conference games with each other. Of course that plan has eroded over the years, as we don’t play all our non-conference games with Ivy opponents anymore, although we do play some of them. So the league is a good fit academically and athletically. In general we should have the capacity to be competitive in that league. In my lifetime, I’ve seen football, men’s and women’s basketball win the league. If I have an objection to the league, it’s geographic rather than its philosophy and there’s nothing we can do about the geography of the league. It’s heavily Pennsylvania and Maryland in its composition. I think it’s going to help us with BU coming into the league next year. Particularly, I hope that we go to a plan that we had for a few years that Holy Cross supported, which was playing like the Ivy Leagues do a Friday evening and Sunday afternoon set with paired teams. I like that plan much better than the system we have right now with midweek games. In fairness to our athletes, since we don’t coddle our athletics academically, it puts a lot of strain on them. When do those guys sleep? I have hope with the expansion of the league we’ll go back to the weekend series.