Mark Walsh to step down as Aurora University Athletic Director, focus on role as head football coach

AU's Mark Walsh announced today that he will step down as Athletic Director to focus on serving as Head Football Coach.

AU's Mark Walsh announced today that he will step down as Athletic Director to focus on serving as Head Football Coach.

Walsh to be named Athletic Director Emeritus in recognition of accomplishments; Shaun Neitzel to serve as Interim Athletic Director

AURORA, Ill. – Aurora University has announced that Mark Walsh will step down from the role of Athletic Director this September to focus his time on serving as Head Football Coach. An alumnus of the university, Walsh has worked in a number of AU coaching and administrative roles since 1986, and as Athletic Director since 1998.

The university will grant Walsh the status of Athletic Director Emeritus in recognition of his distinguished career. Shaun Neitzel, currently Associate Athletic Director, will become Interim Athletic Director while the university works with an outside firm to conduct a national search for Walsh’s replacement.

“My years as the Athletic Director at AU have been some of the most rewarding of my career,” Walsh said. “I have enjoyed the challenge of building programs and introducing new sports over my time at Aurora. I will still help wherever my experience might be needed, but I’d like to start a new chapter, spending more time with my family and watching my eight grandchildren grow up. My passion has always been teaching and coaching, so I’m looking forward to focusing my attention on the football program. I am excited about the opportunity, and I am surrounded by excellent staff and support from our administration.”

“Mark Walsh has distinguished himself as a leader at Aurora University, first as a superb baseball coach and more recently as Athletic Director,” said President Rebecca L. Sherrick. “Generations of AU student-athletes have benefited from his coaching and leadership schools. I am pleased that he now will focus these energies on revitalizing the university’s football program.”

Ronald M. Hem, chair of the Aurora University Board of Trustees, applauded Walsh’s service. “I have had the privilege of knowing Mark since his days as a student at Oswego High School. Aurora University and its students are indeed fortunate to have had an athletic leader with his ability and character. I am grateful for Mark’s willingness to serve as Head Football Coach,” Hem said.

“Mark Walsh has been a stalwart for the university,” said Provost Andrew P. Manion. “He is directly responsible for many of the most impressive accomplishments of AU Athletics over the last quarter century. Because of his dedication and vision, our athletics program is in the best shape it has ever been. He’s set the bar quite high for his successor.”

Neitzel, who has served as Head Baseball Coach since 2002 and as Associate Athletic Director since 2011, expressed admiration for Walsh. “Aside from being a great coach and administrator, Mark gave me a platform to grow in both capacities, and for that I am grateful. I am humbled to take the reins on an interim basis, and I am excited to make an impact in the development of our coaches as well as our student-athletes.” Neitzel will continue in his Head Baseball Coach position while taking on the role of Interim Athletic Director.

Walsh spent the first chapter of his career as a high school football and baseball coach, and then came to AU in 1986 to join the coaching staffs of the same sports. His work was part of an effort to re-establish the university’s football program, which had been discontinued in 1952, and to support the baseball program’s growing prominence on the national stage. He succeeded on both counts: the Football Spartans had numerous successful seasons, including going 9-0 in 1992 and becoming the first Chicagoland football team to make the NCAA Division III playoffs, and the Baseball Spartans posted a 486-145 record during Walsh’s 16 years as coach. During that time, the Baseball Spartans also won 15 conference championships, played in 14 NCAA DIII tournaments, and made four NCAA DIII World Series appearances. Walsh stepped down as Head Baseball Coach in 2002 with the second highest winning percentage (.790) in NCAA Baseball.  Between baseball and football, Walsh coached in 63 NCAA tournament games.

Since being promoted to Athletic Director in 1998, Walsh has helped to initiate new sports in men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track and field, women’s golf, men’s and women’s lacrosse, and men’s hockey. Under his leadership, AU Athletics won 56 conference championships, made 36 NCAA tournament appearances, and grew to support more than 600 student athletes. Earlier this year, Walsh returned to the field, taking on additional responsibilities as Head Football Coach.

Walsh has served on the NCAA Regional Selection Committee for baseball, the DIII Baseball All-American Committee, the NCAA DIII World Series Games Committee and the NCAA Strategic Alliance Grant Committee. He also served as the Commissioner of the Illini-Badger Football Conference for 10 years, from 1998 to 2007.

Walsh received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Aurora University. He and his wife Sandy live in Oswego, Ill., and have three children and eight grandchildren.

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About Aurora University
Aurora University is an inclusive community dedicated to the transformative power of learning, annually educating more than 4,300 degree-seeking students at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels. The university has a long tradition of preparing students for lives of service and leadership, and using its resources and expertise to meet the needs of the community. In addition to its main campus in Aurora, Ill., AU offers programs at its George Williams College campus in Williams Bay, Wis., and the Woodstock Center in downtown Woodstock, Ill. Learn more at aurora.edu.