Alumni Magazine

SPR-SUM 2017

The alumni magazine for Franklin Pierce University.

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24 PIERCE / SPRING 2017 immature, with little focus," Kirsh remembers. "All my life I knew urban and suburban. I wanted to venture out, and going to college in rural New Hampshire seemed like just the thing. Franklin Pierce was a life-changing experience." He majored in Sociology with the thought of going to graduate school and becoming a guidance counselor. But over his four years at Pierce, Kirsh realized that "that was too sedentary. I needed something with more passion." Kirsh graduated in May 1971 and was hired as the men's basketball coach the following March. "It was a part-time position," he says, "Then the athletic director, Terry Matson, asked me if I would like to come on full-time as his assistant. I started in that position in September '72, two weeks after I had gotten married." The bride was Patricia E. Brown '70, a fellow alum, who got a teaching job nearby. "I was the baseball coach and assistant athletic director with Bruce for 18 years," says Jayson King, now associate baseball coach at the U.S. Military Academy. "He will be leaving a legacy of hard work and family. Bruce loves everything about Franklin Pierce. As an immediate supervisor, he gave you space to let you run your program, but was always there for support. "There are too many great moments to single out just one," King continues. "He and his wife, Pat, were part of our family. People talk about teams being a family, but that is what it was like for the coaches under Bruce. The coaches were a team, a family." In the early days, "the University had limited resources," Kirsh says. "The baseball team had to travel to Fitchburg, Mass., to a high school field to practice and play. We started playing basketball at the elementary school in Troy, N.H. Then, through the generosity of the father of Phil Crystal '75, we were able to create a home field. I recall laying out the diamond with a transit, and cutting the base paths with a roto-tiller." Others have powerful memories of those days as well. "Bruce and I were teammates on the '71 baseball team, the first one in the school's history," says James 'Spider' Egan. "Bruce was one of the best players on the team. Then he took over coaching in '72 and I played for him. He is intensely competitive, always was and still is. Bruce gets the best out of people because he leads by example. He asks you to work hard, but he is going to work just as hard or harder." PASSION FOR THE GAME Kirsh worked hard for four years, appreciative of both the education he had received and also the first job, but then started thinking about moving on. "About that time I got a call in the middle of summer from Terry to come see him. He had talked with the president, Walter Peterson, about leaving and had suggested me as the successor. Peterson called me in and [said] he was impressed by my worth ethic. So there it was, the chance of a lifetime, to be athletic director, and only in my mid-20s." Through Kirsh's tenure, the University moved from NCAA Division III to NAIA in the late '70s, and then to NCAA Division II in 1990. That year Kirsh also relinquished all coaching duties as the job of athletic W e were looking to add sports and to boost enrollment after the recession in 2009-10," says Kirsh. "I did some research on Sprint Football and came away impressed." Sprint football is full varsity football, just with a weight limit. And "sprint" is no misnomer. Kirsh says he felt the game is the quintessential Franklin Pierce sport, one that does not shy away from intense competition and favors quick thinking, daring and moxie over raw power. It also fits in the budget. "It is cost- containment football," says Kirsh. "We have been playing for five or six years and it has been a huge success. We've added 65 students and it draws well. And we compete! It's a chance to play the Ivies and the academies." "Bruce did a nice job," says Terry Cullen, head coach of sprint football at Cornell University. "The Franklin Pierce team really competes. They went down to Annapolis last year and beat Navy, and they came here and beat us this year. Of the five D-II teams in the league, they are the ones that can play with the D-I teams. I know the program has been good for their recruiting, a real feather in the cap for the school." SPRINT FOOTBALL COMES TO PIERCE

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