University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann and Provost Vincent Price today announced that Director of Athletics Steve Bilsky will retire on June 30. He has made an indelible impact on the University across an extraordinary six decades, since his student days as a captain of a historic men's basketball team through his nearly 20 years of distinguished leadership of Penn Athletics.
“For decades now, Steve Bilsky has lived and loved Penn Athletics, and the University has been incomparably the better for it,” Gutmann said. “The continuing success of so many of our teams and our student-athlete alumni speaks volumes to what Steve has achieved in his years at Penn. He has been one of the most distinguished and admired leaders of his profession and a wonderful ambassador for our institution.”
"It has been a privilege to serve for 20 years as the director of athletics of my alma mater," said Bilsky. "I am proud of our many achievements for which I would like to thank the coaches, staff and student-athletes whom I have had the honor and pleasure to represent. My association with Penn over many decades is responsible for many of the wonderful personal and professional joys I have had in my life."
During Bilsky’s tenure, Penn student-athletes have achieved significant recognition, including 369 Academic All-Ivy honorees, 34 League Players of the Year and 133 All-Americans. Penn has won 71 Ivy League championships including the most Ivy championships in the flagship sports of football (8) and men's basketball (9). Most notably, the breadth of success has encompassed Ivy championships across 21 different squads. Bilsky has been a tireless advocate for student-athletes, sustaining Penn's national role as a leader in the NCAA's Academic Performance Ratings and launching the 4.0 Club to honor Penn student-athletes who achieve a perfect 4.0 GPA. Moreover, he has been a vigorous believer in women's athletic programs from his first days as athletic director, significantly advancing Penn's University-wide mission of excellence through diversity.
"In today's competitive environment," Bilsky said, "I take great satisfaction that we have been able to achieve such broad-based success while also being dominant in the Ivy League’s two high profile sports. I'm extremely proud that so many of our student-athletes have left Penn with rings on their fingers."
The Division of Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics’ recently concluded Campaign for Penn Athletics raised an unprecedented $125 million, an accomplishment that will have a profound and lasting effect for many years to come. Indeed, Bilsky's far-reaching legacy extends to the very landscape of Penn's campus, with an extraordinary number of projects designed to provide state-of-the-art athletic and recreational facilities for the entire community. He has been an invaluable University partner in the development of Penn Park, which has transformed not only the campus, but also the neighborhood and city. His vision and implementation of projects on the eastern precinct of Penn’s campus have led to the creation of several new facilities and the renovation of some of Penn’s most historic landmarks.
- Weiss Pavilion: Greene Family Intercollegiate Strength and Conditioning Center, Fox Fitness Center, Frey Training Room, Leisman Women's Lacrosse Locker Room, Education Commons
- David Pottruck Health and Fitness Center
- Meiklejohn Baseball Stadium
- Penn Park: Dunning-Cohen Champions' Field and Air Structure, Ace Adams Field, Hamlin Outdoor Tennis Center, Levy Courts at the Hecht Indoor Tennis Center, multi-purpose softball stadium
- TSE Sports Center at Hutchinson Gymnasium: Micahnik Fencing Center, Nalitt Gymnastics Center, Rockwell Gymnasium, Nash Land-Rowing Center, Penn Golf Center, Pottruck Wrestling Complex
- Vagelos Field Hockey Field
- Major renovations to Rhodes Soccer Field, the Palestra, Franklin Field
“My goal,” said Bilsky, “was to have the finest athletic and recreational facilities of any urban campus in the country. The feedback I’ve received from students, coaches, alumni and visitors convinces me that we have accomplished our task.”
Bilsky was also instrumental in the creation of 10 endowed coaching positions and the position of director of the Penn Relays. During his time as athletics director, annual giving to the Weightman Fund has increased from $500,000 to more than $4 million.
“Every member of the Penn community,” said Provost Price, “has been the beneficiary of Steve’s extraordinary vision and leadership. We are especially grateful for his immeasurable impact on the generations of student-athletes who have thrived under his guidance and that of his outstanding coaches and athletic staff. His legacy across every measure, built over decades, will continue to be felt for many decades to come.”
Bilsky was an All-Ivy guard on Penn’s nationally ranked basketball team from 1969 to 1971, whose regular season record his junior and senior seasons was 51-1. Prior to his time as director at Penn, he was the executive director of athletics and recreation at The George Washington University for 11 years. He is a member of the Penn Athletics Hall of Fame, The Philadelphia Big 5 Hall of Fame, The Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and The Jewish National Sports Hall of Fame.
Penn will soon announce the formation of a consultative committee to advise on the selection of Bilsky’s successor.