FITTING THE BILL: Bill Quirk displays the trophies and plaques earned by Hun School athletic teams in the 2021-22 school year. It amounted to a special swan song for longtime Hun director of athletics Quirk, who announced this spring that he was stepping down after heading Raider sports since 1983. During Quirk’s legendary tenure, Hun teams won 37 Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) titles, 68 prep statechampionships, and 25 Mercer County Tournament crowns. In addition, the Raider crew program won three national titles, three Stotesbury Cup regatta championships, six Philadelphia Scholastic Rowing Association (PSRA) titles, and six New Jersey scholastic titles. (Photo provided courtesy of Bill Quirk)
By Bill Alden
When Bill Quirk came to the Hun School in 1980, he was hired as a full-time math teacher and part-time athletic trainer.
Quirk, though, never taught a day of math at the school. “By the time school had started, the person who was running the health program left,” said Quirk. “They said, ‘How about you take over the health program?’ and I said, ‘Fine.’ All I had to do was to run the health program for the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth graders and be the athletic trainer.”
It didn’t take long for Quirk to start doing a lot more as he began to help out with coaching football and softball. By 1983, he was named as the school’s athletic director.
This spring, Quirk announced that he was stepping down, ending a legendary tenure that produced a spectacular number of titles. During his time at the helm, Hun teams won 37 Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) titles, 68 Prep state championships and 25 Mercer County Tournament crowns. In addition, the Raider crew program won three national titles, three Stotesbury Cup regatta championships, six Philadelphia Scholastic Rowing Association (PSRA) titles, and six New Jersey scholastic titles.
In reflecting on his decision to retire, Quirk, who turned 67 on July 5, said a conversation with his sons, Bill Jr., a local attorney, and Patrick, a Hun teacher and coach, helped him realize that retiring now was the right move.
“At the time I was talking to both of my sons and they are saying what are you going to do,” said Quirk, whose wife Kathy, a legendary softball coach in her own right, came to Hun before Quirk and served as an assistant athletic director with him for years.
“I said, ‘I am not finished with what I want to do’ and they are like, ‘What do you want to do, what aren’t you finished with?’ I said, ‘You know what, they are right. There is always going to be something to do.’ I came to the reality that maybe the place needed some fresh blood, a new outlook.”
While Quirk ended up staying at Hun for decades, living with his family on campus during the school year, he took a circuitous route to the school.
Growing up in Pennsylvania, Quirk played football and baseball and competed for the swim team at Hatboro-Horsham High. He then went to Penn State, starting at its Abington campus before moving to the University Park main campus as a junior. While there he got into athletic training, serving as a student trainer for football and women’s track.
After graduating in 1977, Quirk worked as substitute teacher for Pennsylvania high schools and also had a job in a broom factory.
In 1980, he got a job at the Pennington School, running its student center. He soon started dabbling in athletic training and coaching at the school.
While coaching at Pennington, he met his future wife on the basketball court and they got off to a rocky start.
“Bill Long (then a Pennington coach and later the Hun football head coach and school administrator) had actually warned me about her, saying you got to watch out, this woman is competitive,” said Quirk with a laugh. “I am like, ‘OK, fine.’”
The two were opposing coaches in a girls’ basketball game between Pennington and Hun and things didn’t go well. The game was delayed due to a fire in a Pennington dorm and then Quirk declined to give an ice bag to a Hun player, prompting his future wife to kick a towel into the stands.
Overcoming that chilly start, the couple ended up having a whirlwind romance, becoming engaged after dating for three weeks in 1979 and then getting married that summer.
Once Quirk took the helm as AD, they worked as a team with Kathy serving as assistant athletic director in addition to coaching.
“We broke things down,” said Quirk. “I will take of this part, you take care of that part. She did all of the scheduling for the program.”
In reflecting on his tenure, Quirk is proud of providing new athletic opportunities for Hun students.
“We had very limited, if any, middle school sports so we started introducing them,” said Quirk of the middle school options which now include cross country, field hockey, boys’ soccer, girls’ soccer, boys’ baseball, girls’ basketball, baseball, softball, boys’ lacrosse, girls’ lacrosse, and boys’ tennis.
At the upper school level, Hun added ice hockey and fencing and resumed its crew program during his time at the helm. The latter move required some pragmatic work by Quirk.
Hun’s crew team had previously rowed out of the Princeton University boathouse but the program got discontinued in the 1970s when the University went co-ed. When Hun decided to resume rowing in the 1980s, Quirk had to go the extra mile to regain access to the Princeton boathouse.
“I went over to Princeton and talked to Larry Gluckman, who was the heavyweight coach, and I said we would like to start a program,” said Quirk.
“He said, ‘Well, I will make you a deal — you can row out of here in the spring but you need to buy two shells because they needed 4s.’ I drove all the way up to Maine and bought the two Schoenbrods and brought them back. We made a deal, you can use them in the fall, I will use them in the spring. I didn’t know anything about crew and I was the coach.”
Quirk, who keeps fit with early morning 3-mile power walks through the Hun neighborhood, used that energy to coach a number of Raider squads in addition to doing athletic training work.
He has helped coach football and softball throughout his tenure. In addition, he has also guided varsity rowing, swimming, tennis, and boys’ lacrosse. He has also led freshman basketball, JV basketball, JV baseball, and middle school softball.
While immersed in helping Raider teams succeed, Quirk has pushed Hun athletes to excel in the classroom.
“I think one of things I am proudest mostly of is this logo, “AHA” which stands for academics and athletics in balance,” said Quirk. “I was looking at Princeton University and they had a slogan “education through athletics” and I was thinking that we need to come up with something like that. At the time, people were saying we were too much of a jock school. What we want is good academics and good athletes. The academics come first and then the good athletes. At the time, I talked to Fred Hargadon (the late Princeton director of admissions) and I said, “What is your goal?’ and he said his goal was to win every Ivy League title. I want smart kids but they have to have athletic ability.”
To promote that philosophy, the school created T-shirts with the logo stenciled in the middle.
“What we started doing is that we would give out those shirts as a badge of honor for making the team,” added Quirk. “You couldn’t buy them, they were given out. You were selected to the team, here is your shirt.”
Having the spring sports season canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic gave Quirk the idea that retirement could be on the horizon.
“COVID gave me a taste of what it would be like to retire,” said Quirk. “We were in Florida for our softball trip and they had us come home and that was March 13. We still had some time left on our spring break and Kathy and I decided that we will go to our shore home in Ocean City. While we were down there, the school made a decision that they were going to close down. If you came back here, you had to isolate yourself into your apartment. We stayed in Ocean City because nothing was going on, everything was shut down. I was like wow, this is nice, get up in the morning, go take a walk, go down to the beach, ride my bike.”
While that lifestyle was attractive, Quirk stayed on through this year to help ease the transition for his co-director of athletics, Tracey Arndt.
“Kathy retired three years ago and we hired Tracey as co-athletic director,” said Quirk of Arndt, who is staying on as co-director with Sean Costello recently hired to serve as the other co-director and the coach of the girls’ basketball team.
“I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay and try to help her. She is a great person, she knows athletics but she hadn’t been involved with it at this school.”
Another key factor in Quirk’s decision to leave Hun now involved a special family opportunity.
“I say to people the two words that really made me think about it were ‘Pop-Pop,’” said Quirk. “I wanted to spend more time with my grandchildren. They come in my office and tear it apart. I have four, two with each son.”
As Quirk steps down, the roughest thing for him to deal with will be lacking the daily interaction with the Hun students.
“I will miss the kids the most, it is nice to follow a kid through,” said Quirk, who was inducted into Hun’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010. “Another thing I will miss the most about the job is that there is nothing routine about it. There is something different to deal with every day.”
As an example of following a kid through, Quirk points to Nick Willams ’09, who started at Hun as an undersized defensive back and went on to be a star receiver and kick returner at the University of Connecticut and then see action for three NFL teams.
“I was coaching defensive backs and said to Nick what is your goal,” recalled Quirk. “He goes I am going to play in the NFL. I said Nick you are 5’7, 5’8, how about we focus right now on playing on Saturdays.”
Over the last few weeks of the school year, Quirk softened his sometimes gruff exterior, enjoying an extended send-off.
“It has been fun; people said you have really opened up, I said what are they going to do, fire me,” said Quirk with a chuckle. “It is something we wanted to announce because a lot of people were going to be back for alumni weekend. That sort of kicked it off. They had a clap off where the entire school came out, that was a big surprise. We had a school luncheon where they talk about all of the people who are leaving or retiring.”
While Quirk may be retiring from his AD role, he is planning to stay in the Princeton area and remain involved with the Hun community.
“Kathy is going to be babysitting our grandchildren and coaching and I am not going to be sitting at home,” said Quirk, who plans to keep coaching softball and will help out the school’s development office on an informal basis. “I know from doing the job they will need a part-time athletic trainer, They will need a shot clock operator. Tracey already said, ‘Can I hire you to do some of this stuff?’”
And while Quirk never panned out as a math teacher, he has certainly done a lot of great stuff for Hun over the decades.