(This is an excerpt from First in His Field, an article in the Spring 2015 issue of Chapman Magazine about Currey's retirement, written by Allison Jenney M.A./MFA '16. Read the article in its entirety on the Chapman Magazine blog.)
Before beginning his tenure as director of Athletics at Chapman University 25 years ago, Dave Currey coached at the highest levels of college football, at universities such as Stanford, Cincinnati and UCLA. But in joining the team at Chapman, he was leaving behind the demands of recruiting and coaching Division I athletes.
“I came to Chapman to see if I could stay away from football,” Currey said.
Four years later, he got a call from President Jim Doti, who asked, “What do you think about starting a football team?”
Currey was ready with an answer.
“You’re crazy,” he told the president, smiling recently as he recalled the moment. “Of course we laughed, and set out to do it.”
Reviving a varsity football program after 62 years is a huge task, but then such deeds characterize the life’s work of the man known across the Chapman campus simply as Coach. In recent days, as Currey looked ahead to a retirement that began at the conclusion of this academic year, those who know him well expressed appreciation for Currey’s accomplishments, friendship and leadership.
Those achievements include:
- A remarkable partnership with Doti that has spanned a quarter-century.
- A slew of athletic championships, including two national titles, in softball and baseball.
- Administrative milestones such as the move to NCAA Division III in 1994 and the university gaining membership in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) in 2011.
- The development of premier sports facilities, including the Lastinger Athletics Complex, among the best in the division
But atop all of these triumphs are the relationships that endure and the positive spirit that prevails throughout the Department of Athletics.
“He’s the architect really,” football coach Bob Owens said of Currey. “He’s been visionary about his goals for this program and where we are today. (Excellence) has to start some place, in somebody’s mind.”
Under Currey, Chapman Athletics has grown to include 20 intercollegiate teams, which have amassed 90 playoff appearances during his tenure. The Panthers now have also earned their first three SCIAC championships, in women’s and men’s basketball and in football.
Currey’s 52 years of coaching and administrative experience permeate Chapman’s athletic programs and venues. He oversaw the construction of the Lastinger Athletic Complex in 2008 as well as the Gray Rowing Center in Newport Beach in 2003. He and his staff helped secure Tustin Ranch Golf Club as the Panthers’ home course, as well as gaining a long-term lease with the City of Orange for the baseball team to play at Hart Park and the softball squad to play at El Camino Park. What’s more, the coaches he has recruited are building their own legacies. Eight have been at Chapman for more than 15 seasons.