CHAMPAIGN – What a week of losses for the Illini.
On Monday, Karol Kahrs – the administrator responsible for creating and developing the UI's women's intercollegiate athletics program – announced her retirement.
"Dr. Karol Kahrs has been one of the cornerstones of the University of Illinois athletic program and has made a profound and significant contribution not only to Fighting Illini athletics, but to the development and evolution of women's intercollegiate athletics nationwide," UI athletic director Ron Guenther said.
Kahrs was hired to build the women's program in 1974. In that year, she hired seven coaches for seven sports – basketball, volleyball, tennis, track and field, golf, swimming and gymnastics – on an $83,500 budget.
Today, the women's program has 10 sports (including its newest member of the family, softball).
In 1985, she was named associate athletic director and continued as the senior women's administrator until 1998. That was a long way from being a physical education instructor, her first position at the UI (1966).
In 1993, Kahrs was awarded an honorary varsity 'I' for her service to Illinois athletics.
"Being an integral part of the University of Illinois for the past 36 years has afforded me the opportunity to not only serve a great institution, but to make a difference in the lives of students and professionals in athletics and higher education," Kahrs said. "I am proud to have spent my career at Illinois and have always enjoyed the support to administer a program with honesty and integrity.
"... I believe the best is yet to come for Illinois athletics."
In addition to her work at Illinois, Kahrs was active on the national scene. She is the immediate past president of the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators.
Kahrs also served as the first chairman of the Big Ten Women's Athletic Administrators from 1974 to '76. She was a member of the committee that submitted the initial proposal to add women's athletics to the conference in 1981.
For the past two years, she has worked in the Development Office. Among her accomplishments in that position was securing the principal funding for the Eichelberger Softball Field project.