DE PERE, Wis. (NBC 26) — In its more-than-100-year history, St. Norbert College has won 169 conference championships. 11 of those - nearly seven percent - have come in the past two seasons.
That recent wave of success coincides with a new conference and a new athletic director leading the way.
Sturgeon Bay native Cam Fuller - a former standout golfer at UW-Green Bay - took over in 2021, just as the Green Knights were transitioning into the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference (NACC) full-time.
“It’s been a lot of fun to be back in an area that I know," Fuller said Thursday, reflecting on his first two years on the job.
“It’s been a really fun last two years," he said. "And I think a very successful last two years.”
This past season, St. Norbert won conference titles in men's and women's basketball, men's tennis, women's and men's indoor track and field and women's outdoor track and field.
SNC was one of just four Division III schools to have both its men's and women's basketball teams qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
"Knowing that both the men and the women were playing at a high level, we had some really good atmospheres in our gym this past year," Fuller said. "I trust that we’ll have the same atmosphere this upcoming season as well.”
Two years after the Green Knights transitioned to the NACC from the Midwest Conference, of which it had been a member since 1983, it's clear the move has worked.
“It's a tighter geographic footprint," Fuller explained. "Green Bay to Chicago is the primary athletic belt line and that also is the primary recruiting belt line for the college. Not just student-athletes, but students."
"So that move made a lot of sense from a fit standpoint,” Fuller said.
Athletics aside, Fuller said he's most proud of what St. Norbert student-athletes have done in the classroom.
Green Knights athletes had a collective grade point average of 3.19 last year, higher than that of SNC students who don't play sports.
“We want to ensure that in four years our student athletes have a great experience and they are graduating," Fuller said. "We graduate our student athletes at a really high level."
St. Norbert's retention rate "shines bright," as Fuller put it.
82 percent of students who begin their freshman year as an athlete remain at the college into their sophomore year. That number is even higher for women, specifically: an astonishing 97 percent.
"If you look at our retention rate, it’s much higher than the student body (as a whole)," Fuller said. "That’s done by design."
"When you have a sport, you have that family atmosphere," Fuller said. "You have that team atmosphere. So I think we’re able to get the right type of student-athletes here but more importantly we’re able to keep them here and graduate them.”
Fuller said he hopes to keep growing the Green Knights' footprint in Northeast Wisconsin, emphasizing community engagement.
SNC also wants to grow its mental health services for student athletes.
Fuller is organizing a new partnership with Miami Dolphins fullback Alec Ingold. The Bay Port alumnus, who last summer released a book called The Seven Crucibles: An Inspirational Game Plan for Overcoming Adversity in Your Life, will visit with SNC athletes both in person and virtually to discuss perseverance in sports.
In two years on the job, Fuller has already made his mark by guiding the Green Knights into a new conference.
It's a great start, but he's even more excited about what lies ahead.
“We've had that success," Fuller said. "But with anything in athletics, it’s how do you continue to build on that success.”
St. Norbert's fall sports season begins on September 1 with a flurry of events.
The Green Knights football team opens its season Saturday, September 2 at home against Ripon College.
NOTE: St. Norbert's men's and women's hockey teams compete in the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA). The NACC does not sponsor hockey. Since 1997, the Green Knights men's hockey team has won 16 conference championships and five national championships.