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Craig Taylor leaving a lasting legacy at his alma mater after serving as athletic director for the past 29 years

When Craig Taylor came to George Fox in 1971 as a junior basketball player, he could not have known he had found his home for the next four decades.

The school itself has grown so much that it would likely be unrecognizable to him then.

A major driver in that growth has been the evolution of the athletic department, which will grow to 19 sports when men's and women's swimming are added next year. PHOTO COURTESY OF GFU - Craig Taylor is retiring after 29 years as athletic director at George Fox. The school rewarded his 43 years of overall service by naming the court at Miller Gymnasium in his honor at a retirement party last month.

Even though he had a large hand in that expansion as athletic director for the past 29 years, even Taylor couldn't have fully imagined just how strong and diverse Bruin athletics would become when he took the job in 1988.

That reality is one reason why Taylor has decided to retire at the end of the month.

"When you look at the program and what we've accomplished and what we've built, we've gotten to the point where we're scheduled to start swimming in 2018, so in terms of expansion we're at where I think we need to be for the foreseeable future," Taylor said. "We have now a full contingent of Northwest Conference sports. We're in a place facility wise where we're in pretty good shape. It seemed like the right time for me to step away and for somebody else to start the next chapter."

Just about every major milestone for the department has come during Taylor's tenure as athletic director, including the move from NAIA to NCAA Division III in 1995. That move was made possible by George Fox's entry into the Northwest Conference in 1994, with the league then voting as a whole to jump to the NCAA.

Taylor said he is especially proud of the effort to revive the school's football program after a four-decade layoff, as well as the Bruins' two NCAA national championships in women's basketball and baseball, but more often he thinks about things on a smaller scale.

"There are also the big, pivotal program moments, but there are thousands and thousands of the smaller moments, whether it's with a student-athlete who finally got things figured out or the human side of growth that have been important to me," Taylor said. "There's an undercurrent of all those small, individual victories along the way that are special memories."

Prior to transitioning into administration, Taylor coached George Fox's baseball (1974-79), women's basketball (1981-93) and softball (1981-88, 1990) teams. In 1985, he was named NAIA District 2 softball coach of the year.

He also served as an assistant professor of health and human performance from 1978 to 1989, and was named the NAIA District 2 administrator of the year in 1992.

Taylor has a long track record of hiring outstanding coaches, including current Oregon State University baseball coach Pat Casey, who came to GFU in 1988 and won seven conference titles before joining the Beavers in 1995. Women's basketball coach Michael Meek, women's golf coach MaryJo McCloskey and track and field coach John Smith have built their programs into the dominant force in the Northwest Conference in their sports.

Since taking over as athletic director, Taylor has overseen the addition of seven new sports — women's soccer, men's and women's tennis, men's and women's golf, women's lacrosse and football — and is in the process of hiring a coach to build the new men's and women's swim teams.

At his retirement party last month, the school surprised him by naming the court at Miller Gymnasium after him.

"I think one of the common themes of the five presidents I've served under is that there was a strong belief that college athletics done properly is an enhancement to the university experience for our student athletes," Taylor said. "So I've always worked for people who believed in athletics and had a vision for athletics at George Fox that was helpful relative to thinking about expanding. I think that's a critical piece of putting feet to any vision, that executive leadership believes in what you're doing. I was blessed by that over my time."

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