EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (Blugolds.com) - Jim Mueller, who has been a tireless volunteer for the UW-Eau Claire athletics program since his retirement from the university as a locksmith, will be the first recipient of the Blugold Spirit Award, Director of Athletics Scott Kilgallon has announced.
Mueller will be recognized at the Blugold Hall of Fame banquet Sunday, September 12.
“If you want to know what a Blugold is, you just have to look at Jim Mueller,” Kilgallon said. “He embodies everything positive about our program.”
An Eau Claire native who graduated from the old Eau Claire Senior High in 1955, Mueller was a locksmith at the university from 1977 until 1996. Beginning with the NCAA Division III women’s basketball Final Four in 1994, he became a volunteer in event management. He retired from those duties following last spring’s NCAA Division III softball national championship which the Blugolds hosted at Carson Park. In between he regularly could be seen helping at home football, basketball, soccer, volleyball, softball and swimming and diving events. He served as a host for officials, worked in the concession stand, mopped the basketball floor at halftime, took care of signage at home events, handed out programs and did whatever else was necessary to help events run smoothly.
Blugold athletes and coaches were family for this 73-year-old who has been single his entire life. He made a number of trips with teams including softball excursions to Georgia, California and the 2007 softball nationals in Salem, Virginia. He went with the swim team to Hawaii just after his retirement in 1996 and also followed women’s basketball to the Final Four tournament in Terre Haute, Indiana in 2003.
While still working at the university, he sponsored MVP plaques for all the teams and all the permanent trophies that reside in the McPhee trophy case. He helped soccer coach Sean Yengo build the first soccer dugouts at Bollinger Field.
“Jim has been a great friend to many athletes and coaches,” Kilgallon said, “and they still look him up when they return to campus, affectionately calling him by his nickname ‘Curly.’”
Kilgallon said the athletics program would like to make the Blugold Spirit Award an annual one and is anticipating that it will bear Jim Mueller’s name in the future.