June 14, 2019

University of Calgary mourns passing of Dinos pioneer Dennis Kadatz

Celebration of his life planned for Red and White Club on June 25

The University of Calgary is mourning the passing of a visionary leader, a pioneering coach and sports administrator, and the father of the Dinos athletic program. Dr. Dennis Kadatz, PhD, passed away Tuesday, June 11 at the age of 80.

His hiring as the first football coach at the University of Alberta-Calgary in 1964 at the age of 25 began a 55-year association with the campus, and he was there for all the firsts: the first football game, the first Night of the Dino, the first national championship.

In 1966, Kadatz added the title athletic director and took the newly minted University of Calgary Dinosaurs from non-existent to national powerhouse in less than 20 years — a remarkable achievement. With Dr. Lou Goodwin, PhD, the founding dean of physical education, Kadatz had a hand in virtually all aspects of programming. He hired legendary coaches — football's Peter Connellan, basketball's Donna Rudakas and Gary Howard, swimming's Deryk Snelling, volleyball's Greg Ryan, hockey's George Kingston, among many others — and created the conditions for success that led to the department's unparalleled performance in the 1980s.

Dinos head coach Dennis Kadatz runs a chalk session with a group of football hopefuls.

Dinos head coach Dennis Kadatz runs a chalk session with a group of football hopefuls.

University of Calgary archives

He was a tireless advocate for advancing university athletics in Canada throughout his career. In addition to time as president of Canada West and secretary/treasurer of the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union (now U SPORTS), Kadatz was instrumental in getting the Alberta government to create the Jimmie Condon Athletic Scholarships, which continue to provide more than $3.5 million in financial support to student-athletes across the province.

In 1980 he became associate dean in the Faculty of Physical Education, in addition to his role as athletic director. There, he led the facility design for what became the Kinesiology 'B' Block, including the Jack Simpson Gym and the Olympic Oval.

Known affectionately as "The Big Dinnie," Kadatz left the University of Calgary in 1985 to become general manager of the Calgary Olympic Development Association (CODA) in the lead-up to the XV Olympic Winter Games in 1988. Now known as Winsport, CODA held the responsibility of managing and operating the newly built Olympic facilities in Calgary including Canada Olympic Park, the Olympic Oval, and Nakiska. Having previously been a vice-president in the organization and part of the successful bid to win the '88 Olympics, Kadatz led CODA through the Games and was key to ensuring those facilities would remain vital to training Canadian athletes. He remained with CODA until his retirement in 1999.
 

Coach Kadatz evaluates four players for the quarterback role in the 1960s.

Coach Kadatz evaluates four players for the quarterback role in the 1960s.

University of Calgary archives

He was part of the inaugural University of Calgary Dinos Hall of Fame class in 1995, entering as its first builder, and he went on to become a two-time inductee into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame as a member of the 1962 and 1963 Edmonton Huskies junior football champions along with the 1983-85 Dinos football teams. UCalgary's Athlete of the Year awards are named in his honour, and he presented them personally for the final time in April to football's Adam Sinagra and track and field's Niki Oudenaarden.

Our thoughts, prayers, and condolences are with Dennis' wife Denise and their family and friends at this difficult time.
 


A celebration of Kadatz's life will be held Tuesday, June 25 at 3 p.m. in the Red and White Club at McMahon Stadium. If you so wish, please consider donating blood to Canadian Blood Services or funds to the Dr. Dennis Kadatz Family Athletics Award.