Longtime UMBC coach and athletic administrator Kathy Zerrlaut announced her retirement Thursday after 41 years of working at the university, which has existed for only 48 years.
"It's been 41 years, and I'm not getting any younger," Zerrlaut said, laughing. "It's time to move on, to change and try to enjoy my life outside of a work area. I've loved my career, but sometimes you have to say it's time to go."
A Baltimore native and Lansdowne graduate, Zerrlaut was hired by then-UMBC athletic director Dick Watts in 1973 after earning her bachelor's and master's degrees from Frostburg State. Watts gave Zerrlaut the task of revamping both UMBC volleyball and women's lacrosse programs.
Zerrlaut coached volleyball for 17 seasons, leading the team to a 272-281-3 record before she stepped down in 1989. She is credited with completely rebuilding the women's lacrosse team, which won the Eastern College Athletic Conference Division II title in 1984 and climbed to the No. 1 national ranking in 1985 and 1986. She also saw both programs into the Division I era before ending her coaching career. Zerrlaut's 850 athletic contests coached are the most in school history.
She was elected to the UMBC Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006.
Zerrlaut said she's seen women's athletics grow exponentially during her tenure at UMBC.
"When I got here, no scholarships, no national organizations," she said. "So I've watched women's athletics both at UMBC and on the national level develop with tremendous opportunities for coaches and female athletes that didn't exist when I was an athlete."
Since 1986, Zerrlaut has served as the athletic department's senior women's administrator before eventually taking on the role of the school's NCAA compliance officer.
For Zerrlaut, the relationships she's developed over the years will be the hardest thing to leave behind at UMBC. She is just one of 10 employees in UMBC history ever to work at the school for at least 41 years.
"I got to know a variety of student-athletes, so I think that will be one of the biggest things is not having that day-to-day interaction," Zerrlaut said. "And of course, there are several colleagues I'll miss because this has like two-thirds of my life, basically, so there's a lot of friendships."
Zerrlaut said she'll use her new freedom to rest and spend time with her family. She also plans to make some improvements to her house, travel to see old friends, volunteer and "maybe get back to swinging the golf club again."
"Just kind of take my time, enjoy being able to sleep in late and not worry about: Are we breaking rules or are the kids doing what they're supposed to be doing?" Zerrlaut said.
The UMBC athletic department will honor Zerrlaut's career during a retirement open house Thursday, June 19.
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