UND building to be named for legendary athlete

University’s High Performance Center will be known as the Fritz Pollard Jr. Athletic Center

Fritz Pollard Jr.’s name will now adorn the UND High Performance Center. The athlete and Olympian was part of the University’s first Athletics Hall of Fame class after a standout career in football, boxing and track and field.

The North Dakota State Board of Higher Education voted unanimously today (Feb. 25) to rename the University of North Dakota High Performance Center in honor of alumnus Frederick “Fritz” Pollard Jr. The building is the primary indoor training facility for various UND sports teams.

“We do not take naming a building lightly,” said UND President Andrew Armacost. “With Fritz Pollard Jr.’s name attached to the High Performance Center, we are telling our student-athletes and the community that we are incredibly proud of this remarkable alumnus. His accomplishments as a student-athlete, an Olympian, and in life are something to hold up as admirable and worthy of historical recognition.”

Frederick “Fritz” Pollard Jr. was part of the University of North Dakota Athletics Hall of Fame’s initial class after a standout career in football, boxing and track and field. In 1939, he was one of the school’s first African American graduates.

While at UND, Pollard excelled in football. He was chosen All North Central Conference in 1937 and 1938, and was a Collier’s Magazine Little All-America selection in football in 1938.

Pollard Jr. was a triple-threat football star, earning all-conference honors three times and was named to the Little All America team in 1938. He was a member of the U.S. Olympic track team, winning a bronze medal in the high hurdles in the 1936 Olympic Games at Berlin, Germany, despite a serious leg injury suffered aboard ship en route to Berlin. He was leading the race, but tripped over the next-to-last hurdle and still finished third.

“It feels great to know he is being recognized in this way,” said Fritz Pollard III, son of Fritz Pollard Jr. “I know how much my dad loved going to the University and visiting after he graduated. He just loved it up there. It’s a tremendous honor for him to have his name on a building.”

After serving in the Army during World War II, Pollard Jr. taught physical education in Chicago. He later worked as human relations commissioner under Mayor Richard J. Daley. During the Kennedy administration, he began working for the U.S. State Department, coordinating goodwill visits abroad by U.S. athletes. Fritz Pollard Jr. died in 2003.

“What an exciting day for UND and UND athletics to have the opportunity to recognize and honor an individual like Fritz Pollard Jr.,” said UND Athletics Director Bill Chaves. “Fritz embodied everything you would want in a multi-sport student-athlete and it is so fitting that a building that primarily houses our football and track and field teams will now bear his name. We look forward to bringing members of his family back sometime in the future to appropriately and “officially” memorialize this naming and celebrate all that he did for the University of North Dakota.”

The Fritz Pollard Jr. Athletic Center was built with donor funding in 2015. The state-of-the-art practice facility features a 100-yard football field and an 8-lane, 300-meter meter Mondo Super X surface track, the same used at the Olympics. Bleachers were added to the 155,000-square-foot facility in 2019.

This year, the facility has shown its infinite value with traditional fall sports moved to the spring. Without this practice facility, spring soccer and football seasons would be near impossible. The Fritz Pollard Jr. Athletic Center has also shown its multi-purpose use by hosting national collegiate drone racing and serving as a community COVID-19 testing site.

Altru Health System committed $9 million as the lead donor for the $19.5 million project.

“Altru is proud to have been a lead contributor to phase 1 of the High Performance Center,” said Kristi Hall-Jiran, Chief Philanthropy & Partnership Officer at Altru Health System. “This resource provides our community’s athletes a venue to enhance their health and train with world-class equipment. We are proud to support our Fighting Hawks athletes.

“Fritz Pollard Jr. was one of the University of North Dakota’s first Black graduates as well as one of the most decorated athletes in UND history. Mr. Pollard was a veteran who served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He led a life that will continue to inspire North Dakotans for generations. We fully support the naming of this facility in his honor and hope this gesture will highlight our rich history and prepare UND Athletics for an exciting future.”

“This honor is so well-deserved,” said DeAnna Carlson Zink, CEO of the UND Alumni Association & Foundation. “Fritz not only was an outstanding athlete, but he was one of the biggest cheerleaders for the University of North Dakota throughout his life. He visited Grand Forks often because he loved this University with a passion. I so looked forward to a chance to visit with Fritz. He had a big heart, a big smile, and the greatest stories. I’m thrilled to see such a giant of UND’s past recognized with this naming.”

The UND Alumni Association & Foundation is currently raising funds to build Phase II of the project, which will include a weight room, locker rooms, a student-athlete academic center, sports medicine facilities, and coaches’ offices.