Jeff Sauer Biography
His list of achievements in the college hockey circuit places him among the elite in the coaching ranks. He is not only the winningest coach in Badger history in any sport, but he is the WCHA’s most victorious and most tenured coach.
This season marks Jeff Sauer’s 31st year behind the collegiate bench and his 20th season in charge of the Badger hockey program. Since beginning his coaching career back in 1966, as a 23-year-old assistant to the legendary Bob Johnson at Colorado College, Sauer has become the fourth-winningest coach in NCAA history and is the only person in WCHA annals to coach 30 seasons in the league.
The 58-year-old Sauer holds numerous league coaching records including those for longevity and for most games coached (1,225). His 647 wins rank fourth (third among active coaches) on the all-time coaches victory list.
Sauer is one of just two current coaches in the WCHA with two national titles (Dean Blais of UND is the other). In fact, there have been only eight coaches in the history of the WCHA that have multiple NCAA championships and that list reads like a Who’s Who of College Hockey Coaches. DU’s Murray Armstrong (5) and Michigan’s Vic Heyliger (4) head the list followed by Bob Johnson (UW), John MacInnes (MTU), Herb Brooks (UM) and Gino Gasparini (UND), each with three.
In his 20th year at the UW, Sauer has enjoyed unprecedented success. No other coach has won more UW games (481) or coached in more contests (822). Those 481 wins include a mark of 61-32-7 (.645) over the last two seasons.
Under his direction, Badger teams have flourished both in conference play and on the national scene.
He became the first coach in college history to win a national title in his inaugural season at a school when the 1982-83 Badgers won the school’s fourth NCAA championship. His second national title came during the 1989-90 season when that team went 36-9-1 on its way to recording the school’s second-winningest season in history.
Sauer has recorded four 30-win seasons (1982-83, 1987-88, 1989-90, 1999-2000), the most of any UW coach.
In WCHA play, the UW has finished in the league’s top three 14 times during his tenure, winning league titles in 1990 and 2000.
Sauer won his 600th career game in December of 1999, joining an elite group of four others to pass that plateau. He is the only coach at the UW (in any sport) to win that many games and just the third coach in WCHA annals to win that many games at one school.
One of the most-respected coaches in the game, he continues to be a consummate diplomat for the game of hockey. Sauer remains involved at all levels of hockey, from instructing kids at summer camps to speaking at high school assemblies to coaching international-level athletes in world tournaments.
In the summer of 2000, Sauer was honored by USA Hockey, when he received the JOFA/USA Hockey Distinguished Achieve-ment Award. The award is given annually to a U. S. citizen who has made hockey his or her profession and has made outstanding contributions, on or off the ice, to the sport in America.
Many of Sauer’s former players have received national honors and gone onto successful careers in pro hockey. Seventeen have earned all-America honors, including three first-team selections in the last two years -- Steve Reinprecht and Jeff Dessner (2000) and Dany Heatley (2001). Reinprecht (runner up) and Heatley were also finalists for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award. In 1998, Erik Raygor won the Humanitarian Award, given to college hockey’s finest citizen.
Names like Chelios, Driver, Flatley, Granato, Joseph, Mellanby and Richter have adorned NHL jerseys for decades after playing collegiately for Sauer at Wisconsin.
Over the years, Sauer’s Badger teams have been very successful in the playoffs and have a reputation of peaking when the postseason arrives.
Over the years, his teams have averaged 25 victories per year and posted at least 24 wins 12 times. Under Sauer, Wisconsin teams have earned NCAA tournament bids in 11 of the last 14 years, including eight consecutive seasons (1988-95).
Sauer has guided the Badgers to a stellar 69-36-2 (.654) mark in the postseason. Noted for their second-half surges, the Badgers own a cumulative 255-145-26 (.629) record from Jan. 1 through the playoffs since 1982-83 and a mark of 160-89-16 (.634) from Feb. 1 through the playoffs in that same time period.
In addition to being one of college hockey’s top coaches, Sauer has had a noticeable presence on the international scene as well. He is very active in USA Hockey, the national governing body for U.S. hockey, and is dedicated to the development and promotion of hockey at all levels in the United States. Sauer has been chosen frequently to coach U.S. select teams in international competition.
He currently serves on USA Hockey’s International Committee which is involved in the selection of coaches and teams for various world tournaments and championships and will assist in determining Team USA for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.
In August of 2000, Sauer coached his first-ever women’s team at the women’s Olympic Festival in Lake Placid, N.Y. Olympian Cammi Granato (a sister to former Badgers Tony, Don and Rob and a cousin to Kevin) was one of his players, becoming the fifth member of the Granato family to be coached by Sauer.
In August of 1998, Sauer was head coach for the inaugural WCHA All-Star Team that competed against elite teams from Germany and Switzerland in the Kolin Cup Tournament in Switzerland. It was the first time in collegiate hockey conference history that a league sent an all-star team overseas.
During the summer of 1997, Sauer was one of two coaches for the U.S. Select Team which played at the Tampere Cup in Finland. The team, made up of 20 of the top American-born collegiate players, competed against top international teams.
In the spring of ’95, Sauer was chosen to be head coach of the U.S. National Team at the World Championships in Sweden. The American team finished first in Group B, emerging from first-round action with a 3-0-2 record. With wins over Austria (5-2), Norway (2-1) and the Czech Republic (4-2) and ties against Sweden (2-2) and Finland (4-4), the United States advanced to the medal round, before losing its first game to Canada (4-1).
Sauer was a finalist for both the 1992 and 1994 U. S. Olympic coaching jobs. In April of 1992, Sauer was an assistant coach for the U.S. at the World Tournament in Prague, Czechoslovakia.
At the 1990 Goodwill Games, Sauer served as head coach of Team USA. Prior to the Games, Team USA beat the Soviet Union’s National Team in an exhibition contest at the Oakland Coliseum. It was the first time since 1980 that a U.S. squad had beaten a team from Russia.
That Goodwill Games team advanced to the gold medal game against the Soviet Union, but lost a 4-3 decision in a shootout at the end of sudden death.
In 1989, Sauer coached the USA Select Team at the Pravda Cup (Leningrad, U.S.S.R.). During the spring of 1985, he served as an assistant coach to the late Dave Peterson for the USA Hockey team that participated in the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships in Czechoslovakia.
Sauer has also coached at the Olympic Festival (1987), served on the U.S. Olympic Hockey Committee (1984), been a member of the NCAA Rules Committee (eight years) and served as editor of the rule book.
In the Off Season
Since 1968 when he became an assistant coach at Wisconsin, Sauer has been involved with hockey schools during the summer. His Wisconsin Hockey Schools have been located in Madison, Milwaukee and St. Louis, Mo. over the years.
He has assisted at the Bob Johnson Hockey School in Aspen (Colo.) and has worked as a counselor for Stan Mikita’s hockey camp for the hearing-impaired in Chicago for nearly 25 years. In 1997, he was honored by the Stan Mikita hockey schools for his service and dedication.
As an Assistant
Sauer began his coaching career at Colorado College as an assistant to the ‘Badger’ Bob Johnson. In addition to his coaching duties with the hockey program, Sauer was also an assistant baseball coach, a sport he played and lettered in as an undergraduate at CC.
In 1968, he followed Johnson to Wisconsin becoming his first full-time assistant at the UW. Sauer was an assistant coach for the Badgers when the UW made its first-ever appearance in the NCAA tournament in 1970. He served in that capacity until 1971, when he accepted the head coaching job at Colorado College.
At CC, where he served as head coach from 1971-82, Sauer won 166 games and was twice named WCHA Coach of the Year. His first award came following his rookie season, and the second followed the 1974-75 campaign when Colorado College posted a 23-16-0 record. The Tigers’ third-place WCHA finish that season was the highest in 15 years for a CC team.
Sauer graduated from Colorado College in 1965 with a B.S. in sociology.
Sauer and his wife Jamie (also a CC alum) reside in Middleton, Wis., and are the parents of a son Chip and daughter Beth. Chip graduated from Wisconsin in 1999 with a degree in engineering mechanics and Beth is a senior at Colorado College this year.