Rogers, Over and Out
By Tim Rogers
State Championship coach retires from SVSM, leaves lasting legacy and impression…
Saying goodbye has never been one of my favorite things.
I’m talking about one of those ultimate, final good-byes, the kind when you know you’ll probably never see someone again, like a failing parent. Or, at least for a very long time, like friends moving to South Africa. Hell, I had a hard time sending my children off to college.
Dan Boarman and I shook hands as we left a restaurant near Akron the other day, two days after the 63-year-old Boarman announced his retirement after nine seasons as head football coach at St. Vincent-St. Mary and a lifetime of memories. We promised to keep in touch.
I am going to miss him because I’m afraid we’ll drift apart. Not intentionally, but just because the bond that held us together has been eroded by time and retirements.
In many ways, I always thought Boarman epitomized what a head coach was supposed to be. I met him in his second season at Copley and over time and through many games and stories he became one of my favorite coaches. He was an old-school guy who was able to adjust but not relinquish his beliefs and I thought that admirable.
“I think back to what my father told me when I was a freshman at St. Vincent,” he recalled over lunch. “I came home from practice one day and I was mad as hell because I didn’t play enough. My father worked two jobs for about 25 or 30 years. He told me that I had two choices. Find something else to do or get better as a football player. Quitting was not an option as far as my father was concerned.”
I think I saw a small tear in the corner of his eye when he told that story.
As a coach Boarman was a sports writer’s dream. He was diligent in filling out pre-season information forms and nominating players for weekly and post-season honors. He was even more diligent in returning phone calls. Still is. But, like many of his players, he was at his best on game nights.
He realized newspaper guys had deadlines. He understood the urgency of meeting a 10:15 deadline when a game ended at 9:30. Instead of putting the media off until he had met with his team as most coaches do, he met the media as it came onto the field and was willing to answer as many questions as anyone had in order to help reporters meet deadline. Newspaper guys don’t forget stuff like that.
He never lost sight of the fact that he was coaching youngsters and I can honestly say I never heard him blame a player or assistant coach for a botched play, a botched call or a botched game. Of course, there weren’t too many of the latter.
I liked the way he let his assistant coaches coach –a trait he learned from the legendary John Cistone — going back to his early years at Copley and through his tenure at SVSM when he gave his eventual replacement, Marcus Wattley, the all-important job of defensive coordinator.
I appreciated his willingness to schedule anyone within reason, even when his teams were on the wrong end of too many games against the likes of Youngstown Cardinal Mooney or Ursuline.
He’s also a fan of Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band. So, he had that going for him.
“Hey, think about it,” Boarman said. “He is the poet of our generation.”
Boarman spent 41 years in coaching, starting in Indiana shortly after graduating from IU, where he played two years as an under-sized lineman for Johnny Pont and one year under the zaniness that was Lee Corso.
Most people are aware SVSM won state football championships in 2012 and 2013 and had an overall record of 89-26 under Boarman’s watch. They also might know he spent 17 seasons as head coach at Copley, compiling a 117-71 record with eight playoff appearances.
What most people don’t know – and I didn’t see anyone take the time to research and report this – he also won state baseball championships at SVSM in 1986 and 1989. He also runs about three miles daily and frequently bikes 29 miles. All before 10 a.m.
Boarman’s decision to resign at Copley, but remain at the school as a teacher, and return to his partial alma mater – he graduated from St. Vincent before the merger – was a difficult one.
“I was treated very, very well at Copley and I loved teaching there,” he said. “But there was and always will be something special for me about St. Vincent-St. Mary.”
Boarman’s faith and Catholic upbringing played a huge roll in his decision to return to SVSM.
“For one, the religious aspect is very important,” he said. “Families want God to be part of their lives. Being able to pray and share your faith, no matter your religion, is important for a lot of people. We had all kinds of faiths and religions at Copley and SVSM and being able to share all those values is important. It brings people together. It brings teams together. Other than listening to a coach give some kind of motivational speech, talking about God and the things that connect you together is beneficial. A lot of people don’t know this, but we prayed before games at Copley. In all my years, I never had a kid refuse to pray.”
Boarman was attracted to the game as a youngster, not because he was especially good at it, but for a reason far beyond skill level. The team was the thing.
“I loved that sense of being part of something,” he said. “I was drawn to football because you became part of something. I loved that feeling and in many ways I still do.”
As a coach, he tried to extend that feeling to his players.
“I always felt that I wanted kids to feel a part of something, no matter if they were first string or fourth string. I wanted the fourth stringer to feel he was just as important as the first stringer. It was something I wanted to build. When kids left our program I wanted them to feel they had a great experience, that they were part of something worth doing. I wanted it to be something they could carry on through the rest of their lives, the hard work, the sacrifice.”
You did that, Dan. You did it with integrity and with all your heart. And, you did it well.
Don’t be a stranger, OK? I hate saying goodbye.