It would have been nice to have Dave Mattio at least go out with a winning record and maybe one playoff game.
The Marian Catholic football coach — I mean ex-Marian Catholic football coach, as first reported on nwi.com — decided to step down as football coach after 37 seasons. he won 251 games and the unfortunate thing is the Spartans went 1-8 this season.
Mattio will still be the school's athletic director and will help, but not solely pick, his successor. Mattio joked when he told of his retiring from football that he will have his hand in more things.
"I guess I will be at more events to help out, but maybe I'll just screw things up more," Mattio said with his gruff laugh that everybody knows. "I'll spend some more time with Jody, my wife and best friend, we have grandchildren who are active in sports.
"I guess it will seem funny not being there, but I will still be here and whoever the new coach is, I will do all I can to help him."
The school is taking applications and these are big shoes to fill. I don't mean just making a winning program again.
Mattio is a class person and never sacrificed ideals for the sake of winning. that gruff voice and laugh can still strike fear into a freshman or even an adult. He won a state title 1993 and was second in 1999, but his mark on his prep alma mater is more than wins and losses.
Mattio is a Chicago Heights guy, the son of Americo and Leonora Mattio, both first-generation Italian-Americans. Those old-world values were passed to their children. No matter how successful Mattio was or how tough he could seem, he was always respectful of others. He expected that of his players and nothing less — win or lose.
Whoever gets the job is facing a tough job because the lower levels have struggled on the field and with numbers. It costs over $8,000 and that is an investment in your child's education. Also, the pay at parochial schools is not top scale and an established coach would have to take a big pay cut, if not the vow of poverty. Mattio is 64 and the days of guys coaching 30-plus years as the head coach is almost over.
The Frank Lentis (Mount Carmel), Bill Mosels (Thoronton), Tom Padjens (T.F. South) and even Craig Buzeas (Homewod-Flosmsoor) of the coaching world are few and far between. Buzea is the youngest, but has been a head coach since 1994 when he took over at Portage.
Whoever comes into Marian need not be a Marian alum, but he has to have an understanding of the school and what its principles and values are. He has to have a passion for the young men like the coaches mentioned above. The Spartans will not become a powerhouse overnight, so it will take patience, but Marian can be successful on the football field.
This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.