WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Where Are They Now? Nick Crnkovich

2013-01-07T18:00:00Z 2013-12-21T21:12:55Z Where Are They Now? Nick CrnkovichMike Nieto mike.nieto@nwi.com, (219) 933-3232 nwitimes.com
January 07, 2013 6:00 pm  • 

Nick Crnkovich never wanted to be in the spotlight as a prep football coach.

He was because of his success at Andrean and Whiting high schools. Wednesday, the retired teacher and coach will be awarded the Gary Old Timers Lifetime Achievement award at Wednesday's banquet at the Avalon Manor Banquet Center in Hobart.

"I am really honored," Crnkovich said. "That is a big banquet and to be honored, I am just excited.

"I figured everybody forgot about me."

What Crnkovich did on the football field is not easily forgotten. His first success came at fledgling Andrean. He was the 59ers head coach from 1967-1971 and was 36-10-2. His teams won 22 consecutive games in  1968-70. The 1968 and 169 teams each went 10-0 and won two back-to-back Gary City championships.

"You think about that — 22 in a row — I guess that was quite an accomplishment," Crnkovich said. "I guess maybe we put Andrean on the football map because we were a new school."

He said the 59ers beat Wirt, then two weeks later beat Hobart to finish 10-0. There were no playoffs, but Andrean finished No. 5 in the final Associated Press poll.

"In 1968, we beat Wirt 14-12; two conversions were the difference," Crnkovich said. "I think they had won about 30 in a row at home — how's that for a streak? — and we came into Miller and beat them."

Back then, Andrean, and several Gary schools used Gilroy Stadium as their home field.

"When we played Lew Wallace, I think they were lined up to get in," Crnkovich said. "Full house. Then we'd play Hobart here and at the Brickie Bowl and it was packed."

Crnkovich, a 1951 Whiting grad, played football and baseball. He was drafted by the Army and served as a medic. He then played football at Lewis University for two years, until the school dropped the sport. He graduated from Lewis in 1960 and got into education.

Whiting had struggled in football during the early and late 1960s, but Crnkovich's first team in 1973 went 7-2, followed by a 9-2 mark in 1974 and a berth in the Class A playoffs.

"One thing about Whiting kids, you cannot intimidate them," Crnkovich said. "We always played the bigger schools, but our kids didn't care. They were and still are competitors.

"I loved coaching at both schools because we had great kids."

Crnkovich and then fellow Andrean teacher and coach Jerry Mazur founded the Certified Driving School. Mazur went on to coach boys tennis at Highland.

"That was great because I got to meet kids from different schools and I like talking with people," Crnkovich said. "You were in the classroom and on the road with these teenagers and it was great to talk with them."

Crnkovich said he and his wife of 54 years, Patricia, are enjoying retirement. They have seven children and five grandchildren.

"A good life it has been," Crnkovich said. "I still get visits from former students and athletes. I really enjoy that.

"I still run into kids I taught driving to. It's been a lot of fun."

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