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Schultz gets call for the Hall

Ken Schultz will be inducted into the NIAAA Hall of Fame this week.
Ken Schultz will be inducted into the NIAAA Hall of Fame this week.

Ken Schultz was never officially an athletic administrator at Morris Community High School, but it is where his nationally-recognized career in directing prep sports got started.

Schultz, who is being inducted into the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Hall of Fame this month, was an MCHS teacher and coach from 1973 to 1979. He went on to spend 22 years as athletic director at Homewood-Flossmoor High School and a total of 26 years in athletic administration. At H-F, he implemented innovative drug-testing programs that led to him appearing on television programs like "Good Morning America" and "The Today Show."

Now retired and living Leesburg, Fla., Schultz remembers that his desire to become a head baseball coach led him to Morris for his first job after earning his Master's degree from the University of Illinois. MCHS hired him to teach physical education and drivers' education, and with the understanding that the head baseball job would soon open. But baseball was far from the only sport in which Schultz had a hand at MCHS.

"I coached everything," Schultz said. "I was an assistant football coach. I was an assistant basketball coach. I started as the sophomore baseball coach, and became the head coach the next year.

"My third year was Dan Darlington's first year. He started as the sophomore football coach, and Denny Steele and I assisted him at the sophomore level. The next year, he got the head varsity job, and Denny and I moved up with him."

At the time, Schultz says, he was one of a number of young coaches at MCHS. Some individuals who went on to have lengthy careers at MCHS like Darlington, Steele, Greg Eaton, Tom Talarico and John Mackinson started there around the same time.

"It was an exciting time for all of us. ... We all grew together. We made for a great team of young coaches," Schultz said. "I was very fortunate to be in a place like Morris, where they valued education and valued their student-athletes. I couldn't have ended up in a better place for my first teaching experience."

Under the guidance of Schultz, Morris won its first regional championship in baseball in 1975. One of the members of the 1975 team was Ron Lear, who is now the athletic director at Plainfield North High School. Lear was a longtime girls bowling coach at MCHS before becoming assistant A.D. at PNHS in 2005 and being promoted to his current position in 2011.

"He's been my mentor for not only being an athlete, but for being a coach and for being an athletic director," Lear said of Schultz. "Seeing the way he did things was one of the reasons I wanted to become a coach and an A.D., both because of his philosophy of hard work and the way he pushed his athletes to be the best they could be, and because of his organizational skills and the way he handled everything."

Bob Ferguson was the A.D. at MCHS when Schultz joined the staff.

"His philosophy was — and I consider it a compliment to the coaches — that he let you run your own program. You did your own scheduling, arranged your own buses, got your own equipment and your own umpires," Schultz said of Ferguson. "I found that I could run my own program. Some coaches may not have liked that, but I liked it. I always wanted to be a go-getter who could control his own program."

Ferguson retired while Schultz was still at MCHS and was replaced by Dick Anderson, who Schultz calls a "top-notch A.D." and later became principal at Plainfield High School. By the late 1970s, Schultz had ambitions of being an A.D. himself. In 1979, he left MCHS for H-F, where he was assistant director of athletics and intramurals under A.D. Dr. John Stanley.

"I had a desire to get into administration," Schultz said. "I thought, as a head coach for these past four years, I've been doing everything an A.D. does. Of course, they have to do it on a much larger scale, for more than one team. I thought, I'm going to look around and see if I can find any administrative jobs in athletics. I didn't want to be a principal. Fortunately, I found a job as an assistant A.D. I thought, this is great. I can get my feet wet in this, and I can learn."

Schultz spent two years in that role before leaving to become athletic director at North Olmstead (Ohio) High School. Two years later, he returned to H-F when the A.D. position opened and was offered to him.

At H-F, Schultz managed 152 regionals and 129 sectionals. The school also hosted 201 conference meets and 473 invitational tournaments during his tenure. H-F teams won 275 conference championships, 130 regionals, 121 sectionals and 10 state championships with Schultz as A.D.

But it was H-F's random drug testing program for athletes that earned Schultz national fame. When it was implemented, only one other high school in the country — McCutchen High School in West Lafayette, Ind. — had a similar program in place.

"In 1989, my head football coach, John Wren, came to me and said that he had some players he felt may be abusing some drugs," Schultz said. "My thought was that the colleges are drug testing. The Olympics are doing it. Why not us?"

The first tests were conducted through the program in January of 1990, and they continue to be done to this day. Schultz says the intention from the beginning has been to not turn it into a "witch hunt" but to attempt to help students who may be troubled.

"The important thing is it gives kids the opportunity to reject peer pressure. There's a tremendous amount of pressure to do things they shouldn't be doing. This gave them the opportunity to say no, because I might be drug tested next week," Schultz said. "Were kids going to stop going to parties? No, but at least they had the opportunity there to reject pressure."

During his career, Schultz spent eight years on the Illinois Athletic Directors Association Executive Board and was its president for a term. He was inducted into the Illinois Athletic Directors Hall of Fame in 2008. He was also on the NIAAA Board of Directors. The IADA named him its Athletic Director of the Year in 1992, and the National Council of Secondary School Athletic Directors named him its Athletic Director of the Year for both Illinois and the Midwest in 1993. Schultz retired in 2005.

"I'm really happy to see him get that award. He really has earned it," Lear said of Schultz's NIAAA Hall of Fame induction. "I owe a lot to him. I wouldn't be sitting in the chair I'm in if it wasn't for him. He taught me a lot of things, and he taught me to do them the right way."

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