Bacys has Danville's seal of approval

Bacys has Danville's seal of approval

DANVILLE — For the last 11 years, B.J. Luke sat at the top tier of Danville High School sports.

That changed last week when Luke retired from his role as athletic director. It didn't take him long to espouse the new man in charge.

"He'll do a nice job for us," Luke said. "And he dresses better than I do."

That second point certainly is subjective, but there's no doubt Mark Bacys has the backing of his former boss.

The 23-year Danville history teacher on Monday began his tenure as the Vikings' AD. Bacys also will continue to serve as the Danville girls' tennis coach, which he has done the previous seven seasons.

"It's humbling," Bacys said of stepping into Luke's shoes. "The history of Danville is great. My goal as athletic director is to provide an environment for the coaches to let the athletes do their thing, and (allow) the athletes to be able to shine."

Luke has slowly moved away from his wide-ranging duties with the Vikings. This time last year, he was explaining his decision to step down as Danville football coach after 12 seasons.

He plans to stick around as the girls' track and field coach but admitted it's time to make himself more available for family matters.

"I like to keep busy," Luke said. "I'll keep my foot in a little bit. It still gives me an opportunity to get away in the fall and winter and see my grandsons play ball."

A 1991 graduate of Thornwood High School and 1995 alumnus of Bradley University, Bacys described the realization of being tabbed AD as similar to his first thoughts about becoming a teacher.

"My mind started racing with all the things that were unfamiliar to me," Bacys said. "I know what teaching looks like after 23 years. To start again after all those years brought back the memories of the first year teaching. Am I prepared? What do I have to do? What do I have to cross off my list?"

Bacys said he was caught off-guard by Luke's retirement, but saw a great personal opportunity with his mentor's decision.

And he's already adapting to the AD spot with a similar style to that of his predecessor.

"The nice thing about the way (Luke) led as athletic director, he let us as coaches do our thing, and we were able to bounce things off of him," Bacys said. "So I'm just trying to pick everybody's brain and get a feel for what it is I need to do going forward."

The good news for Bacys is he won't be dealing with serious turnover right off the bat. Danville needed to replace just one coach prior to the 2018-19 school year.

He's also got a strong recent class to build from, as Bacys estimates the Vikings sent "seven or eight" youngsters to Division I athletics after graduation earlier this year.

"I want to get as many of our kids going off to the next level, playing collegiately at any level," Bacys said. "Just pursuing athletics at a different level and ultimately graduating from college, and hopefully changing their lives."

Bacys said he also has a long-term vision of acquiring the backing to locate more of Danville's athletic facilities on campus. For example, Bacys' tennis pupils practice about a mile away from the school at Lincoln Park.

With the description of that mission, Bacys makes it clear he plans on being AD for the long haul. With that idea lies an overarching achievement at the end of the tunnel.

"I think the coolest thing ... that I've watched (Luke) do — and it's my goal, too — is to leave it better than you got it," Bacys said. "I know B.J. did that. I know before him, Terry Hill did that. I know before him, Ed Blandon did that. I know before him, Gene Gourley did that. So that's my goal."

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