SJ-O legend Duval decides to return

ST. JOSEPH — Dick Duval is going to continue to work, at least early in his retirement.

The St. Joseph-Ogden High School football coach announced Thursday — in a pre-school meeting with returning players — that he would return for a 27th season as the school’s varsity head coach.

In June, he’ll retire as a classroom teacher after 36 years. Duval also will remain at SJ-O as the athletic director.

“It’s another year, then it will be year by year,” Duval said. “There’s no long-term commitment. It might be after a year, the school says, ‘This isn’t working out.’ ”

Duval has guided SJ-O into state championship games five times, including last November’s IHSA runner-up finish in Class 3A.

That squad featured numerous underclassmen who contributed, and Duval wanted them to hear about his status directly from him.

“I wanted them to be the first to know,” he said.

The coach with 229 career wins started the meeting by saying, “Don’t cry in front of me because you’re upset I’m coming back.”

He meant it as a joke but suspects not everyone will be positive about his decision.

“I’m sure some are happy, and I’m sure some are probably wishing they had a fresh start with someone else,” Duval said.

Duval used the experiences
of others as he pondered his future. His friend and coaching mentor, Craig Beverlin, retired several years ago from coaching football.

“He regrets the fact that he got out and is thinking about getting back in it,” Duval said.

As Duval evaluated the pros and cons, there was one point he couldn’t escape.

“I didn’t want it to be a year from now and I’d think, ‘I wish I’d stayed on,’ ” he said. “I have enough desire and enjoy coaching enough I want to stay. I want to make sure when I get out I’m positive I will never come back. It comes down to are you enjoying what you’re doing and being around kids. The answer to both is ‘yes.’ ”

His concern was about not being in the building throughout the day.

“My only anxiety is if I’m not teaching, contact with the students is more difficult,” he said.

There was little doubt, he said, how his family felt.

“I received more pressure from my daughters than anybody,” Duval said. “They’ve only known me as ‘Dad’ and the head football coach at St. Joseph-Ogden, and I don’t think they wanted it to change.

“The first time I brought up the possibility of retiring, Bobbi (Duval) was in tears.”

Staying on was a logical move as the Spartans leave the Sangamon Valley Conference to become part of the reformulated Okaw Valley Conference in the fall.

“It will make the transition to a new conference easier without a lot of (administrative) change,” Duval said.

Despite what he calls, “a decent group coming back,” Duval cautioned it’s not a given that the area’s longest playoff run (23 years) will continue.

“Our schedule will be a lot more difficult,” he said. “There are no guarantees.”

With conference games against opponents such as Decatur St. Teresa, Maroa-Forsyth, Monticello, St. Thomas More and Unity, there’s one advantage.

“The closeness of the conference schools makes it easier for the fans to be at games,” Duval said.

His gig as athletic director will be part time. In order to receive retirement benefits, his schedule will be restricted.

“I can’t be there every day for eight hours,” he said. “I can work 100 days as AD.”

A typical school year is 180 days.

Duval expects to add something else to his schedule.

“I’m not the type to sit around and do nothing,” he said. “I’ll still have to do something else besides AD.”
 

Still going strong

Dick Duval will have another chance to reach the playoffs. And possibly make another state title game. The veteran St. Joseph-Ogden football coach is no stranger to deep playoff runs. He is one of 106 coaches in state history to lead the same school to multiple state championship games. Here’s where he ranks among the leaders:

Name    School    Appearances
Frank Lenti    Chicago Mt. Carmel    16
Matt Senffner    New Lenox Providence Catholic    11
Jim Unruh    Carthage    10
Bob Shannon    East St. Louis    8
Dan Sharp    Joliet Catholic    8
Dan Darlington    Morris    7
Mike Papoccia    Sterling Newman    7
Pat Ryan    Metamora    7
Rich Zananni    Kankakee Bishop McNamara    7
Chris Andriano    Montini    6
David Inserra    Maine South    6
Mike Lalor    Stillman Valley    6
Ken Leonard    Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin    6
Al Martin    DuQuoin    6
John Thorne    Wheaton Warrenville South    6
Dick Duval    St. Joseph-Ogden    5
Gordon Gillespie    Joliet Catholic    5
Ron Muhitch    Wheaton Warrenville South    5
Mark Ramsey    Moweaqua Central A&M    5
Steve Thomas    Arcola    5
Cully Welter    Aledo    5
Paul Adams    Deerfield    4
Scott Hamilton    Unity    4
Josh Jostes    Maroa-Forsyth    4
Derek Leonard    Rochester    4
John O’Boyle    Stockton    4
Don Penza    Woodstock Marian Catholic    4
Tim Racki    Addison Driscoll    4
Keith Sinclair    Casey-Westfield    4
*27 coaches have coached in at least three state title games with the same school
*50 coaches have coached in at least two state title games with the same school
 

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