It goes without saying that we at Saint Ignatius have had more than our share of success in the competitive arena of high school athletics. For over a century Saint Ignatius teams have been able to compete with the best that Ohio has to offer, but, to the surprise of many, prior to the spring of 1988 there were exactly zero state championship trophies in the cases outside the Athletic Department offices.
But all that changed with the wrestling team’s success in the 1988 state tournament – a success duplicated by the football team later that year, and we have amassed 51 state championships, or their equivalent, across 12 different sports. When you count national titles, mythical and otherwise, the total number of trophies reaches 60.
We certainly do not have the most state titles of any school in the state, ranking 3rd overall in boys’ titles (if you exclude non-OHSAA sanctioned sports like crew, volleyball and rugby). There is no way we can even come close to the records held by St. Xavier in swimming (39 titles) or St. Edward in wrestling (32). But one record I think we can claim is that over 97% (35 out of 36, and all but the first) of our state trophies were lifted by an alumni tandem of head coach and athletic director.
So it is fitting that last week we found out that such a tandem – Head Hockey Coach Pat O’Rourke ’90 and Athletic Director Rory Fitzpatrick ’88 – were, in the spirit of the leg lamp, given major awards.
Rory was recently named to the Executive Board of the Northeast Ohio Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NEOIAAA). The purpose of the NEOIAAA is quite simple: “promoting the educational values of interscholastic athletics.” In a land where interscholastic athletics has been the recipient – for better or for worse – of a trickle-down effect from professional and then collegiate athletics, it is good to have some adults in the room (so to speak).
You don’t have to be a huge sports fan to acknowledge that things can get out of control, and at a very fundamental level. Youth sports, even prior to high school, can be an incubator for adults teaching children how not to act and how not to keep sports in perspective. The fact that Rory has been recognized by a group who has tasked itself with fostering the professional growth and development of athletic directors is a sign that this group takes its role seriously and that Rory is recognized throughout the state as a model of what it is to be a director of athletics at the highest level.
That same sense of respect by his peers can also apply to Pat O’Rourke as he is chosen by both the National Federation of State High School Associations and the Ohio High School Athletic Association as their Ohio Coach of the Year in ice hockey. This award comes courtesy of his fellow coaches and recognizes Pat’s achievements with our program – achievements that for Pat go way beyond victories and trophies. As someone who has known Pat for several decades I can attest to the fact that helping our guys – whether they play hockey or not – on their journey to being good, Catholic men is what is most important to him.
In my mind it is not a coincidence that these two exemplary men carry with them the experience of being a Saint Ignatius athlete. It is said that you can’t teach what you don’t have, and there may be no truer context for that statement than the world of athletics. What these men carry with them from their time as varsity Wildcats is more than knowledge of their respective sports. During their time as high school athletes they learned an Ignatian vision that believes that interscholastic athletics are only important if they are performed for the greater glory of God.
Congratulations Rory and Pat.