MOUNT VERNON — Chet Looney, who coached the East Knox High School football team to 207 wins over a span of 35 years, was bestowed Ohio’s highest honor on Friday. Looney was inducted into the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame at a banquet at Value City Arena in Columbus.
Looney was one of six former coaches inducted into the hall of fame, now in its 39th year. He was joined by Bernie Barre, Dave Dlugosz, Jerry Hanlon, Reno Saccoccia and James Whittington.
To be considered for the OHSFCA Hall of Fame, coaches must be at least 55 years of age, or have been retired from active high school coaching at least three years. They must also have made an outstanding contribution to the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association or to the game of football. Individuals are nominated and then selected by a panel of OHSFCA officers and regional directors.
“This is the pinnacle of my coaching career,” said Looney. “To me, it is wonderful. I never imagined I would be in this position when I first started out coaching. For my peers to think that I am worthy of this honor really means a lot.
“To be included with the other coaches in the hall of fame, it blows my mind. It is just overwhelming, very humbling.”
Looney, who posted a 207-143-7 record at the helm of the Bulldogs, has been a 25-year member of the OHSFCA. His teams won 11 Mid-Buckeye Conference championships, including seven in a row from 1986 to 1992. The Bulldogs also made seven playoff appearances under Looney, finishing as the Regional Runners-up on two occasions (1992, 1999) and Regional Semifinalist twice (1996, 2005). He was selected as the MBC Coach of the Year 11 times, the Division V Coach of the Year once (1992), coached the Ohio North/South All-Star Game once (1992) and was the OHSFCA Region II Coach of the Year for Division V and VI once.
With so many memories to look back on, it is tough for him to point to any one as most memorable.
“I can’t think of any particular one,” Looney said of his fondest memory. “Working with young men day in and day out was the highlight for me. That’s what I enjoyed the most — getting out there in practice and enjoying the quality young men I worked with.”
Looney enjoyed working with players so much, he came back as an assistant coach this past season under Tom Holton, who was Looney’s assistant for over 20 years himself.
“I had the itch,” said Looney of the reason for his return to the sidelines. “I was out for two years, and I kind of missed being around the coaches and the players. I was really fired up going into last year, and I hope I helped (coach Tom Holton) out a little bit.”
As a matter of fact, coach Holton played a pivotal role in getting Looney into the OHSFCA Hall of Fame. He nominated Looney and started the process. He also introduced him at the banquet on Friday night.
“Tom and I are great friends,” Looney said. “Over the years, we’ve developed a real solid friendship. It was through his initiative and friendship that got me inducted in the hall of fame. He has meant a lot to me.”
As Looney stated, he never did any of the things he did for the glory of himself. He simply wanted to make his players the best they could be. So when he was chosen to be a member of the hall, it was a little mind-boggling.
“This never entered my mind at all,” said Looney. “Then, about a year ago, I got a call saying I had been selected.”
One of the biggest reasons to which Looney attributes his success was the community involvement. Coming from a rival school (Danville), Looney was embraced with open arms.
“The community gave me a lot of support,” said Looney. “There are some lean times, especially when I first started, and they stuck with me. I really made a lot of good friends throughout the community. There are a great bunch of people.”
Now that he is in the OHSFCA Hall of Fame, Looney will ride off into the sunset, right? Hardly. He plans to stick around a little while longer.
“As long as Tom feels he needs me and I am able, I will coach,” said Looney.