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Kovach's legacy lives



Published: Mon, May 14, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The late track coach will be honored through a scholarship fund.

By BRIAN RICHESSON

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

YOUNGSTOWN -- With Frank Kovach, there were no limits. He expected the best from his students and athletes, then wanted more.

"He didn't let you put your head in the clouds. He was vocal and aggressive and I loved it," said Clyde Morgan, who ran on Kovach's track and field team at Chaney High.

Clyde's brother, Marco, was one of the best hurdlers in the country.

"Marco ran the best time in the country, and Kovach is like, 'What is that?' " said Clyde. "I'll never forget the look on Marco's face."

Clyde, 25, has Kovach's voice engraved in his memory, the constant chants of "Morgan!" during his run around the track.

"He would always tell you to run for yourself," said Clyde, now an assistant coach in track and football at Thiel College. "When he would say your name around the track, you would keep that [idea] in the back of your mind."

In remembrance: The memories are all Clyde and the Chaney community have now. Kovach passed away last December from a heart attack; the 54-year-old Youngstown native had been grading papers in his home.

Kovach's legacy will live through a scholarship fund set up with the help of Chaney athletic director Jim Mullally.

"Frank was a guy that didn't want the love, he wanted respect," Mullally said, "and I believe he got respect from a lot of people."

Kovach is remembered for the care he gave his students and athletes and the expectations he had for them in the classroom and on the playing field.

"The kids really liked him," said Norman Traynor, who coached baseball and track with Kovach for nearly 14 years. "He was tough on them, there's no doubt about that. But he had their best interest at heart.

"He wasn't a person to brag about it," Traynor said. "He did it for the kids; he didn't do it for the publicity."

In the beginning: Kovach was born Aug. 24, 1946, in Youngstown and was a lifelong resident.

After attending Cardinal Mooney High, Kovach graduated from Cincinnati's St. Gregory Seminary in 1964. He received his bachelor's degree from Youngstown State and his master's degree from Westminster College.

In addition to coaching track and field at Chaney, Kovach taught honors history. His 32-year career began at South High.

"Times have changed, but Frank never did," said Ed Matey, former football coach and athletic director at Chaney. "There was a right way and a wrong way; he expected you to do it the right way."

Kovach, who never married, learned track and field as an assistant coach under John DiRienzo. It didn't take DiRienzo long to see that Kovach had a future in the sport.

"There's so much to learn in track and field, and he just readily assumed the knowledge in every one of the events," DiRienzo said. "He probably had better organizational skills than I did. He was able to assume the complete picture of what had to be done -- a natural for a head coach."

Once Kovach assumed the head coaching duties, he took full advantage of the position.

"There are some track coaches who do the minimum and not really go that extra yard," said John Jeren Jr., meet manager of the Poland Invitational. "During the indoor season, I would go to Kent State for an indoor track meet and I'd see Frank there.

"He'd say he had a young boy who has some potential and he just wanted to give him some taste of competition."

Making an impact: The funeral home was a busy place when Kovach passed away. Kovach's brother, George, recalls the seemingly endless line that came through the door.

George was fortunate to hear the many stories of how his brother influenced former students and athletes, motivated them and led them to life successes.

"Frank was the type of person who would take 10 kids that needed shoes or a winter coat out to the mall and pick up the tab," George said. "That was his family and that's who he took care of."

richesson@vindy.com




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