The change coincides with a critical transition phase.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
BOARDMAN -- Jim Fox set the foundation in a new era for Boardman High athletics. It's now up to Dave Smercansky to develop that department.
A changing of the guard is about to take place within the athletic walls at Boardman during a critical time of transition.
Fox will end a 36-year run in education, the past 30 at Boardman, when he steps down in June. In will step Smercansky, a former coach and Fox's assistant the past two years.
"There's always a question when you get closer to retirement," said Fox, who will turn 58 Monday, Boardman's athletic director the past five years.
"It's not that I couldn't be in this job another five or 10 years, the way I feel," he said. "But how many good years do I have left?"
Wife's retirement: Fox wants to take advantage of his good health and retire about the same time as his wife, Joan, a teacher at Canfield. They also want to spend more time with their sons, Jamie and Joel. Jamie is at Duke Medical School, while Joel is an account executive in Columbus.
"My wife has one more year to go," Fox said. "It would be nice to go out at the same time. We discussed our timetable and how to do this."
Smercansky, 44, who led the Boardman baseball team to a state runner-up finish in 1991, will take over after having learned from Fox the past two years.
"So many things are going on in a high school athletic office. Organization is absolutely necessary," Smercansky said. "Jim Fox was my mentor. Right off the bat, I saw his organizational skills."
Smercansky, a Poland native who played baseball at Youngstown State, believes the decision-making process will be made easier by his coaching career and the time he spent as Fox's assistant.
"You want to make the right decisions for the athletic programs," he said. "When you make a decision, it needs to be in the best interest of the kids."
Fox's departure coincides with Boardman's decision to depart from the long-standing Steel Valley Conference and join the Stark County-based Federal League. It is a project on which Fox worked fervently in the latter stages of his career.
Relationship advantages: "Another person should be here to build those relationships with the new ADs in the Federal League and make the transition more smoothly," said Fox, who has gotten to know the Stark County leaders through their discussion.
Smercansky will leave a teaching career in economics, government and global studies.
"First and foremost, we want to make sure our transition into the Federal League is smooth, because there might be some bumps in the road," Smercansky said.
Also on Smercansky's agenda is the expansion of sports facilities, including an addition of an auxiliary gymnasium and renovation of the football stadium.
"I want to continue to build the athletic programs," said Smercansky, who will hire an assistant in the summer. "Jim Fox left a legacy here, and I want to continue that."
Fox, a Boardman resident, will stay involved in the community and school. He is a member of the Boardman Rotary and Booster clubs and plans to help with various projects.
His best advice for Smercansky: Have fun.
"If anybody knew how much fun I have every day," Fox said, "they would have stopped paying me a long time ago."