The Chaney graduate is in his 12th year as commissioner.
By JOHN KOVACH
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
TWINSBURG -- Youngstown native Tim Gleason enjoys the distinction of being commissioner of the Ohio Athletic Conference as it celebrates its 100th year of existence.
But Gleason, a 1973 Chaney High graduate who lives in Mineral Ridge, happens to be more than just a prominent figurehead of a popular 10-college league at the pinnacle of its development and success.
Entering his 12th year as the OAC's first full-time commissioner, Gleason's strong leadership abilities within the OAC and nationally have prepared the 1902-born league to enter the 21st century as a first-class collegiate circuit.
And now the ambitious leader is determined to lead the conference to even greater heights, while it celebrates a century of existence with festive events planned throughout the 2002-2003 school year.
First game outside U.S.
"We played the first college football game ever staged outside the U.S in Heidelberg, Germany. That was a pretty monumental event in 1992 -- Heidelberg College vs. Otterbein," said Gleason about what he considers to be his "signature" innovation among many of his highlights. "It was the first time a U.S. college had a regular-season game outside the U.S."
What the progressive Gleason envisions for the OAC's future is more television exposure.
"I'd like to see some of our games on television. I think with continued growth [of] cable and satellite TV, there is a place for us, and one of my goals is to find that place. It is very ambitious goal," he said.
In between 1990 and the present, Gleason also directed the OAC's transition to expanded women's intercollegiate sports, and oversaw the league's creation of a website and connection to the internet.
"The women's programs in our league have blossomed in the last 10 years to be among the elite of the nation. I came in here and I made certain that we gave every opportunity to women that we were giving to men," he said.
"We were one of the first conferences to have an active website in the early '90s."
Paved way for others
Gleason's involvement in national intercollegiate organizations has paved the way for others in the OAC to follow.
"Now we have 18 coaches and athletic directors on national committees, which is a very significant involvement in national leadership. I got my people involved in their destiny," he said, noting that prior to his arrival no one from the OAC was serving on a national committee.
Gleason also must handle the day-to-day tasks of scheduling OAC league games, interpreting rules and coordinating officiating.
He is assisted by information director Julie Work of Parma and secretary Susie Ferek of Hudson.
"Julie does the yeoman's work on the media guides. She should get all the credits for all the public relations and press releases," he said.
Realized fate at Chaney
Gleason credits his experiences at Chaney High for helping to set the foundation for his career.
"John Remias was the basketball coach and John DiRienzo was the track coach, and I ran track and was a JV basketball player. I was a real bad athlete and so I knew that if I wanted to remain in sports it was not as a participant but as an administrator, and I enjoyed what they taught me," recalled Gleason, who went on to graduate from St. Thomas (Fla.) University with a degree in sports management.
He became familiar with the national level of intercollegiate sports over a span of 11 years prior to joining the OAC. He first served as promotions and statistical coordinator with the NCAA national office from 1980-83, then spent eight years as assistant executive director of the College Athletic Directors Association in Cleveland.
Gleason said the OAC will begin celebrating its centennial year Aug. 5 with a grand kickoff dinner at the Columbus Easton Hilton, as part of the annual OAC Football Media Day festivities the next day at the same site. He said the OAC will introduce a new OAC logo and redesigned website at the dinner.
Then on Oct. 10, each member school will celebrate the actual birth date of the OAC with birthday cakes made by the respective food services.
Gleason said the OAC's centennial milestone is impressive when placed in historic perspective.
"We are the third conference to reach 100 years. The first was the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association [in 1888], and the Big Ten [Conference], which was originally called the Western Conference, [followed in 1895]," said Gleason, pointing out that the three leagues came into being before the NCAA did in 1906.