By Greg Gulas
In his 23rd year as Ohio Athletic Conference commissioner, Youngstown’s Tim Gleason has been very busy keeping up with successes enjoyed this past winter by league members.
Addressing the Curbstone Coaches during Monday’s weekly luncheon meeting at Luciano’s Banquet Center, the Chaney High School graduate said remaining visible and available to league members has been a top priority since taking over the league’s top post in 1991.
“I like to say that the Ohio Athletic Conference is a place where tradition meets opportunity,” Gleason said. “We use our rich history to cultivate the dreams of tomorrow.
I fell in love with the OAC when I was working for the National Athletics Directors Association,” Gleason said. “I went to a volleyball tournament and saw student-athletes in their uniforms carrying English and chemistry books.
“Between matches they were studying in the stands and I thought to myself that this is it; this is what college athletics was always meant to be like.”
There are 10 Division III liberal arts colleges and universities in Ohio that comprise the OAC.
With approximately 22,000 students enrolled at those institutions, about 5,550 are athletes that compete on the varsity level.
“Our classrooms are small so that individual attention can be paid to every student,” Gleason said. “You can’t get lost in the OAC and you’re not a computer number.
“Everyone knows everyone from students to faculty to staff,” Gleason said. “In many ways, being an athlete on either the high school or college level helps young men and women become better members of the work force.
“The lessons that our young men and women learn in their respective arenas and stadiums are carried with them long after their eligibility is completed.”
Gleason pointed out that the league, founded in Cleveland in 1902, included Ohio State University as one of its original six members.
“The Buckeyes lost their first football game, 88-0 back in 1902 and would depart in 1922 for what is now the Big Ten Conference, yet they cared about so much about our league that they continued to pay dues until 1969,” Gleason said. “They stopped paying dues after their Rose Bowl victory that year.”
The NCAA, which was founded in 1906, used the OAC as its model when adopting many of its rules and regulations, including, but not limited to amateurism.
Many of those policies and regulations remain in place.
At the conclusion the 2013 NFL season, no less than seven former OAC gridders were still featured on league rosters, four from Mount Union. Heidelberg, Ohio Northern and John Carroll also were represented.
“Athletics teaches character and when you have your priorities in order, you’ll always be the best you can be both in the classroom and on the field of play,” Gleason said. “Winning or losing, being part of a team and striving to do your best are all lessons that carry over into your professional life.”
Gleason, who has lived in Mineral Ridge the past 20 years, remains busy outside his office by volunteering to work the chain gang, serving as public address announcer for girls’ basketball and timer for Mineral Ridge High School track and field home contests.
“Athletics is both my vocation and avocation and I try to help the Rams’ athletic department as much as possible,” he said.