By Joe Scalzo
The former Ursuline High coach becomes the sixth coach in Cowboys history.
YOUNGSTOWN — Jim Vivo thought he was finished as a head football coach. Turns out, there was one job good enough to lure him back.
Vivo, a 1987 Chaney High graduate, was unanimously approved as the Cowboys’ next head coach at Tuesday’s board of education meeting.
“This is the only place I’d ever come back for,” said Vivo, who has been the athletic director at Coventry High School since 2007. “It’s personal to me because I went to school there and I want it to be successful again.”
Vivo was at the peak of his profession in 2000 when he led Ursuline to the Division IV state title — the first in school history.
He left Ursuline after the 2001 season to take the job at Westerville North but didn’t last the season. Since then, he’s taught at Green High School (2003-05) and served as the athletic director at Hubbard (2005-07) and Coventry.
Vivo replaces Jim Protopapa, who went 3-27 in three seasons at Chaney. Protopapa also has moved around quite a bit over the last decade, serving as head coach at four high schools since 2000.
Chaney has historically been a stable coaching stop, with just four other coaches in its 83-year history: Ches McPhee (1926-1953), Louis “Red” Angelo (1954-1970), Ed Matey (1971-1986) and Ron Berdis (1987-2006).
When asked if he plans to stay at Chaney for the long haul, Vivo said, “I hope to be. This is my 17th year [as an educator] and I’d like to finish. I’ve got 18 [years] or 13 [years] left.
“This is home.”
Vivo, who will earn $7,800 as the Cowboys’ coach, was one of three outside finalists for the position after no candidates inside the district applied for the job. A search committee interviewed all three, then recommended Vivo. He will finish the school year at Coventry but said he hopes to land a job as a teacher or administrator in the city next year.
“I like to be in the school, where I can have a really big impact,” he said.
Vivo said he’s going into the job with his eyes wide open, realizing the school is struggling on the field (the Cowboys went 1-9 last fall) and off it (the district ranks last in the state academically).
Some of the problems came from absorbing Wilson’s students after the school closed in 2007, Vivo said. He plans to get involved at the lower levels to build up the program’s numbers and wants to establish a better offseason weightlifting program.
“Obviously we’ve got to build relationships with the kids,” he said. “They’ve got to know we care about them. Those things go a long way in your success.
“I’m sure there’s kids in the hallways that should be playing. And we’ve got to get to our low-level schools like Alpha and Volney and just make them realize we want them and hopefully improve the product on the field and get some interest back in the program, as it was back when I played.”
Vivo said he’s already reached out to some coaches to be part of next year’s staff, although he declined to name names. He said one of them is a Chaney grad who played with Vivo and has NFL experience, which points to former Steelers linebacker Jerry Olsavsky, who was not retained at YSU after Jon Heacock resigned.
One of the challenges for the previous coaching staff was solidifying the roster. Several players struggled with eligibility and the coaches were often unsure who would be playing until just before the season started. Another challenge was the schedule, which included games against Division I powers such as Warren Harding, Boardman and Fitch.
Although change won’t come overnight, Vivo said he doesn’t plan to wait before winning.
“It would be unfair to come in and tell seniors we want to win three years down the road,” he said. “We’re going to try to win every game we play.
“We understand the obstacles we have, the long road we have to haul. It’s going to be a work in process and I think our kids are going to work hard and leave it on the field and see what happens.”