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Baranek: Two Southland athletic directors making gracious exits

04/14/2014, 8:59pm CDT
By Tony Baranek |

Andrew’s Rich Piatchek and Stagg’s Bob Fabrizio have spent a combined 78 years in high school sports. At the end of the school year, the two best friends will be closing out their careers together.

As fellow athletic directors and best friends, Andrew’s Rich Piatchek and Stagg’s Bob Fabrizio have had their share of debates over the years.

One thing they’ve never argued about, however, is who is the better golfer.

“Mr. Piatchek is undefeated in any type of golf against me,” Fabrizio said. “I’m dangerous. There isn’t a course I can’t hit a ball out of it.”

“Bob doesn’t keep score,” Piatchek said, laughing. “Therefore it’s easy. Winning isn’t important to him. He plays for the fun of it.”

For a combined 78 years, they’ve done their jobs for the love of it. At the end of the school year they’ll be closing out their careers together.

District 230 is replacing two good men.

“We talked about this four years ago,” Fabrizio said. “We just thought, based upon all of the various circumstances — contractually, our ages — we would probably go four more. We felt it was time.”

Fabrizio’s career in education began in 1974. After he graduated from North Park College he was hired as a teacher and a football and baseball coach at St. Laurence.

“It was a wonderful place to start,” Fabrizio said. “I had wonderful mentors in football [Tom Kavanagh and Mike O’Neill]. Chuck Schwarz was also the basketball coach, and he was a tremendous influence on young teachers and coaches.”

Fabrizio produced state football playoff teams at St. Laurence in 1986 and ’87. He left St. Laurence in 1988 to become the baseball coach and assistant football coach and recruiter at Elmhurst College. He came to Stagg as an assistant dean of students and an assistant football coach in 1993, and for the past 14 years has served as the athletic director.

“I’ve been blessed being in this profession,” Fabrizio said. “I couldn’t ask to be around nicer people. Stagg is just a great community. All of the bosses I’ve had here have been very supportive of everything we wanted to do. I never really say I’m going to work. I say I’m going to school.”

In fall 2005, Fabrizio was diagnosed with throat cancer. By the following March he was back at Stagg for some half days, and returned to his duties full-time that fall.

“It was a challenge,” Fabrizio said. “There were a team of doctors who got together. My wife [Maureen] was so supportive, as were all of my family and friends.”

One of them was fellow educator and coach Missy Mason, who endured her own battle with cancer and today also stands as a survivor.

Piatchek’s teaching and coaching career began in 1975 at Fairbury Cropsey High School, known today as Prairie Central. After three years he went home to his alma mater Sacred Heart-Griffin, where he was the track and baseball coach.

He came to the Southland in 1985, where for 17 years at Hillcrest he taught physics and math, coached baseball and eventually became the athletic director. He was instrumental in upgrading the Hillcrest Holiday Classic girls basketball tournament.

Piatchek has been the face of Andrew athletics for the past 12 years, an athletic director who shows support for the programs by his presence at events as much as coordinating them. He also works for the IHSA at its most prestigious tournaments.

He followed his calling.

“I never thought about anything else,” Piatchek said. “One of my teachers at Griffin said I had a good knack for working with people. I loved being a teacher and being an educator. I still miss being in the classroom. Any time you get to work with kids, it’s really sort of special.

“When the time comes at the end of May I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do. I’m going to be lost for a while.”

Mike Dwyer will replace Piatchek at Andrew, while Terry Treasure was named Fabrizio’s successor at Stagg.

Guys, the bar has been set.

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