Congratulations Coach Mihalik

MihalikMany years ago, I earned a living as a sports reporter. I covered Little League to the Major Leagues. Traveled with the Pittsburgh Steelers and reported on a Stanley Cup run for the Pens.

Wanting to further my education, I headed off to Clarion University in 1991 to earn a master’s degree. An assistantship in the sports information department paid for my graduate schooling.

In both jobs, I spent a great deal of time around professional, college and high school coaches. Just like any line of work, only a handful excelled. And of those who prospered on the field, some of their antics off the field left a lot to be desired.

On December 9, a true role model both on and off the field, called it a career. And Butler County, the Commonwealth and even the nation will forever feel the void.

Dr. George Mihalik, football coach at Slippery Rock University since 1988, announced his retirement after 28 seasons. Coach Mihalik ended with a 197-111-4 record, won eight conference titles, and made six trips to the NCAA playoffs. This season, he led the Rock to a 12-2 record. Just as important, Dr. Mihalik taught as a full professor in SRU’s department of safety management.

Since moving back to western Pennsylvania in 1999, our family has resided in Slippery Rock. We love the community. In our 16 years as residents, never once have I heard a bad word about Coach Mihalik.

Actually, the same can be said for his wife, Laura. My better half works in the Grove City Area School District, where Mrs. Mihalik taught for many years. Although since retired, Tammy tells me Mrs. Mihalik’s reputation is stellar.

Win or lose, I never sensed a difference in Coach when we talked. His love for his University, where he spent 44 of the last 45 years, was always evident.

Funny thing is, I realized Coach Mihalik’s class long ago. Back in 1992, George’s fifth year as head coach, Clarion traveled to the Rock for a key Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Western Division match-up. I made the trip as Assistant SID. In the end, Clarion beat SRU on its way to a PSAC West Conference title.

Following the game, I had the unenviable task of getting some quotes from the losing coach (never an easy chore). Coach Mihalik’s composure, respect and dignity in the way he responded to the questions of a long-haired, 25-year-old graduate student is something I still recall today.

Congratulations on a great career, Coach Mihalik. Your impact will never be forgotten.

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