Homewood-Flossmoor's Ken Shultz is a Hall of Famer

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Homewood-Flossmoor's Ken Shultz is a Hall of Famer

In his 26 years as a high school administrator, Ken Shultz experienced two embarrassing moments--when an unknowing groundskeeper painted a coach's box behind second base and when he was hosting a regional soccer tournament, turned on a recording of the National Anthem and realized he had forgotten to raise the American flag.

But the crowning achievement of his career was when he orchestrated the first random drug testing program for student-athletes at a high school in the United States.

Even if he hadn't accomplished anything else, that alone is enough to earn the retired athletic director at Homewood-Flossmoor a spot in the fourth Hall of Fame class of the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA).

Shultz will be one of 10 athletic directors to be inducted on Dec. 18 during banquet festivities at the 43rd annual National Athletic Directors Conference at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas.

"When I got a letter from the National Federation, I was surprised," said Shultz, who retired in 2005 and is living in Leesburg, Florida. "You go through a career and do your job and hope you do it to the best of your ability. But you don't think about awards.

"It is very humbling to be recognized by your peers. But this award wouldn't have been possible without H-F, the Illinois Athletic Directors Association and the NIAAA. All of those things go into an award like this, not something I did. You have to have a lot of opportunities in your career."

Shultz made the most of his opportunities. He served as president of the Illinois Athletic Directors Association for one year and served on the organization's board of directors for nine years. At H-F, he supervised 28 varsity sports and 1,400 athletes, 120 coaches, the intramural program involving 1,500 participants, 100 extra-curricular clubs involving 2,000
students, dances, proms, homecomings and a 1 million budget.

But he will be remembered most of all for his courageous decision to launch a random drug-testing program for student-athletes at H-F, only the second school in the country to do it. And he can thank former football coach John Wrenn for that.

"He (Wrenn) came to me and said: 'I have kids I suspect are using illegal substances. I can't prove it but they need help. We need a way to identify kids who need help.' It wasn't a witch hunt or a punitive program. It was a way to help children," Shultz said.

So Shultz, Wrenn and other coaches and staff members spent about five months doing research and putting a plan together. They talked to doctors, hospitals, parents, even the ACLU. "All the coaches were on board but we had to sell the community," Shultz said.

They did the first drug test on Jan. 16, 1990. H-F received national publicity. Shultz appeared on many news outlets, including "The Today Show" and "Good Morning America" and other national news networks.

"Each week, we selected 30 kids at random," he said. "The program was designed to help kids, to help them reject peer pressure. We put it in place for 10 drugs and steroids. It still is in place today. It has lasted the test of time. And there have been no lawsuits. We did it right.

"We helped some kids. It is a good program for H-F. Most people think they can take care of drug issue through education and health classes. But people don't own up to the fact that they have a problem. This program also takes pressure off parents. But you have to commit to the program. Some schools have to live off gate receipts so a drug program is too expensive."

A graduate of Valley High School in West Des Moines, Iowa, in 1966, Shultz participated in cross-country, basketball, baseball and track. He majored in physical education at the University of Illinois, graduating in 1970 and obtaining his masters degree in 1971.

"I wanted to coach," he said. "I had outstanding coaches in high school who were role models. I wanted to be a PE teacher and coach."

He married Kathy, his high school sweetheart, after his freshman year at Illinois and she worked to help him get through school.

He taught and coached at Western Illinois University for two years, then coached at Morris High School for six years. While at Morris, he got turned off to coaching and decided that sports administration would be a better career path.

"At Morris, I got the idea of what it is like to be a not-so-desirable athletic director," he said. "Coaches had to do their own scheduling, budgets, raise money, busing. After six years, I realized that is what an athletic director does. It whet my appetite for getting into athletic administration."

Shultz obtained his certificate and was hired as associate athletic director under John Stanley at H-F. After two years, he knew that he wanted to be an athletic director. But he had to pay his dues. He went to North Olmstead, Ohio, as district athletic director. After two years, he returned to H-F. He had his dream job. He never left again.

The key to being a successful athletic director, someone who is involved with the most visible aspects of everything that goes on at one of the state's most prestigious high schools?

"Surround yourself with good people," Shultz said. "You have to delegate things. You can't be everywhere 247. You get people who like kids. Then the programs will thrive. We always had good facilities. Coaches see that as a great plus. I tried to provide an environment where coaches can be successful and then get out of their way, allow them to coach kids and deal with kids."

According to Shultz, there are two kinds of leadership--management and leadership. A manager makes sure the buses show up and officials show up and arranges for the scheduling of events. But leadership is the inter-action of coaches and people.

"You have to be a good listener, a problem-solver," he said. "At my retirement party, (basketball coach) Roy Condotti said I was Mr. Problem-Solver. He said: 'When I came to him with a problem he fund a way to solve it.' I appreciated that comment more than anything else, that a coach had confidence to come to me. You have to be able to communicate to coaches."

His philosophy? To expand opportunities for student-athletes. The first thing he did when he was hired at H-F was to add seven sports. He had\ orientation meetings for kids and parents. He organized 96 teams in 28 sports, including freshman A, B and C squads.

"If you can't find something outside the classroom, you aren't looking," he said. "I cringe at specialization. I understand a coach's position. But a 5-foot-8 freshman basketball player might be 6-foot-5 as a junior. I believe you should let kids have an opportunity to enjoy all sports. They will choose their favorite sport by themselves as a junior."

But winning is important. "I would be lying if I said it wasn't," he said. He fired eight coaches in 22 years. But it wasn't so much because they were 0-9 but because they couldn't relate to their kids.

"You get a good barometer from the athletes," Shultz said. "I popped in at practices to see how things were going. I looked at how kids were reacting in practice, their energy, whether they were listening, if there was good communication, if they were treating each other with respect.

"I had to release some coaches with good records who didn't interact with kids. A coachathlete relationship is most important. Are kids enjoying their experience? You will lose them if they aren't having fun.

"An athletic director has to be pro-active. His job is so intense. You end up being reactive. You can't anticipate everything. But the longer you are in the profession, you can see if something is leading down the wrong road."

What about parents? Some cynical, longtime coaches argue that high school sports would be a wonderful experience--without parents. Shultz understands their frustration. But the reality of the situation--parents won't go away--means an athletic director must find a way to deal with the issue. Or it will become an issue.

"You have to channel their energies in a positive direction," he said. "In 26 years, I saw parents become more involved. They have a big investment in their kids...off-season competition, college scholarships. The first thing is to get the parents on your side."

Shultz organized "Meet the Coach Night," a series of preseason meetings between coaches and parents. "Parents can be your greatest advocate. You have to communicate with them. Don't be afraid to talk to parents. A coach has to have a thick skin. The worst thing is to shut out the parents. They can be a great support element for the programs," he said.

At H-F, Shultz said parents were involved. They wanted to hear about training rules, the random drug testing program and coaching rules.

"We did a good job of bridging the gap between parents and coaches," he said. "You must embrace the job. You must have a passion for the job. It is a journey. I enjoyed the challenges each day. You never know what will happen each day. There is always the unexpected each day. Every day isn't a great day. But as you go through that adversity, you will be stronger.

"It isn't a job that anyone can do. What do you need to do to be successful? You must be organized. You have to be a good communicator and problem-solver. And you have to have a good secretary. So many people look at the job as a destination. But it is a journey."

Today, Shultz enjoys life in his retirement community 40 miles north of Orlando, south of Ocala. He plays golf, works out and swims in the pool every day.

"But," he said with certainty, "there is nothing to get the juices going like going into an athletic director's job every day and not knowing what will happen, what challenges you will face that day."

Road Ahead: Tough tests for Cubs with Pirates, Nationals looming

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Road Ahead: Tough tests for Cubs with Pirates, Nationals looming

CSN's Kip Lewis and Tony Andracki talk about the big tests the Cubs have this week against the Pirates in Pittsburgh and then against the Washington Nationals back at Wrigley Field in this week's edition of the Honda Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana Honda dealers.

The Cubs head to PNC Park for the first time since Jake Arrieta shut down the Pirates in the one-game wild card playoff last October. Only this time, the Cubs will have to get to Gerrit Cole and Co. without Kyle Schwarber, who drove in three runs in that game.

The Pirates are one of the hottest teams in baseball entering the series having won six of seven (with Sunday's 6-5 loss to the Cincinnati Reds breaking up the winning streak). 

After Cole in the series opener on Comcast SportsNet on Monday night, the Bucs trot out Jonathan Niese on Tuesday and Juan Nicasio on Wednesday (also on CSN).

The Cubs counter with Jason Hammel, Arrieta and Jon Lester in the three-game series. That trio has combined to allow just 13 earned runs in 94 1/3 innings this season, good for a ridiculous 1.24 ERA.

The Cubs then welcome the Nationals to town Thursday night for the start of a four-game series with Bryce Harper and Co.

Draft hellos and Sunday farewells on CSN's 'Draft Central'

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Draft hellos and Sunday farewells on CSN's 'Draft Central'

What was handwriting on the wall became official pink slips Sunday for two veterans regarded as leaders during the bumpy first-year regime of Ryan Pace and John Fox. The general manager and head coach, though, are all business when it comes to what’s turned into a high-speed turnover of their roster.

Safety Antrell Rolle and guard Matt Slauson were released early Sunday evening. Both had already hit the dreaded 30-year-old mark, but neither was sabotaging the team’s salary cap situation. Rolle, in fact, had used up all his guaranteed money following a disappointing first year of a three-year deal. He was limited to just seven games in his debut Bears season, but even when he was on the field, his struggles appeared to offset what leadership he might have brought to the defense. Slauson, on the other hand, was a savior on a taped-together offensive line that first moved Kyle Long to right tackle the week before the regular season, lost left tackle Jermon Bushrod to a back injury, lost center Will Montgomery to a broken lower leg in Week 4 and got substandard play at right guard from Vladimir Ducasse and Patrick Omameh. After his own injury-shortened 2014, Slauson was the glue in 2015. But whispers about his lack of athleticism at this stage of his career followed the signings of veterans Manny Ramirez and Ted Larsen in free agency, and Friday’s second-round selection of Cody Whitehair turned up the volume in that rumor mill.

There’s been no indication from Pace, Alshon Jeffery, Long or the agents of those players that these moves coincide with long-term contract extensions for both, which can be front-loaded with guaranteed money given the Bears’ comfortable salary cap situation right now. It would certainly provide a better clue but won’t necessarily wind up being the answer. Conspiracy theorists will say the team will try to extend Long at guard money before switching him to the more lucrative right tackle position. But all of Long’s public comments since the signing of free agent right tackle Bobby Massie point toward a desire to stay put. Pace’s reluctance to clarify that over the weekend provides the sense yet another move for Long could be coming — like it or not, kid.

This is the crossroads draft for Pace’s long-term vision. The much-debated selection of Leonard Floyd outside of Halas Hall is met with a swagger inside that the coaching staff will make him well worth the No. 9 overall pick and that he won’t be the next Shea McClellin. It’s a confident group inside the Hall’s walls right now. Now the hard part: putting their belief into results on the field. Or maybe they think the hard part already took place the past two months in acquiring the pieces they have and that the next part will just happen.

We’ll have much more on the Sunday moves, as well as those from Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 10:30 p.m. tonight on Comcast SportsNet's hour-long edition of "SportsNet Central: Draft Central." Jim Miller, Dave Wannstedt and Pro Football Weekly’s Hub Arkush join me in studio to further discuss the draft picks and the moves that followed.

Bears signing Brian Hoyer a statement bigger than just a backup QB

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Bears signing Brian Hoyer a statement bigger than just a backup QB

The signing of Brian Hoyer was just another margin note to another NFL Draft weekend. But of all the moves made by the Bears this weekend, none might have made any clearer mission statement than the addition of this 30-year-old (31 in October) backup quarterback who is on his fifth team in the last six years and had winning records as a starter with his last two but might be remembered as the only quarterback to lose his job to Johnny Manziel.

For one thing, the last time the Bears signed a backup quarterback from Michigan State was in the late 1990s when they became the fifth team for Jim Miller, who sat behind Shane Matthews and Cade McNown before rescuing the 2001 season and taking the Bears to the playoffs.

And that in fact appears to be the plan with Hoyer, that if something befalls Jay Cutler, the Bears will not spiral down the way they did in 2011, when Caleb Hanie let a 7-3 start turn into an 8-8 playoff miss after a Cutler injury.

Because, whether skeptics agree or not, the Bears do in fact see the 2016 playoffs as very much within reach.

Privately the internal expectations for 2015 were exponentially higher than the way the season played out, vindicated in some measure by five losses by four or fewer points and one on an overtime touchdown with a roster that lost two of its three wide receivers (Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal) for seven games each, their projected No. 1 draft pick (Kevin White) for all 16, virtually all of their projected top defensive linemen and being physically without their No. 1 tight end (Martellus Bennett) for five games.

A team resigned to any sort of rebuilding mode typically does not take developmental time away from a quarterback prospect and put a veteran No. 2 in place ahead of him, not unless there are lofty expectations in the short term. And Hoyer was signed for one year while the Bears ignored the quarterback position in the draft.

This is in the vein of the Bears’ securing Brian Griese in 2006 to back up Rex Grossman despite the distinguished rookie season turned in by Kyle Orton that ended in the playoffs. It was there in acquiring Todd Collins as a veteran behind Cutler in 2010 despite some seeming promise in Hanie; in Josh McCown for the 2013 season; even in Fox and the organization choosing to re-sign Jimmy Clausen last offseason, a quarterback familiar to Fox and a former No. 2 draft choice. Those teams didn’t accomplish their goals, but the plan was there.

The 2012 Denver Broncos under Fox did bring in Hanie to back up Peyton Manning (who hadn’t missed a game in 13 years before his 2011 neck issues). But they also invested a No. 2 pick in Brock Osweiler, who was Manning’s backup through this season. The Bears don’t draft quarterbacks high, none higher than the fourth round since 2003, which does explain some things, but that’s a topic for another time.

Veteran journeymen don’t necessarily come even close to working out. But the intention is clear: Development is always good, but not at the expense of what is considered a promising present, particularly with a starting quarterback at his best at age 33, and not at the risk of precipitous backsliding if that backup is needed.

Hoyer does not pose a job challenge to Cutler; he wasn’t signed to push Cutler. And no member of the 2016 draft class was going to, either. Early last offseason, Fox and Ryan Pace pointedly withheld any “he’s our quarterback” sentiments. This offseason, both have been so clearly pleased with Cutler’s performance and personal makeup, it was amply apparent that Connor Cook, Kevin Hogan, Paxton Lynch or any other member of this draft class was a challenger. If the Bears weren’t pleased with their starting quarterback, they could have traded well back in Round 1 and taken Lynch long before the Broncos did.

Fox and Pace subscribe to under-predicting and over-producing. But their actions have the feel of a very strong expectation.