Remembering Tom Mitchell


Remembering Tom Mitchell

When I learned that former Brother Rice football coach Tom Mitchell had passed away on Tuesday of an apparent heart attack at 72, I immediately recalled the first time I saw him. It was a snapshot of the kind of man he was and how he always will be remembered.

It was 1968, my first year of reporting high school sports for the old Chicago Daily News, and I was covering a Catholic League football game at Gately Stadium on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

I was standing on the Brother Rice sideline when I was forced to make way for a white-haired, hard-boiled, shouting, screaming man whom I assumed at the time was head coach Tom Mitchell. He had something to say to every player on the field who was wearing a crimson jersey and it wasn't very complimentary, often profane.

Standing a few yards away from him was a much younger man whom I assumed at the time was an assistant coach. He barely said a word or blinked an eye.

"Boy, the head coach really gets excited, doesn't he?" I said to someone.

"Oh, he isn't the head coach. He's Joe Johnston," I was told.

Indeed it was. Joe Johnston was Brother Rice's longtime assistant. He was a gifted line coach who, despite his age, would think nothing of going one-on-one with his teenage linemen during practice. He helped three of them to go to Michigan on scholarship.

In 1981, when Brother Rice won a state championship, I watched from the press box at Northwestern's Dyche Stadium as Johnston joyfully ran around the field hoisting the big trophy as the players gleefully trailed behind.

The Quiet Man? That was Tom Mitchell. The last thing he would ever think of would be to run around a football field carrying a trophy. That wasn't him. In 30 years of coaching, what meant most to him wasn't the W's and L's or X's and O's, but his interaction with players and coaches.

"My mission was to develop kids to the best of their ability," Mitchell said. "At Brother Rice, we didn't get the bulk of talented kids. We had to work hard to maximize their ability. I felt I helped a lot of kids. It my job worthwhile.

"When I first started coaching, we existed in a league where schools gave out scholarships to talented players. We didn't have the privilege of that so many of our teams weren't as talented as the teams in our league. We didn't have the most talented team but no one ever out-worked us."

In 26 years as head coach, from 1967 to 1992, his teams posted a record of 170-95-1, a .641 winning percentage. His Crusaders won a state championship in 1981, beating Reavis 14-0, and finished second in 1985.

He also won three Prep Bowl championships in 1976, 1980 and 1992. He produced such outstanding players as Mark Donohue, Tom Coyle, David Diehl and Jerry Szara.

Mitchell, a consummate gentleman, was one of the mainstays in a golden era of Catholic League coaches in the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s that included St. Rita's Pat Cronin, Mendel's Lou Guida, Loyola's Bob Spoo, St. Laurence's Tom Kavanagh and Gordon Tech's Tom Winiecki.

A South Sider who played football at Mount Carmel, Mitchell always said the most fun he had in the coaching profession was to work with his players and his coaching staff, which included Johnston, Eddie Bara, John Langdan, Eddie Staron, Dennis Duffy, Dan Jocoby, Bill Gleeson and his son Tom, who played on his father's 1981 state championship team and later coached at the University of Chicago.

His other son, Tim, didn't play football but served as a statistician. He served as superintendent of the Chicago Park District from 2004 to 2011.

"Over the years there have been many great teams and excellent players that I've had the privilege of of coaching," Mitchell said. "They all had their own personality and it made coaching really special. But there was one constant in all the teams I coached. They all showed great work ethic and strong determination. They never gave up and always tried their hardest."

Donahue, a 1974 graduate who was a two-time All-America offensive lineman at Michigan and played two years in the NFL, recalled a recent reunion with Mitchell and former players.

"We were reminded of how great a coach and man Tom was," Donahue said. "It speaks volumes about a coach when former players reunite, hug and tell stories as if they had played together just yesterday. Coach was one of those guys who had the ability and cared enough to teach, coach and mentor many of us. What a special, special person. I am deeply grateful for having had Tom Mitchell as my coach."

CSN to air live coverage of the IHSA Football Playoff Pairing Show on October 22


CSN to air live coverage of the IHSA Football Playoff Pairing Show on October 22

CSN to carry LIVE announcement for every first round match-up on Saturday, October 22 at 8:00 PM CT; to also be streamed live on &

Bloomington, IL/Chicago, IL (October 19, 2016) -- The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Football Playoff Pairing Show returns to CSN Chicago for its sixth season in 2016. CSN Chicago, the home for the most games and the most comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs and White Sox, will air the show live from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. CT on Saturday, October 22.

The IHSA Football Playoff Pairing Show, which will reveal the brackets and first round match-ups of all 256 playoff qualifiers across eight classes, can also be viewed via live interactive stream on the internet at and

"The IHSA Football Playoff Pairing Show' continues to be one of the most highly-anticipated events in the state of Illinois and we couldn't be prouder to once again showcase two-straight hours of live, interactive coverage to our on-air and online viewers on Saturday night," said Phil Bedella, VP/GM of CSN Chicago.  "This show is the perfect precursor to kick off our IHSA Football season, which includes four live playoff battles, along with live coverage of all eight championship match-ups."

CSN anchor Leila Rahimi hosts the show and will be joined by a panel of experts on-set, including long-time IHSA TV announcer Dave Bernhard and Kankakee Daily Journal sportswriter and Illinois high school football bracketologist Steve Soucie. IHSA TV veteran Matt Rodewald will breakdown each class with media members from around the state, including CSN prep football expert “Edgy” Tim O’Halloran. Viewers are encouraged to interact with the show and ask questions to be answered during the program by utilizing the Twitter hashtag #IHSAbrackets.

The program will once again feature highlights, coaches interviews and media analysis from all over the state. In addition, CSN will be gathering teams & fan reaction moments throughout the “Land of Lincoln” on Saturday from numerous school playoff pairing parties taking place that evening.

“The Football Playoff Pairing Show on CSN Chicago is one of the most anticipated IHSA events of the year,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “As a former high school football coach in the state, I can vividly recall the excitement that built throughout the day as we waited to find out our playoff fate. We appreciate the time and effort that our partners at CSN Chicago put into making this night so special for the players and coaches.”

Saturday’s show also serves as a kick-off for the exciting IHSA Football Playoff action that CSN will carry throughout the 2016 postseason. CSN will air one playoff game live during each of the first four rounds of the playoffs (Oct. 28, Nov.  5, 12, 19), building up to CSN carrying the eight state championship games live on Friday and Saturday, November 25-26.

The pairings show will be distributed to Comcast SportsNet Chicago’s entire viewing territory. Viewers are urged to visit to find the exact channel locations in their area.

Recruiting News and Notes: Ryan O'Malley commits to Army

Recruiting News and Notes: Ryan O'Malley commits to Army

Ryan O'Malley (DT), Libertyville

Libertyville senior defensive tackle Ryan O'Malley (6-foot-4, 280 pounds) ended his recruiting process on Monday and gave Army his verbal commitment.

"I was really sold on West Point and academy life after my two unofficial visits," O'Malley said. "I just saw myself being at Army and being a part of the academy. After those two unofficial visits I knew I was ready to be a leader, an officer and setting myself up for a chance to be successful in life."

O'Malley initially verbally committed to Illinois, under then head coach Tim Beckman, but then had his scholarship pulled after Beckman's firing.

Joe Spivak (DT), Montini Catholic

Montini Catholic junior defensive tackle Joe Spivak (6-foot-1, 292 pounds) was able to make an unofficial visit to Princeton last weekend.

"I went out to Princeton this past weekend for an unofficial visit with Niko (Ivanisevic) from Hinsdale Central," Spivak said. "It was my first visit out East and I had a great time."

Spivak, who is holding ten scholarship offers and has steady interest from Northwestern and Missouri, isn't in any hurry to make his college choice.

"I'm going to Northwestern this Saturday for a gameday visit," Spivak said. "I'm still not sure on official visits or really which schools I'll visit to be honest. I have time right now before I make a decision."

[RELATED: Edgy Tim on why the IHSA 8A playoffs are going to be loaded]

Creo Argue Jr. (DE), Crete-Monee

Crete-Monee senior defensive end Creo Argue Jr. (6-foot-3, 225 pounds) has been playing terrific this season for head coach John Konecki.

"I've been talking lately with the coaches from Western Illinois, Southern Illinois, NIU, North Dakota State, North Dakota, Grand Valley State, Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan plus a lot of other smaller level schools," Argue Jr. said.

Argue Jr. has made unofficial visits to Grand Valley State, and also plans to visit Western Illinois.

Bron Hill (WR), TF South

TF South senior wide receiver Bron Hill (6-foot-5, 170 pounds) was known more for his exploits on the basketball court leading up to this season, but Hill has now broken the school record for touchdown catches (35 receptions, 700 yards, 10 TDs) and colleges have started to take notice.

Hill was able to make two recent college game visits to SIU and Illinois State, and is also drawing serious looks from Western Illinois, Eastern Illinois and South Dakota State..

Tyrik Henderson (DB), Glenbard North

Glenbard North junior defensive back Tyrik Henderson (5-foot-11, 170 pounds) was able to make a recent visit to Central Michigan.

"I visited Central Michigan a few weeks ago for the Ball State game," Henderson said. "It was a very fun visit. Central Michigan really had a lot of things to like. From the stadium to the fanbase it was just something special. They are really headed in the right direction and I had a great first visit."

Henderson, who has offers from Central Michigan, Missouri, Purdue, South Dakota State and Toledo, has also started to draw interest from Syracuse, Notre Dame and Michigan State. Henderson is hoping to visit both Syracuse and Notre Dame sometime this fall.