Merle Venable Sports Complex has a certain ring to it
Our View Editorial
When we heard about the effort underway to name the sports complex at Baldwin High School after legendary BHS football coach Merle Venable, we were thrilled. What a great idea and something that is certainly fitting for one of Baldwin City’s true icons.
Anyone who has met Venable has certainly been captured by his character. What a character he is. For those who haven’t met him, that’s too bad.
While he is the epitome of Baldwin High football, with the glossy record, the state playoff appearances and the state title, he’s much more than just football. That’s evident by what his former players say about him and anyone, really, who’s shared any time with him, whether that’s in the classroom or elsewhere.
All you have to do to get a sense of that is to listen to Baldwin School Board Member Scott Lauridsen, who played for Venable and went on to a Division I college football career.
“Nobody mentions that they learned football from him,” Lauridsen said. “They learned all of these other things from him about how to succeed. He always challenged us to be successful in school and life. It was the kids who needed the most help who he identified with. The star players probably got less out of it than the other kids did.
“He cared about you more as a person than a player,” he said. “It’s just evident by how he’s kept in touch with all of his former players. He’s more proud of what they’ve done after they played for him than when they played for him. That’s what he loves the most. He cared about us as people and football just happened to be his language. He just happened to be really good at it.”
Wow. And this comes from someone we respect as much as anyone in Baldwin City. Do you need to hear more? If so, talk to any of his former players, many of them who are still around. They’ll tell you about him and they’re likely to tell one of the many colorful stories that surround the man.
We’re also certain in these budget-tight times, where school districts are having to cut funding to programs and even laying off faculty and staff, that this wouldn’t cost the district a dime. We’re sure the legion of Venable fans would gladly pony up to pay for any signage to commemorate the complex.
We applaud Lauridsen for bringing this idea to the school board. We think it’s truly one of those “no-brainers.” Venable deserves this honor, to be permanently linked with Baldwin High football. Because the Bulldogs have always played their games at Baker University’s Liston Stadium, which is in the Charlie Richard Sports Complex, named after another legendary football coach, it can’t be done there.
So, our only caveat is let’s make sure the Merle Venable Sports Complex includes the two football fields to the west of BHS. To only designate the complex north of the school, with its soccer field and track, simply wouldn’t be right. Although he also was a track coach, we can guarantee you he never spent a minute coaching soccer. Ever.
Let’s do this honor quickly and let’s do it right.