Archive for Thursday, March 17, 2011

Former coach lauded for devotion

John Hitchcock, Scott Lauridsen and Merle Venable share a laugh about the painting that was given to Venable by C.R. Herpich last Thursday. Hitchcock and Lauridsen were former football players for Venable.

John Hitchcock, Scott Lauridsen and Merle Venable share a laugh about the painting that was given to Venable by C.R. Herpich last Thursday. Hitchcock and Lauridsen were former football players for Venable.

March 17, 2011

Stories about him are many and most of them bring laughter, yet those who tell those stories get serious when they reflect on how Merle Venable touched the lives of Baldwin High School students.

His impact on USD 348 students was recognized last week at the Baldwin Education Foundation Luncheon.

The legendary BHS former football coach of 19 years was one of two guests at the annual fundraiser. The other was one of his former BHS football players and current chief test pilot for Boeing, Mike Carriker.

But it was another former player and current USD 348 Board of Education member Scott Lauridsen who spoke the most during the special dedication to Venable.

“That’s a tough act to follow,” Lauridsen said after taking the podium after Carriker. “The last time I saw Mike Carriker, he was a lot bigger than I remember. I was 12, and he was a childhood idol and still is as a private pilot. He gets to do things I wish I could do. So it’s great to see him.

“We’re here today to recognize an individual. Last fall, the board of education passed a resolution designating areas around the high school that are used for athletics as the Merle Venable Sports Complex. We really appreciate the willingness of the board to recognize the impact that Merle had for the district and the community.”

The school board unanimously approved in August the naming of the Merle Venable Sports Complex.

“I’ve had it written down,” Venable said at the luncheon. “I can think of no greater prize of being honored for courageous young men at Baldwin High School for 19 years. It was a great pleasure. Thank you very much.”

Several of Venable’s former players and members of his family attended the luncheon. One of those was John Hitchcock, who was the quarterback on the 1968 Bulldogs’ team that went undefeated, but didn’t win a state title in the days before the state playoffs.

“He was tough, but he had humor,” Hitchcock said. “He always had humor, even when he was chewing you out. You were a clown or a joker. I didn’t know my name was John for a long time. It’s those life lessons that stick with you for a long time.”

Carriker also spoke briefly about his former coach.

“It was his interest outside of football that made him great,” he said of Venable. “I always thought that was the greatest thing. One thing I’ve learned at Boeing is the best way to get the best results is to raise the water under every single boat. Every single boat floats higher if you raise the water. Merle did that. He raised everybody’s level up and made a better team.”

Lauridsen provided most of the memories about Venable. He began his dedication with a quick slide show of music and photos from Venable’s coaching era.

He continued by saying many people who weren’t in Baldwin City when Venable coached, 1966-1984, have asked him why honor Venable.

“It’s a fair question,” Lauridsen said. As you get to know him, you figure it out. To me, it really comes down to what he did and how he did it.”

He continued by explaining what Venable did at BHS.

“By any typical definition of a good coach, it’s usually how well did his teams perform,” Lauridsen said. “That’s the standard definition. I think he excelled in that area. He coached two undefeated teams and won a state title in 1981 and had several near misses in between.

“With that success and his colorful coaching style, he brought a lot of positive visibility to Baldwin High School. We were known across the state. Sportswriters everywhere loved to cover him.”

Lauridsen further explained how his former coach was able to have success and why he deserved to have BHS sports complex named in his honor.

“We’ve seen coaches who have the personnel, anyone can coach them and win,” Lauridsen said. “So how did he get 15-18 year olds to achieve well above their natural ability level? Anybody who played for him knows that’s what happened. He was so plugged into the local rumor mill, that somehow he had heard that an opposing player, coach or mayor of that town had somehow disrespected us in public. It was amazing that happened every week. He was so good at it; we bought it every week.

“We were forced to watch the portable record player be drug out while we were sitting in the gym waiting to go to the stadium. We were trying to concentrate on our upcoming game,and we were forced to listen to Tex Ritter sing the theme song from the 1953 movie ‘High Noon.’ He could relate that to what we had ahead of us.”

A clip of the song was played for the audience and laughter broke out at Stony Point Hall. The Venable dedication wrapped up with one final statement about his former coach.

“It’s clear to me, that his success and impact he had on the district were fundamentally due to one core trait — he cared about the kids,” Lauridsen said. “Bottom line, that’s it. It wasn’t just when you were playing for him, but what you were doing the rest of your life. He wanted to know, and he tried to impact it. Also, the ones that needed more, he gave more to them. That hasn’t changed to this day. He still cares.”

Patty Irick, BEF president, also spoke some kind words about Venable to end the luncheon last week.

“I cannot express the profound impact Mr. Venable had on my husband and myself,” she said. “You don’t have to be a football player to be impacted by Mr. Venable. He touched the lives of so many and I can’t think of anyone who deserves to be honored more than him.”


1776attorney 7 years, 1 month ago

This is a primary example of why the general and voting public of Baldwin City has such low regard and distrust for the school board, administration and all the related groups associated with our schools.

Lest we forget, the naming of the athletic fields was the worst example of slimy political sleight-of-hand in the history of the school district which just makes the naming a scam and joke in many citizen’s minds.

There are over 3,000 Baldwin High School alumni who had no say or input in the selection of naming anything. Out of 3,000 alumni a miniscule minority slams and sneaked this process through the school board by deception and underhanded methods after the public thought the process had been stopped and would be more inclusive and aboveboard.

The process was nothing more than one school board member having an “Al Bundy” complex and a tiny minority of glory-day athletics slamming through their wishes over the input of 2,910 alumni.

Mr. Venable, who is a personally likeable guy, has been put in an embarrassing situation solely because of the slimy tactics of the school board and the promoters of this process. They bare sole responsibility.

There were 100’s of potential candidates for naming these facilities or any facility on school property. No single class or athletic team should have any more influence or sway to manipulate the process.

Two interesting facts- Mr. Venable was actually fired from his job by the Baldwin School District. Secondly, how interesting that the school board member who was responsible for this travesty of good government suddenly decides not to seek re-election after slamming this issue under the radar to passage.

When you have a Baldwin Education Foundation loaded up with crony board members (a wife and mother of a school board member) and mostly “insiders”, you fail to get good governance and openness. Foundations are required by law to provide their financial information to the public. Most foundations offer this information on their websites. This is not to suggest any financial irregularities, but it is to suggest that the governance of the BEF is severely flawed.

For the small minority of patrons who might think to criticize this critique, I would say your complaints should be directed to those responsible for this whole seedy episode- your school board, administration, the BEF and those people who facilitate these shady travesties. Those that simply “shine the light” on the actions of others are not the villains.


Jenks_Addison 7 years ago


Mr. Venable was recognized because a group of his former students capitalized on an opportunity to get the complex named after him. From what I understand there was not much opposition or competing alternatives. If you had somebody else in mind then YOU should have spoken up and nominated a person more suited to have their name on the corner of 6th and Quayle.

Also, you fail to address a reasonable alternative for how this process should have taken place? What would you suggest? Calling every single BHS alumni and getting their vote? Good idea. I nominate you for that job next time we need to name something else.

Bottom line: It has been known for quite some time that the complex was going to be named the "Merle Venable Sports Complex." There was no opposition or competing suggestions. If anyone disagreed with the process or who the complex should be named after BEFORE this article came out, they had plenty of time to get up from the computer and toss up some other ideas.


1776attorney 7 years ago


For your information, there was enormous opposition to the naming of the complex months before the actual vote took place. It was for this very reason that the issue was swept under the carpet and not discussed for 2 months by the school board.

The public was led to believe by the school board (you can read their meeting minutes) that they would re-evaluate the process and even the appropriateness of naming any school facilities for any person. There was supposed to be a study of other school districts naming policies. There was supposed to be discussion of a proposed district-wide policy on how to institute a fair and open procedure.

To the disgust and anger of many alumni, suddenly and without any prior notice, the school board slipped through a vote for only the Venable naming after stating publicly that there would be a formal study and procedure established, if it was even decided to have this kind of policy.

The vote was sneaked (and slimmed) through for the sole reason that so many people did voice their opposition for months and months.

With all due respect, you're comments are welcome, but you are either misinformed or would like to paint a picture of events that have no basis in reality. And misinformation or the twisting of truth is exactly what this school board and the administration has been engaged in for the past few years - and enough is enough.


RoMiBa357 7 years, 1 month ago

To 1776Attorney, you as an American citizen have the right to voice your displeasure at this ceremony for Coach Venable and I will not dispute your comments. I will however state that as a 1983 graduate of BHS it took me a lot of years to understand the impact that Coach and Mr. Tom Swan had on my life and I appreciate what they have done for me. Coach was as tough as nails on me and I never understood why, while Tom guided me to make decisions for myself and stand on my feet as a man should. Both of those men gave and did great things for the town of Baldwin and should be honored in many ways. I stood up, wrote to Scott and the district backing this decision and unlike you am unafraid to put my name behind my statements. With Respect, Robert M. Barnett, 1983 Alumni of Baldwin High School and United States Air Force Veteran.


Torch 7 years, 1 month ago

Curious what your service in the Air Force has to do with your opinion? Is it more important?


BaldwinDad 7 years, 1 month ago

I guess it means he can't understand posts...since the whole point of 1776 post was that only a handful of people got to make the decision and not the alumni as whole or all the citizenry of Baldwin who paid for that Athletic field.

1776, post had nothing to do with Merle as a coach or as figure to be honored, but more to do with the manner the fields were named. The process should have been put up to a vote of the community who paid for it, not left to a select few board members or even some high school alumni members.


BigCat 7 years, 1 month ago

Mr Barnett, who's old football coach wasn't hard on them? The naming process was shady, and I don't have a dog in this hunt. It was mentioned at few board meetings and then let stand for months. All of a sudden it was named and passed without any discussion or outside input (because most folks didn't even know it was being discussed).


1776attorney 7 years, 1 month ago

Mr. Barnett.

While I respect your story and your service to the country, you and your tiny group don't represent the remaining 2910 (approx) other BHS graduates who had their own heroes, favorite coaches and teachers. Your group had no right to hijack the process and name facilities that belong to all of us.

The whole process was underhanded, sneaky and illegitimate in the eyes of the majority.

You should defend the process your group used to slam this through rather than attempt to insult the messenger. I would be interested to know how these kind of slimy political maneuvers against the majority of the citizens is explained.

While you are free to post your own name, the Comments Section of all newspapers are primarily devoted and designed for constructive, anonymous discussions. Please understand the rules and functions of these sections before you issue what amounts to an insult or insinuation of cowardice simply for following the general etiquette and rules of opinion comments.


ksrush 7 years, 1 month ago

From everything I know of Mr. V he is a class act. Congrats to you.

The rest of you boys and girls arguing about this petty spilled milk - get over it and yourself


BaldwinDad 7 years, 1 month ago

LoL...the standard reply from ksrush....your all whiners now shut up....spoken like a true bully.


ksrush 7 years, 1 month ago

Ouch, Baldwin Nad ! You seem a bit touchy about being told to grow up - bring back recent bad memories?


Commenting has been disabled for this item.