In Their Words is a weekly feature appearing Sundays in The Blade's sports section. Blade sports writer Donald Emmons recently caught up with Northern Lakes League commissioner Larry Morrison to talk sports, in particular looking at high school athletics from a longtime league commissioner's perspective.
He has been serving as the Northern Lakes League commissioner since 2001 when he accepted the job even though he held the same position for the now-defunct Great Lakes League at the time.
He multi-tasked for the NLL and GLL until the latter disbanded, which left Morrison concerned with league commissioner responsibilities for only one league. He served as GLL commissioner from 1990 to 2003. He expects to continue for a while as NLL commissioner with his duties, which include creating league schedules for all sports and hiring officials for all scheduled league events.
Morrison's sports background includes being a three-sport standout in high school at Anthony Wayne. He played baseball, basketball and football. Baseball proved to be his best sport, earning him All-Ohio recognition his senior year, which resulted in him becoming the first General to receive All-Ohio honors. He later would be inducted into the Anthony Wayne Hall of Fame in 1990.
He played baseball at Bowling Green State University before moving on to a career in education, which included teaching and coaching before becoming a principal at Northview. He coached at AW, Whitmer and Sylvania highs between 1958 and 1967. He coached Sylvania to back-to-back GLL baseball championships in 1966 and 1967.
His interest in sports led to finding himself spending retirement working as a league commissioner. He's coming on year 20 as a commissioner.
Morrison has been married to his wife, Marcia, for 50 years. They have two daughters: Julie, who is married and lives in Maryland, and Jamie, who is married and lives in Perrysburg. The Morrisons have four grandchildren.
"I DECIDED I wanted to stay involved in athletics, so this [working as a league commissioner] was a way to do it. I told my wife I'm still going to be at a game on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so I might as well go on and do this [work as a league commissioner].
"My wife has been very, very supportive. She knows on Tuesday nights and Friday nights [game days] she's going to be a widow."
"ACADEMIC ELIGIBILITY is one area of high school athletics that has been an issue. Not only does the state require certain academic standards, but local school districts have increased their requirements and I think that's good.
"It is a pleasure to work with school people who are really committed to their jobs. As long as they are happy with me [serving as commissioner] and as long as I enjoy it, I will keep working.
"The quality of competition and the athletes are so much better today. Girls athletics, in particular, the caliber of player is head and shoulders above what it was in the past."
"BEING A COMMISSIONER for both leagues required me to hire a lot more [game] officials than normally. Having 14 schools between the two leagues to work for increased the workload. I was responsible for making out all the league schedules for every sport for every team.
"There is a system you use to make the schedules and after a couple years you learn how to rotate the schedules."
"WHEN I WAS principal at Northview that was [my] loyalty. Now I go to [NLL sporting events] and I don't have an allegiance to just one program. You don't care who wins. As commissioner, when a team wins [like the Southview football team] it makes you proud to be with the league.
"I think it's a reflection on the league that a team can be so prepared to play in the playoffs. In the NLL you have to be ready to play every week.
"I think everybody expected them [Southview] to have a good year in football, but you have to have a couple of breaks along the way to a state championship. There were a couple of games it could have gone either way."
"WHEN I WAS GLL commissioner Ben Roethlisberger was at Findlay High. That senior year at quarterback he was unbelievable the way he could throw the football. He was also like a coach on the field.
"When I was principal at Northview Deanna Kreidel was a three-sport all-stater in soccer, softball and basketball. She just had the ability to excel in three sports."
"My senior year at Anthony Wayne we were 17-1 in baseball, which is still the best regular-season record in the history of the team. We got beat in the regional finals, which was a disappointment I've had [as a student athlete] because I came so close to getting into the state tournament.
"I hit .350 my senior year. I wasn't a power hitter but I hit consistently."