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Published: Wednesday, 2/10/2010

Swanton to name gym for former championship coach


SWANTON - The gymnasium that Robert Fisher ruled for 16 seasons as Swanton High School's boys basketball coach is to be named for him on Saturday.

Whether the heat in the old gym will be cranked up in his honor for that night's basketball game between Swanton and Toledo Christian remains to be seen.

The Swanton Board of Education agreed last month to name the gym for the coach who led the Bulldogs to five Northwest Ohio Athletic League championships, four sectional championships, and one district title between 1976 and 1992.

The dedication ceremony is scheduled for halftime of Saturday's game.

Although the gym became a middle-school facility after a new Swanton High School opened in 2003, the varsity game will be played there because the Bulldog wrestling team is to be host to the NWOAL conference meet in the high school gym that evening.

"It'll be kind of a throwback game," Mr. Fisher said last week. "It may be the last [varsity] game ever played in that gym, unless we have another one of these conflicts."

Mr. Fisher said he'll attend with his family and hopes to see "a lot of people I haven't seen in a while, get together, and have a good time."

Tim Zieroff, Swanton's high-school athletic director, said of the honor, "It's extremely appropriate. That was his home." He noted in particular that during Mr. Fisher's coaching years, the gym was known for being a very warm place.

The Swanton team practiced in that environment and thus adjusted to it, and visiting opponents teams had a tendency to wilt late in games.

"We usually had the heat turned up a bit, but we really couldn't control that gym," Mr. Fisher said slyly.

Mr. Fisher, who turns 70 in October, came to Swanton from Lima Central Catholic and previously taught and coached at Norwalk St. Paul. During his time as Swanton's basketball coach, his teams had a 200-143 won-lost record.

He also taught physical education, driver's education, and Occupational Work Adjustment vocational classes at Swanton.

"He's just a great supporter of Swanton athletics and a great contributor to the community," Superintendent of Schools Paulette Baz said before the school board voted 5-0 last month to name the middle-school gym for Mr. Fisher.

"Bob has done an awful lot. He has been a model," board member Rick Ueberroth said while encouraging district officials to research whether there is anyone else worthy of comparable recognition in Swanton.

The retired coach, who is Swanton's part-time middle school athletic director, said he greatly appreciates the school board's and administrators' support. "I want to really thank all the players that played for me and made it all happen. We had some tremendous games in that old gym," he said.

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