York Catholic High School has a rich athletic history filled with success on different levels across multiple sports.
From the state championship boys' basketball teams of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, to the highly-acclaimed girls' basketball teams over the past 15 years, to the state champion boys' cross country teams of the mid-1980s, the school has become synonymous with athletic success.
The talented athletes and skilled coaches deserve most of the credit for that success, but one other person also deserves some recognition, longtime athletic director Rick Luckman.
The Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg recently recognized Luckman for his accomplishments with the Frederick F. Noel Distinguished Educator Award during the 2017 Recognition Ceremony in September.
For Luckman, that honor is especially meaningful. It is named after Noel, who was both a York Catholic teacher, coach and mentor to Luckman.
"Fred Noel was actually a graduate of York Catholic," Luckman said. "He taught at York Catholic and coached at York Catholic. He was actually my freshman basketball coach. Unfortunately he died suddenly at a young age and this award was put in his name to honor someone for their service and dedication to the Catholic system. He had a lot of influence on what I wanted to do in life, so that's why receiving something in his name was really special."
Luckman sees the AD as primarily responsible for two roles. His primary job is to be there for all of the student-athletes at the school. In addition to that, he has to be there to support his coaches, sometimes through thick and thin.
They're roles that Luckman has been able to navigate successfully throughout his tenure. To be able to do it over the past 48 years was really a dream of his that he was able to actually live out in real life.
Retirement nears: Dreams, however, all must come to an end sometime. That time is nearing for Luckman, who will retire next summer after a 20-year run heading the athletic department.
"It was something that I always wanted to do," Luckman said. "It was my goal to be a teacher and a coach and I was able to do that."
Luckman’s retirement has been in the cards since the school announced the hiring of Kevin Bankos as the school's dean of student affairs and athletic director in the summer of 2016. At that time, Luckman was named emeritus AD. Having nearly two full years to get to know the responsibilities of the position has been a great help to Bankos, who praised his mentor as a role-model.
“Rick has taught me a lot here in just a year and a half,” Bankos said. “I had a good relationship with him over my entire time as the girls’ basketball coach, which is invaluable as a coach. And, this is probably the best thing you can say about any AD, but I’ve never doubted for a second that I was supported by him. And that’s what I’d want coaches to say about me when I’m done.”
Two-year cycles: Luckman pointed out that his job is pretty much a two-year cycle that repeats over and over again. One year is devoted mainly to work on scheduling for all of the teams while the other is focused more on evaluating all aspects of the program.
“The principal, Katie Seufert, and I have been talking about this for a while, about what my plans were,” Luckman said. “Because of the amount of time that I’ve been around and my age and everything else that I was looking at, and at that time we sort of began to talk about a two-year program, which would give me the opportunity to work with (Kevin) coming in. And that’s to give him the opportunity to see the difference between the two years that face an AD.”
To Luckman’s credit, Bankos is aware that he has some pretty big shoes to fill.
“My concern is to be able to follow in those footsteps that he left,” said Bankos, whom Luckman has dubbed as Little A (as in athletic director) in comparison to Big E (as in Luckman as emeritus AD). “The challenge for me is that all of the little things that he knows, he just does. And I know he’s trying to hand off as much as he can, but 20 years of knowledge, that’s impossible.”
More than an AD: While most people know of Luckman as the school's AD, his involvement at the school extends well beyond that. He was the head coach of the Irish boys' cross country teams that captured the 1983 and 1985 PIAA Class 2-A state titles. He was also a valued assistant with the boys' basketball program as a coach for the varsity, junior varsity and junior high squads.
Luckman also taught one of his favorite subjects in life, history, for more than 30 years at the school before transitioning into the full-time AD.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.