Bishop Dwenger coach Chris Svarczkopf announces retirement

Bishop Dwenger football coach Chris Svarczkopf talks to his players during a break in a 2009 scrimmage. Svarczkopf announced his retirement to the team in a meeting today.

For Chris Svarczkopf, the decision to step aside as Bishop Dwenger’s head football coach came down to two things: time and energy.

Or, more succinctly, the lack thereof.

“When you’re 62 (years old) it’s a lot different than when I first started,” he said Sunday night in an exclusive phone interview. “Even though you’re with young people, you can’t kid yourself. I’m not coaching the way I used to or the way I’d like to.”

After consulting with his wife, Jane, Svarczkopf made the decision a few weeks ago but opted to wait until Monday to tell his players before making an official announcement.

“I’ve been very blessed to have a loving and supportive wife,” Svarczkopf said. “This summer I’ll be married 40 years, which is also the amount of time I’ve been coaching. That’s a lot of time and effort, which she’s given up.”

When the Saints lost to Lowell in the Class 4A semistate Nov. 17 at Homestead High School, the veteran coach was greeted by several family members on his way to the Dwenger bus. “They were all standing there, in the rain, waiting for me,” he recalled. “And I was like, ‘What are you guys doing here?’ Then it struck me – yes, this is the last time.”

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Svarczkopf (149-49 in 15 years at the helm) took over for coach Andy Johns in the fall of 2002, and quickly returned the Saints to prominence. Johns’ final four seasons yielded an un-Dwenger-like 19-23 record, while Svarczkopf’s inaugural effort saw the Saints finish 13-2 with sectional, regional and semistate trophies.

If you include the state-championship season from 2015 (which Svarczkopf missed, for the most part, while battling cancer), his Saints claimed 11 sectionals, 10 regionals and five semistate crowns. Dwenger also won six Summit Athletic Conference titles during his tenure, including a five-year reign of terror from 2006-2010 which helped produce a 38-game SAC win streak.

He said he’s most proud of the relationships he’s built with his assistant coaches, and the young men he’s been able to help mold for their time beyond the walls of Bishop Dwenger.

As for his legacy, he hopes people will remember his teams for their toughness and tenacity, their grit and determination.

“I hope that when they came and watched our team play, they would say it’s a team in every respect,” said Svarczkopf, his voice cracking with emotion. “Hopefully they said, ‘There’s obviously a tight bond there. They play hard, with spirit, and they love the game.’ … I hope that’s what they would see when they saw our team.

“After that, because football is a means to an end, (I hope people saw) that we’re developing better young people. I hope every player (who played for me) can say they got something out of it, that they’re a better person because of it, and that they still love the game as much when they left the program as they did when they came into it.”

When Svarczkopf took over for Johns, who had three state championships and a 191-68 career mark with the Saints, he asked the veteran coach what would likely be his biggest concern in taking the post.

“He said, ‘time’ and he was right,” Svarczkopf said. “You put in the normal days and hours and when you come home, you’re still working it all the time. And not just during the season, but the offseason too. I delegated a lot more (in recent years) than I ever used to, which I think is good. But I just found myself being less energetic.

“We always talk about ‘Faith, Family, Friends and Football’ – in that order. I’ve always tried to dedicate the same amount of time and energy to my faith and family, but it seemed like in the evenings – instead of cranking out the extra 2-3 hours every night – it just became less and less. … It’s a pretty demanding job. The other part is a feeling that certain things are passing you by. You feel that you’re not up on the language, and the techniques and all of the schemes that people are running these days. The ability to keep up with it, as much as the game changes, that (weighed heavily).

“It’s time for a young guy to take things even further. Somebody who is able to give that kind of time and energy … and year-round, daily commitment. It’s time to let somebody else have the fun.”