The Long Run

Photo by Alan Warren, Messenger-Inquirer | Owensboro Catholic’s long-time athletic director, David Blanford, stands outside the front of Owensboro Catholic High School on Friday along W. Parrish Avenue. Blanford is retiring after a two-decade career as the athletic director.

David Blanford concedes he was not the prototype for a high school athletic director when hired for the job at Owensboro Catholic in 2000, but he nonetheless parlayed his skill set as an administrator into a long, successful career.

"I wasn't the typical guy to get involved in athletic administration," said Blanford, who will turn 65 next month. "I wasn't a great athlete, wasn't a great coach, didn't fit the profile of so many who assume this role.

"I was a pretty good administrator, though, and the principal here at that time, Harold Staples, had confidence in me and hired me. And, that's how it all began."

Blanford -- who will officially pass the torch to new AD Jason Morris on July 1 -- had previously been the school's Dean of Students, taught social studies, eventually becoming head of the department, taught driver's education, and also did some coaching. He will continue to work at the school on a part-time basis.

A Marion County native, Blanford graduated from Marion County High School in 1972. A History major in college, he spent two years at St. Catharine before finishing his undergraduate work at Eastern Kentucky University; later earning his Master's degree from Western Kentucky University.

Right out of EKU, Blanford landed a teaching job at Catholic High in 1976. He is the school's second-longest tenured employee, and its second-longest tenured athletic director, behind Harold Mischel.

As the years progressed, he says he became more comfortable in his role as AD.

"I always made it a point to have as many positive relationships as I could with everyone I worked with," Blanford said. "I've been fortunate to work with great principals here, including Harold Staples, Kurt Osborne and Gates Settle, and, overall, we've had a great collection of coaches through the years. I've been pretty fortunate.

"Leadership matters more than facilities, equipment and uniforms."

There have been a plethora of highlights along the way.

Blanford has watched Owensboro Catholic teams and individuals when KHSAA state championships, All 'A' Classic small-school state championships, and be consistently competitive against school's with much larger enrollments -- both within the 9th District and well beyond.

"We've done pretty well for a little 450-student school," Blanford said. "We have kids who want to excel and we have coaches who want to win. We have supportive fans, supportive boosters, a supportive administration -- it takes everyone working together to make it happen.

"We go into everything we do believing we can compete and have great success in athletics."

Of the many achievements Blanford has witnessed while at Catholic High, the boys' basketball team winning the school's first KHSAA 3rd Region Tournament championship in 2016 is at or certainly near the top of the list.

"That was particularly special to me, personally," Blanford said, "because we had never won it before.

"We has been close several times back there. There was that three-overtime (regional championship game) loss to Owensboro at McLean County in the early '80s. I was there for that. So, finally getting over the hump and making it to the Sweet 16 was a huge step for our program."

Blanford was also a part of two major building and renovation projects -- the construction of Steele Stadium on the campus of Kentucky Wesleyan College, and the renovation of Chautauqua Park's Independence Field, which now features artificial surface on the infield, among other improvements.

"My preparation for the Chautauqua Park project was helping Harold Staples when we built Steele Stadium," Blanford said. "I learned a great deal through that process.

"Ultimately, with Chautauqua, we came up with what I believe is a win-win agreement with the City of Owensboro and a 10-year lease (signed in 2017), with the option to renew at year 8.

"After we got the lease, some of our boosters had the idea of putting in turf. Working with Gates Settle and many others on that, we were able to get it done, and that was very satisfying. We've got it right now, and that is going to be an outstanding facility for years to come."

Blanford believes he is leaving his post with the school's athletic department on solid ground.

"Having our athletics on sound financial footing has been the most gratifying thing I've done," he said. "I believe that's had a big effect on the success we've experienced -- working with coaches, kids, parents and boosters, and getting them to help us accomplish what needs to be accomplished."

Ultimately, however, Blanford says there is a significantly greater, indeed, eternal objective.

"Our mission is to help these kids get to heaven," he said. "Athletics is a tool we can utilize to help do this.

"We put a lot of time, money and energy into athletics, but if we only did this to win games we would be very foolish people."

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