Who says you can't go home?
A little over five years after he coached his final game as Oak Harbor football coach, Gary Quisno was honored by the Benton-Carroll-Salem Board of Education for his nomination into the Ohio High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame.
For 29 years, Quisno helped to build one of the state's best football programs while establishing an identity and a legacy for Oak Harbor in football-rich Ohio, and on Tuesday evening, the community took the time to show its appreciation.
The Village of Oak Harbor and the Ottawa County commissioners declared December 18, 2012 as “Gary Quisno Day.”
The event at the library at high school library included the BCS school board members, Quisno's family, friends and some of his former players and assistant coaches and was emceed by athletic director Drew Grahl.
“It was well worth it,” Grahl said. “’Quis’ deserves it. This has been a long time coming. It was a testament to him, all the people that showed up. And the outpouring of support was awesome. I'm very pleased with how it turned out. This was just an opportunity to say thank you. He's a great guy, a great role model for young kids.”
Quisno, who was nominated by current Rocket football coach Mike May, was visibly touched; especially considering the ceremony was kept secret from him for several months.
“Being invited there caught me by surprise when I walked in and saw (everyone),” Quisno said with a laugh. “I saw all the people that are so close and have been a big part of Oak Harbor football for so many years. It was really touching. I was speechless for the most part. They caught me off-guard, I had no clue. I'm very appreciative to Drew Grahl and Superintendent (Guy) Parmigian.”
Quisno coached at OHHS from 1979-2007, compiling a record of 224-83 (.729). His teams won eight league titles (5 SBC, 3 SLL), went to the playoffs eight times, won two regional championships ('99, '06) and was a regional finalist twice ('95, '96). His '06 squad, which suffered a tough loss in the Division IV state semifinal to Jonathan Alder, is believed by some to have been the best team in the state that season, despite the loss.
“I had 29 great years here,” Quisno said. “There were a lot of great high school football players, great players that loved to play the game of football. It's a group of guys that are my best friends,” he said, referencing some of his assistant coaches. “Our families are all real close.”
For the 2008-09 football campaigns, Quisno led the Perkins football program, leading the Pirates, who were 3-7 in '07, to a 17-4 record, an SBC title and an appearance in the playoffs. His career record stands at 253-95 with 11 league titles and a 9-9 record in nine playoffs appearances. Because of health problems, he resigned as coach in '09, but returned this year as the team's offensive coordinator and was instrumental in leading the team to a 10-2 record, another SBC title and a win in the state playoffs.
By day, Quisno is the assistant principal at Briar Middle School in Sandusky. During his time in Oak Harbor, he was a math teacher.
Grahl helped coordinate the event, which featured a video tribute to the coach and speeches from Ottawa County Commissioner Jim Sass, former player Steve Alexander and former Clyde coach Bob Bishop, with whom Quisno had a number of great battles over the years.
“We worked on (this) for a couple of months, getting people's addresses and numbers,” Grahl said. “We wanted to invite a good amount of people. We had about 80-90 percent of people that we invited show up.”
In his heyday, Quisno was a standout football player at Port Clinton High School and also excelled in basketball and track. He played football collegiately for Miami (Ohio) University and was part of three of the school's best football teams from 1973-75 that went 31-1-1, won three Mid-American Conference titles and three Tangerine Bowls.
After graduating from Miami in '76, he coached for a year in Pontiac, Michigan before taking the head coaching position at Danbury for two years and then moving on to Oak Harbor.
Last year, Quisno was inducted into Miami’s prestigious Cradle of Coaches Association, an organization that includes Weeb Ewbank, Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes.
Quisno summed up just why the experience was so special for him and the community.
“I never wanted to make the program about me. I wanted it to be about the players, the coaches and the community. For those 29 years, (this) was home. We had some good times together. We laughed together, we cried together and we drank together,” he said to the delight of the crowd. “It was a lot of fun and it was a great ride. We had so many great times.”