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Thank you, Mr. Irvin

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SOHS Athletic Director retiring after 23 years

By Sam Draut

Mitchell Irvin dedicated his time to South Oldham, and now, it’s time to say thank you.

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After three years as a teacher at South Oldham High School (SOHS), Irvin became the school’s athletic director during the 1996-97 academic year. Irvin’s tenure as South Oldham’s athletic director ends Friday, June 28, 2019 after 23 years and 48 state championships won by teams and individuals.

He was honored in April at the Kentucky High School Athletic Directors State Conference as the Eighth Region Athletic Director of the Year. He was selected as one of eight finalists for the National School Athletic Director of the Year in February 2009.

Although Irvin’s accomplishments and achievements are many, his impact goes beyond wins, improvement of athletic facilities and the building of athletic programs. Irvin touched countless lives of students, parents and coaches while athletic director at South Oldham.

Melissa Woosley, SOHS principal:

“Mr. Irvin, the man, the myth, the legend. What words do I have? He has an uncanny ability to name just about any sport record and recognition of a player in the programs from South’s history. I have sat and listened to him on many occasions talk about a statistic or a former player that held a record, he doesn’t forget it. What I also learned, he is rarely wrong. He knows his stuff. Mr. Irvin has a very tough exterior and many people find that intimidating when first meeting him. His no-nonsense attitude and his tell it how it is attitude hid the big softy he really is. He would go to the ends of the earth for a friend and he is a man of his word. His loyalty to South and athletic programs across the state have forever changed both. He is an advocated for high school athletics and has been a leading voice for years.

The SOHS admin team eats together at 11 a.m. every day. Mitch has a red and white cooler that he opens every day. He always has a sandwich, soup during colder weather, a fruit and pudding or jello. He also has a soda that he pours over ice as well. I’ve seen him have the same lunch for the seven years I have known him. When it is 11, you will hear Irvin yell out of his office “It’s lunch time.” I’ll miss that. I have never heard Mitch complain about his job.

He will be greatly missed around the school, but I don’t think he will be a stranger.”

Jamie Reed, Dragon football coach:

“He gave us everything we needed to run a successful football program. I can still remember the day he offered me the chance to interview at South Oldham. It has been about 10 years now. Personally I have been grateful for the opportunity he gave me 10 years ago. He was able to see outside the box on so many occasions. He has been a great friend and mentor.”

Steve Simpson, Dragon boys basketball coach:

“Mr. Irvin was a success because he cared about the student-athletes at South Oldham. He was also successful because of his leadership style. He is not a micromanager. He gave you the resources you needed to be successful and got out of the way and allowed coaches to run their programs. He expected your teams to play to their potential and represent the school in a positive manner. He did not allow outside influences to play a role in our programs.”

Keith Blackburn, an associate principal at SOHS, whose daughter Brynna plays basketball for the Lady Dragons:

“Mr. Irvin is a man of few words and with little time to chat, often referred to as the energizer bunny, but most important known as the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) when talking about SOHS athletics. Mr. Irvin will not be replaced, only his job will be filled. There will never be another Mitchell Irvin!”

Kelly Dike, SOHS athletics trainer:

“It has been an honor to work with Mr. Irvin for the last 14 years. He has been instrumental in the successes of the SOHS athletic programs, putting the wants and needs of the student-athletes and coaches first. He has been a huge supporter of myself, as the athletic trainer, and the healthcare of the athletes. Mr. Irvin is a state leader, role model and mentor for many ADs across the state. His leadership has put SOHS athletics in a great position for future success and I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to work with him for the last 14 years.”

Jeff Griffin, former SOHS principal, whose two sons, Michael and Jo, played basketball for the Dragons before playing collegiately:

“Mitchell Irvin is South Oldham High School. He has made South Oldham into a sports powerhouse with his tireless work hiring coaches, developing facilities and starting new programs. More importantly, he has been a great mentor and friend to all of the coaches he has worked with. I wish him well in retirement and I look forward to the official opening of Mitchell F. Irvin Stadium.”

Kenny Burke, Lady Dragon girls soccer coach:

“I think one of the things that made Mitch such a great athletic director is you could never tell that he focused on one individual sport, to promote that sport. He was all about promoting South Oldham as a whole. No matter if I was coaching boys soccer or girls soccer, or going to the basketball games and doing the announcing there or football games, you felt like we were all part of one big team. I think that in itself made you feel like you were a part of something bigger.”

Alan Yanke, North Oldham High School athletic director:

“Mitchell was always willing to lend a hand to help you out. He also is the most knowledgeable when it comes to the KHSAA and all of its rules and regulations, of anyone I have come in contact with around the state.

If you want to walk and talk with Mitchell at the same time you quickly found out you couldn’t keep up with his pace, and you could no longer talk since you were out of breath. He was always on the go. The man is amazing.”

Joe Richie, who will take over as athletic director after coaching boys lacrosse for South Oldham:

“It has been valuable learning under him because he has been in athletics for such a long time. He is very well respected in the local athletics community. Many ADs call on him for advice. It’s obvious the impact he has had on student-athletes and that it’s all about the kids to him. At the end of the day that’s what matters, the kids.”

Bob Newton, Lady Dragon lacrosse coach:

“Mitchell was extremely supportive, and always willing to help out if he was able to. Regardless of gender, he treated us all the same in my opinion, and that’s not always the case in high school athletics. He got the bigger picture, and I’m very grateful.”

Penny Periard, Lady Dragon field hockey coach:

“He is an awesome person. He was so good to the field hockey team and all the kids that played a sport. I have never had an athletic director that was always looking out for us as coaches to make our teams better. He always bent over backwards to make sure we had everything we needed to coach the kids. He always made sure the coaches and the kids came first. He was always there cheering us on whether we won or lost. He always had a positive outlook for the kids and the coaches.”

Jon Kasten, Henry County High School athletic director:

“Mitchell was a great resource for me personally and all the athletic directors in our area. He will definitely be missed as the chair of the Eighth Region policy board as well as for the wealth of knowledge he gave to all of us. Mr. Irvin is a great champion of not only his kids at South Oldham, but of all the students in the Eighth Region.”

Gene Heffington, Lady Dragon girls basketball coach:

“He put the student-athletes first. He supported and treated all coaches and programs with fairness.”

John Michaud, a photographer, whose daughters graduated from SOHS:

“He was always friendly, had a smile on his face and genuinely enjoyed his duties as athletic director and his interactions with coaches and student-athletes. I will miss seeing him on the sideline and hope that he will stop by during a sporting event for a visit some time.”

Ethan Moore, Lady Dragon golf coach

“There wasn’t a question that he didn’t know the answer to. He would always be so helpful anytime you would go to him to ask him something. He would give the answer and offer guidance as needed.”