He never played a game for a county school.
He never coached a varsity game at a county school.
But Bill Schlicher is being remembered by a large portion of the Montgomery County sports family today.
“Big Slick,”as he was known to nearly all, passed away last weekend, and family and friends from all corners of our local sports world pause for a moment this week, recalling a story, because everyone has one with this Iowa football, Cardinals baseball, Chargers everything, fan.
“He was the most family-oriented man I ever met,” said Fred Johnson, who befriended Schlicher on a sales call, became his radio sports broadcast partner, then his football chain-gang partner, and then his partner in crime for many years. “There was nothing that Bill Schlicher wouldn’t do for his family and kids.”
The purest definition of a sports dad, Schlicher was never far from any event that a member of his family played or coached in. From kids to grandkids, Big Slick found a spot to watch, which was many times after a substantial drive.
Two sons had multi-sport careers with the Chargers, and are still coaching at the high school level. He was there to watch.
A daughter played volleyball, and another daughter has kids that played tennis and soccer. He was there to watch.
“Sometimes he would have to split some time,” daughter Tiffany (Bowen) said. “He would try to get to as much of both as he could on days like that.”
Oldest son Kurt earned a jacket full of letters in three sports at North Montgomery, and recalled the many times his dad was there for games, but more so for the games when Kurt was coaching.
“I was an assistant at McCutcheon,” Kurt said, “and down at the end of the field was my dad, bundled up and keeping track of things.”
Even bigger for Kurt was the many trips he went on with his dad while Big Slick was covering games for WCVL radio.
“I got to ride the bus with the ‘79 C’ville team that made the semi-state. I was there when South had an undefeated season but were cheated out of the playoffs because of the pod system,” Kurt noted. “My best memories were going to games with my dad.”
Born in Iowa, Big Slick graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas High School, where his best moment as an athlete came, as he grabbed 28 rebounds in a game as a senior.
“It was the big deal,” Kurt said about a dad who seldom bragged about anything publicly. “We heard about it when it was bragging time. ‘No one ever matched that’ was how it usually ended.”
After graduating from Burlington Junior College, where he and his team participated in the 1961 National Tournament, the Army called and Bill spent two years on active duty, followed by two more in the reserves. He was transferred to Indiana from Iowa in 1970 as the manager of the local Sears store. It put him in touch with the public, and opened more doors, which included the broadcast media.
“Bill and I did games together in the mid 70’s,” said Vance Pyle, who was covering Crawfordsville athletics. “He started by doing some stats and that got him on the air. We worked together until the late 70’s when he took over duties covering North Montgomery. His favorite saying was ‘the clock is counting down.’ He used it more as the game went on. He was a good stats guy, accurate and gave the score regularly. We became friends and that never stopped. Back in those days, we covered playoffs all the way through, so there are great memories of regionals, semi-states and even state finals games with him. He was a great guy, a great family man, and a great friend.”
Johnson also remembered a broadcasting moment.
“I’ll always remember that the Southmont band was always very loud,” Johnson said, “and we were very close to it, and Bill was very aware of that too. ‘Oh that band’ was a favorite saying.”
Friends were easy to find for Big Slick, according to all, and once a friend, he was a friend for life.
“I was coaching basketball at North,” said Chuck Kriston, “and I was sitting in my little coached office with my assistants after we had just beaten McCutcheon in a sectional game. In walked this guy I didn’t even know, and introduced himself.”
That introduction was the first moment of a lifetime friendship between the coach and future Athletic Director at North, and the dad whose two sons would become stars for the Chargers.
It was a friendship that lasted until the last moment, as Kriston was there when Schlicher passed away.
There were stories too numerous to list, and many not quite fit for print.
“My wife (Teresa) and I took several vacations with Bill and Pat,” Kriston noted of trips to Reddington Beach, Florida. “We also took many trips to Cubs games so he could cheer against my Cubs, and we went to some NCAA tournaments and several Iowa games. Bill would wear one of his Iowa sweatshirts and wade into any crowd wearing Iowa gear. Sometimes it would be hours before we could get him away, but he always came away with some new friends and always got caught up on Iowa sports. Sometimes he ended up with tickets, and sometimes it was only a beer, but he had a great time. I never did figure out how to play Iowa euchre either, so he had a long winning streak there.”
Those friendships parlayed into a 40-year tradition.
Schlicher is universally credited with either starting Coaches Corner or at the least, keeping it alive and thriving for 40 years.
“It started in Gerald Pruett’s gas station,” Kurt said.
“It was Bill, Chuck Kriston, Gerald, Frank Stewart, Dick Walke and myself,” Johnson said in agreement. “We started meeting once a month, then we would forget which Wednesday, so we went to twice, and still forgot which weeks, so we just started meeting every week.”
Corner, as it is affectionately known, started out with some North coaches and fans gathering before a Chargers game on Fridays, and morphed into the social club that it still is. They met in a gas station, at the old Holiday Inn, at a couple local establishments and even now out of a heated garage. Schlicher, always on top of finances, was in charge.
“He never failed to make sure I got tipped,” said Kimberly Francis, who was a manager at the Holiday Inn but was personal attendant for the guys. “Even if he had to grab his billfold and get extra cash, he always made sure I was taken care of. There was nobody nicer or more pleasant than Big Slick.”
It was a center of social and sports information.
‘“Bill maintained Coaches Corner for decades,” said former North coach Pat McDowell. “It started with just North folks, but soon it included all three schools, and not just coaches, but fans. It was a place to heckle your friends a bit, or get heckled, but what I learned was to keep as quiet as possible around those guys because there was always something to learn. I was and am amazed at how much baseball knowledge Bill and those guys had, and just other sports knowledge in general. Bill was always on top of stories and players and games and teams. I know some of it came from attending so many events, but he was a fan before anything.”
A fan and a dad.
“I’ll never forget that Bill supported the teachers and coaches at North 100 percent,” said Charley German, who won a lot of football games with two different Schlicher sons as quarterbacks and/or linebackers, including one state championship in 1995. “Bill was always about the team and the kids, much more than just his own. He was such an ardent supporter. He was level-headed all the time, and always there, at home or on the road. He understood - he was a strong father.”
Leaving the radio work when the boys started playing, Big Slick found his way on to the Chargers chain gang for football games, about as close as one can get to the action.
It even got him run over by an opposing team’s player once. “He got knocked back to the high jump pit,” Johnson, who was also on the crew, noted. “The trainer said Bill needed to leave and get looked at, but Bill had nothing to do with that idea.”
Being there or being with him is the lasting memory of Big Slick for all.
“I remember going to the Sears store at 5 in the morning to watch him unload the truck,” Tiffany said, “and I remember leaving for someone’s game at 5 am, driving forever there and forever back. Sometimes we would go to two, maybe three games in a day, but he was always there. He even went to the dance recitals for (granddaughter) Taylor. When the curtain went up, he would start to cry - that’s how proud he was of his family and how important we were to him.”
One of those two successful sons - Blair, noted nothing about sports when talking about his dad.
“I just always enjoyed his presence,” he said, “at home he was just dad. There was no pressure, no expectations, no overwhelming pressure. He worked so hard to support his family. From a store manager at Sears he learned a whole new industry when he got into automotive parts and service, I just cherish how hard he worked, how much he appreciated watching his kids and grandkids play or perform, and then he was always there after the game to tell not just me, but all my teammates - good job. His love, loyalty and life will always be remembered. Love is an action, not words, and his life was love by action. He was loyal to all, coaches and teams. He never compared, he found a way to make your opinion matter, and he never crossed lines. He knew the little things matter. He’s my hero, and my best friend, because he would listen.”
Friends and family alike also took a moment to pay a special thank-you to Pat.
“She was the glue behind us,” Blair said. Everyone else noted the countless meals, the laundry and all the regular Mom duties, as well as her working at the Sears store for 10 years. She as private as Bill was public.
One last former coach, and far from the last friend, Mike Sowers, posted a toast to the Coach of Coaches Corner.
“A toast to Bill Schlicher! A man who was loved and respected by all. A man who loved athletics, especially (at North Montgomery) watching his kids grow up. May you rest in peace Bill Schlicher, you’ve played a good game, the fourth quarter, the ninth inning, are now over. Raise your glass and have one for Bill.”
Godspeed Bill Schlicher, friend and fan.