Lessons learned at Worthington Christian still help Malone as Canton McKinley AD
By Paul Batterson, Contributing Writer
As a basketball player at Worthington Christian High School, sports were always important to Greg Malone. Little did he know back then, sports would be even more important to him nearly 40 years later. Malone oversees 21 varsity sports as the athletics director at Canton McKinley High School.
“I always had a love of sports,” said Malone (WC ’80). “Outside of members of my family, (former Warriors basketball coach) Dave Dillon has had a larger impact on my life than any other person. He taught us how athletics fits into the larger picture of life. All the stuff he taught us, whether it was in the locker room or in our Christian Family Living class, comes back to me all the time now. I find myself quoting the things he taught us and when I say it, I smile to myself because I know where I got that from.”
Being athletics director at a school with a population of 1,300 students is a full-time job. For the past eight years, Malone’s duties have run the gamut, from scheduling opponents to handling officials to checking athletes’ eligibility. “Things are busy but it’s a good busy,” Malone said. “It just keeps you hopping.” As busy as things have been this fall, Malone admits they aren’t as challenging as they were in the fall of 2016.
The Bulldogs, which at one point had the largest high school football stadium in the country, found themselves without a home game. The high school, whose property line backs up to the Professional Football Hall of Fame building, plays host to the NFL’s annual Hall of Fame game. Leading up to that fall, Hall of Fame officials determined that Fawcett Stadium, built in 1937, needed some improvements to keep hosting the game. Former New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, who died last March, donated $11 million to the hall, with $10 million of the money earmarked to refurbish the stadium that now bears his name.
That was the good news.
The downside of it meant McKinley had to play all its 2016 football games on the road. The ones that were scheduled as home games were played at nearby Canton Central Catholic. Malone was impressed with the school’s resilience as the Bulldogs went 6-5 overall but made it to the Division I state playoffs, losing to Stow Munroe Falls 35-10 in the first round.
“The people at Central Catholic were extremely gracious to us but you definitely didn’t feel like you were at home,” Malone said. “We had no storage space for the things we would need for a game, so you would start on a Friday morning moving stuff over there. You made multiple trips over there with the vans and the trucks. When the game ended, you turned around and started the process all over again. It was challenging but our kids bought into it and accepted it. The seniors were used to having one of the best high school stadiums in the state and now they had no home field. But they understood that they were making this sacrifice for future teams and future athletes were going to benefit from it. They embraced it.”
Although it still lacks a locker room, the Bulldogs were able to return home in 2017. Since then McKinley has gone 10-2 at home during the 2017 and 2018 seasons and made the state playoffs those two years.
Being right next to the Pro Football Hall of Fame also has another perk. Malone said it’s not uncommon to have inductees swing by McKinley practices in the days leading up to the induction ceremonies. “Sometimes they will schedule something in advance or sometimes they’ll show up and see a bunch of kids practicing out there. The next thing you know Tim Brown or one of those former NFL stars are addressing these kids out there,” Malone said. “Our players are definitely impressed by it.”