Longtime Esky coach Cvengros dies at 80

LANSING – Former Escanaba High School state championship football coach Jerry Cvengros died Monday evening in Lansing at age 80.

Cvengros, who was the Eskymos head coach from 1962-84, led EHS to the Class A state title in 1981, two years after Escanaba finished as runner-up. He compiled a 161-42-3 record and remains the only coach to bring a Class A or Division 1 title to the Upper Peninsula in the nearly 40-year history of the playoffs.

He worked for 30 years, from 1958-88, in the Escanaba school district teaching, coaching and serving as athletic director and principal.

Cvengros was inducted into the U.P. Sports Hall of Fame and the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame, serving on its original board of directors. He also received the Distinguished Service Award from the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association.

But Cvengros also made a name for himself statewide by serving for more than a decade as lead assistant to Michigan High School Athletic Association Executive Director John E. “Jack” Roberts from 1988-2002.

“During his lifetime, Jerry Cvengros impacted every area of interscholastic athletics as a coach, athletic director, principal and then associate director of the MHSAA,” Roberts said in a news release. “He was the perfect combination of fairness, toughness and diplomacy.

“Jerry was known and respected statewide for his dedication, and his contributions have had a lasting impact.”

Cvengros served as director of football and for a short time, hockey, in addition to coordinating the Program of Athletic Coaches Education.

He had previous experience with the state group while at Escanaba, representing U.P. Class A and B schools on the MHSAA Representative Council from 1983-88 and as council president from 1986-88.

The National Federation of State High School Associations twice honored Cvengros with a Citation – its highest honor – for service as coach and MHSAA staff member, while he received the MHSAA’s Charles E. Forsythe Award in 2000 to recognize significant contributions to interscholastic athletics.

They include his instrumental role as director of football in creating the current football playoff format that expanded the field from 128 to its current 256 teams in 1999.

He also coauthored “Youth Football: A Complete Handbook,” a guide to coaching at that level.

Cvengros was a 1951 graduate of Ironwood High School, went on to play at the University of Wisconsin and received a bachelor’s degree from Wisconsin-Superior and master’s from Northern Michigan University.

He also coached track and field at Escanaba High School, taking on the position of athletic director in 1970, activities director in 1975 and principal in 1983.

Cvengros and his wife Shelley had lived in Okemos since his retirement. He is also survived by three children and seven grandchildren, while a daughter, Lee Ann Swasey, died last May.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Writer Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.