Dolan retiring as WVSSAC Exec. Director
Bernie Dolan wouldn’t pinpoint just one reason.
Because, quite honestly, there were just far too many that made the end of this school year the correct timing for his decision to retire as the Executive Director of the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission.
“It’s been coming,” Dolan said during a phone interview. “I originally had a contract through next year, but I just feel like it’s time for me to step aside.”
Dolan, 62, took over the SSAC’s reins on July 1, 2015, one day after formally retiring from Ohio County Schools.
As in any position of leadership, there have been plenty of highs and lows for Dolan.
Things on Dolan’s lists of positives include the expansion of the boys and girls basketball tournaments, expansion of cross country and the additions of girls golf, girls wrestling and robotics to the SSAC’s umbrella.
Away from the actual competitions, Dolan is also quite proud of how the SSAC has grown in terms of its social media presence, technology and maybe most importantly, the small schools in the state have been given a bigger voice.
“The smaller schools needed that and we heard them,” Dolan said. “We wanted to increase activities and we achieved that. Our technology could still be better and it’s something that’ll always need to keep improving. It’s an ongoing thing.”
Unfortunately, with all of the positives came some stressful events, many of which haven’t wrapped up yet.
Dolan believes the expansion and growth of other sports is going to create a push for more of the same in other sports. That will lead to changing of formats and rules as well.
“The opportunities created for large numbers of kids to participate in (state tournament) events and in different sports and activities is one of the biggest positives I’ll take, but looking ahead, we were adding schools, and I don’t know where we will go from here in regards to that because of population, and will the level of excitement of these championship events stay exciting forever?”
On top of that, there are ongoing issues and/or legislation dealing with transfer policy, transgender students just to name a few. And factoring in the sudden death of long-time SSAC Assistant Executive Director Greg Reed in January and it’s been a trying first three months of 2023.
“As enjoyable as it’s been, when you put everything together and consider dealing with COVID and we had teachers strikes during our winter tournaments the first year I was on the job, it’s not always been all that enjoyable,” Dolan admitted. “I took this job to be more involved with athletics, and a lot of the time is spent away from athletics.”
With the news of Dolan’s departure just breaking on Monday evening, he’s unsure of the SSAC’s timetable or formal plan to find his replacement. On top of his replacement, the SSAC is also seeking an assistant executive director to replace the aforementioned Reed.
“There are a number of things that (the SSAC board) will need to get done,” Dolan said. “I am guessing they’ll probably catch their breath and then, at some point, post the position and get my replacement hired and then let that person help to hire the assistant. I would think by July 1, ideally, they’d want the whole team in place.”
Dolan admitted that Reed’s death has weighed on him. Reed was just 57.
“After Greg passed away, I started really thinking more and more that I should go enjoy the grandchildren,” Dolan said.
As for Dolan’s future, he and his wife, Jeanette, are planning to relocate to Lake Norman in North Carolina where they own a home. They recently sold their house in Bethlehem, but purchased a condo in North Park, so they’ll still be making trips back and forth to the Ohio Valley.
“We’ll always maintain a home in Wheeling because that’s where our kids and grandchildren are,” Dolan said. “Other than my grandkids, I plan to do a lot of fishing, gardening and relaxing by the pool.”
Dolan also knows himself well enough to know that he loves school-based athletics and since it’s been such a large part of his adult life, filling that void will be tough. But, he’s already started thinking about a plan.
“There are several schools nearby where we’ll be in North Carolina and I love track and field, so I’ve thought about seeing if there are any (coaching) openings after I’ve had some time to settle in and relax,” Dolan said.