Area high school football has lost an icon.
Former Crystal Lake Central coach Bill Mack died Saturday night with many of his family members present at Sunrise of Crystal Lake, an assisted living facility. Mack had been battling dementia and Parkinson’s disease. He was 82.
Mack was 122-57 in 20 seasons at Central and was inducted into the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He became almost as well known later in life as a mentor to high school coaches, particularly with his expertise in triple-option football.
“As far as my career goes, he changed the direction of everything,” said Prairie Ridge coach Chris Schremp, who is 142-53 in 17 seasons with three Class 6A state championships. “He taught me the option offense. That was the turning point of the Prairie Ridge program. I would go to Bill’s house twice a week and sit at his kitchen table from 3 to 6 p.m. He went through everything so meticulously. I’d leave his house with a headache, but that’s the way Coach was.”
Mack is survived by his wife, Cheryl; two sons, Bill Jr. and Andy; and a daughter, Beth; along with their families. Mack was selected as recipient of the Northwest Herald Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017.
“It’s amazing,” Bill Mack Jr. said. “Everybody I talked to, ex-assistant coaches, ex-players, they all said the same thing. He was a very inspirational and motivational human being. He really got to know his players. I had somebody ask me this week how he was doing, and this guy didn’t even play football for him. But Dad would stop and talk to him and helped him in other ways.
“He’s blessed now he doesn’t have to deal with that stuff. He wasn’t [like] ‘The Coach’ anymore.”
After coaching at Central, Mack coached several years at the college level. That was where he eventually became an expert on the option.
Mack mentored former Cary-Grove coach Bruce Kay, current C-G coach Brad Seaburg, along with Schremp and many others. Former Richmond-Burton coach J. Randy Hofman was a close friend and worked on Mack’s staff at North Central College in Naperville.
“He was a tremendous influence on many of the things we did as far as the program and football strategy,” Kay said. “He was just a great friend. He is such a smart person and had the ability to explain things in a simple way you could understand. He was a great teacher.”
Kay said he and Mike Noll, the former McHenry and current R-B coach, had planned to visit Mack this week.
“Bill was always up at 5 in the morning, so if I was up early, I could call him [with a question] and he would pick up,” Kay said.
Kay’s 2009 team won the Class 6A state championship. Seaburg’s team won it again last season. The Trojans have played in three other title games since 2004. Kay, Seaburg and Schremp always gave a nod to Mack for helping them reach the pinnacle.
“People don’t realize how many coaches he helped out,” Schremp said. “I would always tell him that he should have started 1-800-BILL-MACK because so many coaches called to pick his brain. He never quit studying football. That was something I hope I can keep, that mindset, and I hope I can do something like that for other coaches down the line.”