Joe Krivak’s coaching origins can be traced all the way back to his days playing at Shade High School.
An offensive lineman, Krivak starred on the Panthers’ 1952 team, which most consider the best in Shade’s history.
And, according to legend, Krivak often offered play calls in the offensive huddle.
“A lot of time, Joe had a lot of input into it even though he was a lineman,” said Shade co-football coach and Athletic Director Mike Pribish, who watched the 1952 team on a regular basis.
Joe Ference grew up with Krivak in Central City. The two played on the same football, basketball and baseball teams. He can confirm the stories Pribish heard over the years.
“Joe did do the play calling in the huddle,” Ference recalled Friday afternoon. “As a team, we pretty much ran roughshod over everybody except Conemaugh Township, but he’d call the plays. … He was definitely the leader.”
Krivak died Dec. 25 in Bowie, Md., at age 77 after a lengthy battle with leukemia. Born March 20, 1935, Krivak went from Shade to Syracuse, where he played with the legendary Jim Brown. But according to Ference, it was a run-in with another legend that changed Krivak’s mind from playing college basketball to college football.
“He went up to St. Francis when Maurice Stokes was there and he had to guard him,” Ference said. “All I know is he ended up in football after that.”
Krivak’s decision to play football at Syracuse, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Masters in Education, led to a highly successful college coaching career.
Krivak’s coaching career officially started in 1958 as the head coach at Madonna High School in Weirton, W.Va. In 1969, he joined the staff at Syracuse as an assistant for Ben Schwartzwalder. From 1974 to 1976, Krivak was an assistant coach at Maryland then an assistant at Navy from 1977 to 1981.
Krivak returned to Maryland in 1982 and joined Bobby Ross’ staff as quarterbacks coach. He mentored future NFL quarterbacks Boomer Esiason, Neil O’Donnell, Frank Reich, Stan Gelbaugh and Scott Zolak.
“He tutored some of the most prolific quarterbacks to play in College Park and helped develop them for future success in the NFL,” Maryland Athletic Director Kevin Anderson said in a statement released by the university.
In 1986, Krivak succeeded Ross as Maryland’s coach and compiled a 20-34-2 record with the Terps. Maryland played in the 1991 Independence Bowl, a 34-all tie against Louisiana Tech. In 1989, Krivak coach Maryland to a 13-all tie against Penn State. The Nittany Lions lead the all-time series 35-1-1.
Krivak’s coaching career concluded at Virginia, where he was the quarterbacks coach in 1995 and 1996.
“He was always a person from the area that we looked at as being very successful,” Pribish said. “He was always a bright person with a real sharp football mind.”
He was also a person who gave back to his alma mater.
Shade honored the 1952 football team before the start of the 2012 season opener. Krivak used the opportunity to speak to the high school students.
“He spoke at a pep rally for about 15 minutes,” Pribish said. “He talked about these being some of the best times the students will ever have and to stay away from substance abuse. It was an all-around great pep talk to the entire student body. That was just the type of individual he was. He was one of the best to ever come from our area in Shade Township. Just a real solid, honest individual.”
Krivak is survived by his wife of 51 years, Jeanne; brother, Thomas, and sisters, Kay & Ginny; sons Edward (of Newark, Del.), John (of Tampa, Fla.) & Jeff (of Clarksville, Md.); daughters-in-law Karen (Ed) and Lisa (Jeff), and grandchildren Troy and Mya (Jeff & Lisa).
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