Dukett retires as W&J athletic director

June 12, 2014
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Washington & Jefferson College
W&J athletic director Bill Dukett jokes with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, a 1981 W&J graduate, during a ceremony to honor Goodell prior to a 2012 football game at Cameron Stadium. Dukett retired Thursday after 32 years at the school.
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Bill Dukett

Bill Dukett always just wanted to coach football. But in 32 years at Washington & Jefferson College, Dukett has seen his duties range from associate head football coach, to coaching track and field, golf, development officer and, most recently, athletic director at the school.

It was a lot of ground to cover in a 32-year stop at one school, one that came to an end Thursday when Dukett announced his retirement from Washington & Jefferson.

“Everybody’s got an inner clock,” said Dukett, who will turn 66 in September. “Like a quarterback, you only have so much time to get rid of the ball. For me, this was a good time to step down, especially when we have people in place who can handle the job.”

Dukett’s duties at the school will be handled on an interim basis by Mark Lesako, the school’s co-head athletic trainer, and Scott McGuinness, sports information director.

The duo will have some big shoes to fill until a permanent replacement is named.

“Obviously, any time you work somewhere for 32 years in the number of different roles he’s served, you’re going to leave a mark,” said McGuinness, who has worked with Dukett the past 13 years. “He has been invaluable to W&J.”

Dukett came to W&J in 1982 as an assistant coach under John Luckhardt after a successful 12-year stint of his own as a football coach, lastly at Parkland High School. It was at Parkland where Dukett met Luckhardt, then an assistant at Lehigh University. The two struck up a friendship, and when Luckhardt was hired to revive the foundering W&J football program, he added Dukett to his coaching staff.

“I thought I’d be there maybe three years,” Dukett said.

Multiply that by 10.

Not only did Luckhardt and Dukett help revive the program, they made it one of the best in NCAA Division III, winning 14 Presidents’ Athletic Conference championships and appearing in the Division III championship game, the Stagg Bowl, in 1992 and 1994. The Presidents went 137-32-2 from 1982 through 1998 with Dukett as a member of the staff.

“I thought I’d be a football coach until they carried me off the field,” Dukett said. “From taking over a program along with John Luckhardt that wasn’t very good, to getting to the Stagg Bowl in 1992 and 94, I’d say that was a big positive.”

After stepping back from his football duties when Luckhardt left in 1998 due to health concerns, Dukett continued to work in the W&J athletic department, most notably as a golf coach, where he guided the Presidents to six PAC titles and helped start the women’s golf team.

In 2006, he was named the school’s athletic director and made perhaps his biggest mark on the school, helping acquire the funding for facility improvements that included the building of Ross Memorial Park in North Franklin Township.

“I think that facility will stand for a long time,” said Dukett, who has seen W&J’s program grow to offer 24 varsity sports. “I think I was pretty instrumental in getting the money for that.”

Now, he can take a step back and let others continue forward with the school, not that he’ll ever be too far away. His son, B.J., wouldn’t allow for that.

B.J. Dukett, who has Down syndrome, has long been a mainstay at W&J sporting events.

“I’m not moving to Florida or anything,” said Dukett. “I’m retiring. B.J. isn’t. We’ll probably be around quite a bit.”

Dale Lolley has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1993 after previously working at WJAC-TV and the Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown, and The Derrick in Oil City. A native of Fryburg, Pa., he is a graduate of North Clarion High School and the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, where he earned a degree in journalism. He has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers since joining the Observer-Reporter in 1993, and also serves as the outdoors editor. He also is a radio host for Pittsburgh’s ESPN 970-AM, and serves as administrative adviser for the Red & Black, Washington & Jefferson College’s student newspaper.

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