Oklahoma State football: Chuck Yurcich gets a chance of a lifetime

The father of Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich gets his first opportunity to see the Cowboys in person.
by Gina Mizell Modified: September 27, 2013 at 2:00 pm •  Published: September 26, 2013
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STILLWATER — Chuck Yurcich's daily routine generally follows the same pattern. And it all revolves around Mary.

He'll make her breakfast and supper. Help her use the restroom. Put her in bed multiple times, where in all, she'll sleep about 20 hours a day.

Mary is Chuck's mother. She's 104 years old.

During the few hours Mary is awake each day, Chuck will sit close to Mom — her hearing has greatly deteriorated and she is blind in one eye — and visit with her. He estimates he's heard some of her favorite stories about the grandkids about 50 times.

Including the ones about “Little Mikey.”

Mary knows Mike now lives in Oklahoma and is a football coach. And Saturday, Chuck will get a brief escape from his life to see that for himself.

He will jump into a black Lexus SUV around 6 a.m. and begin the four-hour drive from the Cleveland suburb of Euclid, Ohio to Morgantown, W. Va., where Mike will coordinate the Oklahoma State offense against the West Virginia Mountaineers.

These types of trips used to be common for Chuck. He's taken trains and automobiles on numerous journeys across that region to support his son as he found his way as a player and coach, mostly in lower-division college football.

But now Mike's in Big 12 country after earning his big break, the chance to direct OSU's potent spread offense. Meanwhile, Chuck has become Mary's primary caretaker, making it difficult for him to leave the house for a 45-minute excursion, much less a multiday trip across state lines.

OSU's long voyage to West Virginia, its first trip since 1928 to the Big 12's newest outpost, still seems a bit peculiar to many Cowboy supporters and college football traditionalists. But Chuck couldn't be happier OSU and WVU are now conference brothers, because that allows him to see his first Cowboy game.

Mike beamed earlier this week as he talked about his excitement for his dad's upcoming trip.

It's not necessary to see Chuck's face. His voice enthusiastically expresses what he'll feel as he settles into the stands to watch his son's offense in person.

Pride. Joy. Happiness.

“I can't tell you how anxious I am,” he said by phone. “Every day seems like it's about three days long. I'm just waiting for the days to pass …

“I can't wait to walk in that stadium.”

***

It was only natural that Chuck's three children would find their way to sports. When they were young, they were already tagging along with him to high school games.

“They were kind of broken in,” Chuck said. “They were gym rats with me.”

Then, Chuck became Mike's coach.

Mike, the youngest child, grew up playing football, basketball and baseball. He was always naturally savvy in football, Dad said, playing quarterback from the moment he joined a fifth-grade team as a third-grader.

Meanwhile, Chuck preached fundamentals and team dedication, but also called himself a little bit of a softy.

“He was very supportive and pushed me, and at the same time put his arm around me,” Mike said. “So it wasn't like he was one of those dads who was always hounding me.

“He was there to pick me up when I was down and he was my biggest fan, so he's been real big for me growing up.”

Once Mike reached high school, it was time for Chuck to make the transition from coach to, simply, Dad.

Mike knew more about football Xs and Os than he did by then, anyway. And though Chuck admits he sometimes didn't agree with coaching decisions, he welcomed the opportunity to just cheer from the bleachers.

“You don't have to contribute anything except be a support and give them love and attention and just enjoy it,” Chuck said.

For two seasons, Mike quarterbacked the varsity offense of a run-heavy Euclid squad that was one of the state's best in the early 1990s. One of Chuck's most prominent memories of that time is when he and his wife, Pat, held each other as the stands emptied following Mike's final high school game.

“There was something about the last high school game that was so meaningful,” Chuck recalled. “That was the end of him playing at home. We knew he would be playing in college, but it wasn't the same.”

From third grade until the end of high school, Chuck never missed one of Mike's football games. And he was certainly going to try to keep up the pace as Mike moved to the college level.

More than a decade of travels took Chuck from Division III power Mount Union to California University of Pennsylvania, where Mike was a player. Then from Saint Francis (Indiana) to Indiana University to Edinboro (Pennsylvania) to Shippensburg (Pennsylvania), where Mike was on staff.

Chuck often had to make those trips alone. Pat was a beautician, and Saturday was naturally a big day for customers.

“She obviously wanted to go,” Chuck said, “and she did as many times as she could. She missed so many of the games for that very reason. I would nag her about going, and she'd get mad at me.”

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by Gina Mizell
OSU Sports Reporter
Gina Mizell joined The Oklahoman in August of 2011 as the Oklahoma State beat writer, where she covered the Cowboys' historic run to the Big 12 championship and Fiesta Bowl in her first season on the job. Before arriving in Stillwater, Gina was...
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