After five decades of dedication, John Acklin will call it quits

May 18—After 50 years, a laundry list of accomplishments and more than a couple retirements, Conneaut athletic director John Acklin, 80, is retiring for good.

"There's been way more positive things than negative things by far over the 50 years. That's what you remember, all the good things," Acklin said. "It's been a great ride, but it's time for a new bus driver."

Acklin is finishing up his second stint as athletic director in the school district. In 2011, Acklin retired from his supplemental athletic director position at Linesville High School, which ended a tenure that spanned from 1971 to 2011. He returned to the district in 2013 after Conneaut Area Senior High School was formed due to the consolidation of Linesville, Conneaut Lake and Conneaut Valley high schools for the 2012-13 school year.

The athletic director position was made a full-time position, and district administratives asked Acklin to return. With two more schools and a total of 16 sports to manage, it was a much bigger task than when Acklin stepped down in 2011, but he took the challenge head-on.

"I saw it as a challenge of more sports and full-time. I knew I had the time and I could do a good job," Acklin said. "I liked the position, and the compensation was more. I saw it as a win-win."

How did Acklin know it was time to hang it up? It wasn't an easy decision, but it was time, he said. His five-year contract expires at the end of June, and he is ready to slow down. However, he is extremely grateful for his good health and credits his role at the school for keeping his youth.

"I look forward to slowing down. I am on a rat race right now and at 80, you really shouldn't do that, but I think it's a significant factor in keeping me young," Acklin. "How many 80-year-olds get to come in and work with 15-, 16-, 17-year-old kids? Plus the staff I work with every day? This is what drives me."

To say Acklin is synonymous with Linesville and CASH would be an understatement. He moved to Linesville in 1957 as an eighth grader and has — quite literally — never left. Besides attending college at Clarion, Acklin has worked or attended school in Linesville since '57.

Acklin's made a positive impact on a lot of players, coaches, students and members of the community since starting his career in the district in 1966.

"To say Mr. Acklin was dedicated to his role as athletic director would be an all-time understatement. He leaves behind an enduring legacy marked by tireless efforts and unwavering commitment to Conneaut School District's student-athletes," Conneaut head girls volleyball basketball coach Christine Krankota said. "He has set a tremendous example of servant leadership, and I wish him nothing but health and happiness in retirement."

In addition to being an athletic director and librarian, Acklin coached 34 years at Linesville, including 14 as the head boys basketball coach where he led the Lions to a 233-130 record, 45 postseason games, two French Creek Valley Conference championships, a District 10 title and two western Pennsylvania semifinal appearances. Five Linesville programs have played for a state championship under his tutelage.

Acklin coached more than 1,200 contests during his time as a head boys volleyball coach, head softball coach, assistant girls basketball coach, head girls basketball coach, assistant boys basketball coach or head boys basketball coach.

Mark Ruttenberg, long-time Conneaut Lake girls basketball coach and now an assistant with the CASH girls basketball and volleyball teams, said Acklin's longevity and commitment to community is tough to sum up.

"He did above and beyond what ADs do to take care of the kids as far as I'm concerned. Whether it was equipment or when we got to the playoffs he made sure we were taken care of. I know he enjoyed being around the kids too," Ruttenberg said. "He's been there forever. I literally cannot remember not having him in our district. For him to stick around this long and do the job he's done is a real credit to him and to his family too.

"We really appreciate everything he's done."

Acklin will continue to work at Linesville First Baptist Church as the groundskeeper, a role he's had since 2002.

In his five decades of work, Acklin has seen plenty of big accomplishments. His favorite memory, at least since CASH has existed, was the football team's win against Cathedral Prep in the 2014 District 10 championship game. As far as the best athlete he's witnessed, that's an impossible question to answer, according to Acklin. He listed about 10 athletes spanning from the 1970s to just a few years ago that all amazed him.

Acklin is most proud of all of the success Conneaut's programs have had over the years. At its heart, the school is still a small farm school, he said. Despite the school competing in Class 3A or 4A with small-school facilities, the Eagles have been successful.

"I'm really proud the community has gotten behind all our programs. We've been really successful," Acklin said. "For what we are, just a country school — still a Class A school for all intents and purposes — I love the overall success and pride people have here."

After June 30 Acklin will officially not be employed by the Conneaut School District for the first time in five-plus decades. Will a staple of the Linesville community still be on-hand to watch the Eagles this fall?

"I sure will," Acklin said grinning. "If they let me in, I'll be there."

Alex Topor can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at