By David Fong
Regional Sports Content Manager
TROY — Troy Athletic Diretor Jeff Sakal doesn’t have any immediate plans for what he’s going to do once his retirement begins.
Fortunately — or perhaps unfortunately — for him, however, his wife Sandy does.
“My wife has a pretty long ‘honey-do’ list for me,” Sakal said with a laugh. “So there’s going to be a laundry list of chores for me to do.”
Hard to blame Sakal if some of those chores have fallen by the wayside over the years. Sakal has spent the last three decades working in athletic administration — 13 years at Wright State University, eight years at Tippecanoe High School and the past nine years at Troy — which hasn’t left him much time at home. At Troy, he’s been responsible for scheduling practice and game times for all of the Trojans’ varsity, junior varsity and freshmen sports, making sure officials and referees are assigned for games, then attending many of those games.
All told, for nine months out of the year, Sakal frequently works at least six — and sometimes seven — days per week and often works upwards of 60 to 70 hours per week.
“When you are working at least six days a week, when Sunday rolls around, you just want to sit on the couch and watch NFL games,” Sakal said. “Now that I’m not going to be doing that anymore, I’m pretty sure my wife is going to have a laundry list of chores for me to do.”
Sakal’s last official day as athletic director will be Tuesday. After that, Dave Palmer — formerly the athletic director at Piqua — will take over. In his nine years at Troy, Sakal has overseen the largest athletic program in Miami County and one of the largest in the Miami Valley.
While it’s been a daunting task, Sakal said it has been a labor of love.
“I wouldn’t trade any of it,” he said. “It’s been fantastic. One of the big things I’ve been fortunate enough to experience are the relationships I’ve been able to make. Unless you’ve been fortunate enough to have been a part of the great institution of athletics, I don’t think you can fully understand the great relationships and the bonding you have not only with the coaches, but with the student-athletes as well. I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for those special bonds I’ve been able to make over the years.”
Sakal said he’s had many special moments over the years at Troy, but two in particular stand out — helping to oversee the construction of Troy High School’s new gymnasium and helping to get Troy Memorial Stadium ready for last summer’s Mumford & Sons concert.
“Obviously helping with the gym renovation was special, but so was working on the Mumford & Sons concert,” he said. “To see 28,000 people in the stadium was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I don’t know if we’ll see again any time soon.”
While his immediate plans are secure thanks to his wife, Sakal said he’s uncertain what his long-term plans include — but he said going back to work in some capacity is a distinct possibility.
“I don’t think it’s really hit me yet — a lot of people have asked what I am going to do, but I don’t know; I’ve never done this before,” he said. “It will be good to get a little time off, but it I do want to go back to work. I don’t know what that is right now — I’d like to stay in athletics, but I’m not opposed to doing something else, either.”
His biggest cheerleader when it comes to reentering the work force? His wife, Sandy, actually.
“All of my professional life, since we’ve been married, I’ve had a job that has required me to work 60 or 70 hours a week,” Sakal said. “Whenever she introduces me to someone, she always jokes, ‘And this is the man who climbs into bed next to me at 12 a.m.’ We laugh and wonder what we would do if we we were around one another 24/7. I know she’d like me to go back to work.”
Provided all of his chores are done first, of course.