More than a half century ago, Jack Byrne ventured
to Chester County from his native Philadelphia largely by happenstance,
and then never left.
A 1959 graduate of North Catholic High School, Byrne thought he
was going to play college football at Minnesota. But when a scholarship
offer fell through, he was working in a ball bearing factory
when fate intervened.
"Jim Bonder's brother, Tony, lived around the corner," Byrne explained.
"One day, I was outside shoveling snow and, and he said,
"I wanna take you to West Chester State - my brother is a football
coach out there.""
"That's how I got here. And you know what? It was the best thing that happened to me."
Byrne went on to be a multi-year, two-way starter for some great teams in the early 1960s and then
went on to put in more than four decades as a coach and athletic director in the West Chester School
District. And he is now one of the inductees in the fifth class of the Chester County Sports Hall of
During his playing days as a halfback from 1961-63, the Golden Rams went 22-5 with two PSAC
titles and a victory in the Cement Bowl. And during his senior year, he met his future wife, Marianne,
on a blind date. The two just recently celebrated their 47th anniversary.
"Coming to West Chester changed my life," Byrne said. "I played legends like Joe Iacone, Jim Pribula,
Tony DiMido and Ken Johns – all of them went on to play professional football. My head coach
was Bonder and my position coach was (his successor) Bob Mitten."
Byrne began teaching and coaching in 1964 at West Chester High School. A decade later, he was
tabbed as the first head football coach at newly opened West Chester East in 1974.
"Trying to get that football program off the ground created many challenges," he recalled. "It took us a
little while but we got it up and running."
Thirteen seasons after that, he became East's athletic director at another challenging time when the
Ches-Mont League was soon to contract from 12 members down to four by the late 1980s.
"It wasn't an easy time but I think it made our programs much better," Byrne said. "We had to find
games all over the place, so we ended up playing good teams."
During his tenure, the Vikings captured four state titles. He first retired in 2003, but came back three
separate times over the ensuing years as the interim athletic director at East, West Chester Henderson
and finally an 18 month stint at then brand new West Chester Rustin.
By the time he retired for good, Byrne had logged 41 years with the school district. He is already a
member of the Killinger and Ches-Mont halls of fame.
"I was surprised and elated when I was told about the Chester County Sports Hall of Fame," said
Byrne, age 70. "I will cherish for a long, long time. It's nice to know that people recognized what you