Former Glendale AD remembered

If there was a Mount Rushmore of Glendale High School athletics, Matt Bordack’s face might very well be etched into it.

“He, Joe Vesnesky, Paul Winslow and John Lloyd were the four icons when I got to Glendale in 1976. Of course, he, Joe and John were involved in sports,” said Gary Walstrom, one of three head football coaches for the Vikings during Bordack’s nearly two-decade run as athletic director at the school. “They were like mentors to me.”

Bordack died on Thursday at UPMC Altoona and was buried on Saturday afternoon at Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Glasgow, about 3 miles from his longtime hometown of Blandburg. He was 87.

“Just to use a cliche, when it comes to athletic directors, he was the complete package,” said Vesnesky, who coached boys basketball early in Bordack’s tenure. “He didn’t go in just for one sport. He was always there for the kids.”

And Bordack was there for a lot.

Bordack was at the head of Viking sports when Lloyd’s football team posted its second perfect season and when Sam Tiesi was leading the Vesnesky’s basketball squad deep into the state playoffs. He was there when wrestling got started at the school, overseeing the athletic department during the hiring of Blair Packer as mat coach and when Jim Orichosky and Tom Ross were qualifying for the PIAA tournament. He was there when Bill Vigne was getting the attention of baseball scouts for his pitching prowess.

He also helped start a trend of enviable stability in his position. Since Reade Township and Beccaria-Coalport-Irvona merged in the 1960s, the school only has had four ADs – a baseball and basketball coach at Reade as well as a math teacher, Bordack took the reins from Nick Ninosky in the early 1970s and didn’t pass them on to Pat Pino until 1988; John Matchock became the school’s fourth athletic director a couple of years ago.

“He was easy to work with,” said Pino, who coached baseball and girls basketball with Bordack as athletic director. “He basically let the coaches coach, and, if he had any advice, he would give it. Otherwise, he would stay out of the coaching aspect. His door was always open if you had a problem or any scheduling desires. He tried to do what you wanted. He got along with everyone. I don’t think anyone had any bad words about him.”

Although not one to interfere with his coaches, Bordack also took his duties very seriously.

“He was one of those ADs who would do anything we can to be successful, but it had to be done the right way,” said his son, Joe, a Glendale athlete in the mid-1970s. “There were no cutting corners, and it was for the kids.”

That thoroughness and attention to detail meant more than just keeping the coaches up to date on rule changes and getting the scheduling done. While he preferred to do his work in the background, Bordack and his trademark crew cut were fixtures when it came to Glendale sporting events.

Vesnesky still remembers Glendale’s 1973 PIAA playoff game against Cambridge Springs. Bordack was brought down out of high in the stands to help determine whether the contest should continue when the court at the Johnstown War Memorial became slick from the ice hockey surface beneath it. After a meeting, the game continued, and Glendale’s rally to win held up.

“I don’t think he ever missed an athletic event. I doubt it,” Vesnesky said. “He drove to wherever we played, football, basketball, baseball. Wherever, he was there.”

Maybe that’s because the job of being AD wasn’t that much of a job to Bordack, in reality.

“The thing that struck me about Matt was that he always seemed happy doing his work. He took his work seriously, but he was always smiling, always laughing,” Walstrom said. “It was tough seeing Matt get upset, and it happened on occasion. But, for the most part, he had that demeanor that he loved being a teacher and being athletic director.”

Before serving in both World War II and the Korean War, Bordack was a baseball standout in northeastern Cambria County. In his later life, he returned to coach youth baseball, and he passed on his competitiveness and love of sports to his children. His youngest son, Matt, is believed to be Glendale’s first 1,000-yard single-season passer. Joe Bordack went on to have a successful stint coaching basketball at Great Commission, where the elder Bordack often could be seen in attendance.

“He always told me he’d beat me if he coached against me,” Joe Bordack said.

The legacy continues to this day. One of Bordack’s grandsons played baseball at Pitt-Johnstown. Another is an avid ice hockey player who is running cross country at Mount Aloysius College. And, as was the case at Glendale, Bordack always seemed to be there for all of them.

“He was following all their schools at one time trying to get to every event he could,” Joe Bordack said. “There were times he’d watch a wrestling match in Portage, then come down off the mountain to watch a basketball game in Altoona.”

“He was something,” Vesnesky said.