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Voice of Marist High School Has a Passion for Teaching, Announcing Games

By Justin Breen | February 24, 2014 7:25am
 Randy Coe has been a public address announcer for Marist High School athletic events for 35 years. He has missed only one assigned game during that time.
Randy Coe has been a public address announcer for Marist High School athletic events for 35 years. He has missed only one assigned game during that time.
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Bob Lim

MOUNT GREENWOOD — For the past 35 years, Randy Coe has been the voice of Marist High School.

When he came to the Far Southwest Side Catholic school in 1979 to teach history, Coe noticed there was no regular public address announcer for Redskins football games.

"I was just a fresh new teacher, and I thought, 'What the heck?'" Coe said.

Coe hasn't missed serving as the PA announcer for now-RedHawks football home games since. After adding boys basketball announcing duties in 1982, he hadn't skipped a game until December, when he accidentally booked a Rite of Catholic Initiation for Adults event on the same night as one of Marist's RedHawk Holiday Invitational games.

"I guess I chose God over basketball," said Coe, who also has been the PA announcer for every boys volleyball home contest since 1990, and girls volleyball and girls basketball affairs since the school went coed in 2002.

"The only thing I haven't announced is bass fishing, golf and chess, which you can't announce," said Coe, a Roseland native and Fenger High School alumnus.

After graduating with two bachelor's degrees and a master's degree from Chicago State University, Coe came to Marist for his first full-time teaching gig. The 63-year-old Tinley Park resident has never left, and all three of his children — sons Randy, 31, Ryan, 29, and Robert, 23 — are Marist products.

"He loves Marist," said Bob Lim, the school's athletic director.

Coe said he simply loves teaching and announcing. He compares being around teenagers all day to living in "Never Never Land."

He recently bought his second Daft Punk CD, so the students "know I'm up to speed with them," Coe said. He plays "Sandstorm" by Darude before every test given in his sophomore Western civilization, junior U.S. history and senior AP art history classes.

"My body might be falling apart, but my mind is young," Coe said.

His youthful, exuberant approach carries over to the mic.

"I don't think you'll find an announcer more excited to be anywhere than Randy Coe," said Mike Brennan, a Marist religion teacher and assistant football coach. "I really think that's what comes through is his energy and his love for what he's doing."

Coe also enjoys making people laugh during games. Marist's football field is just south of St. Casimir Catholic Cemetery, and when a kicker blasts an extra point or field goal into the graveyard, Coe will say: "The ball landed in the cemetery, so you know what that means ... it's a dead ball!"

The school also sells foam fingers, so, as a sales pitch, Coe will incorporate a line like: "Well, boss' day is right around the corner, and what's the perfect gift for your boss? Give your boss the finger — the Marist foam finger!"

But as much as Coe cares for Marist, he tries to be as fair an announcer as possible. When an opponent does something special, he wants them and their fans to feel appreciated, too.

"That rubs some people the wrong way because they want you to be biased toward your team," Coe said. "But these kids are not our enemies."

Coe has a lengthy list of honors to his name, including winning the "Heart of the School" award in 2001, the Coca-Cola Educator of Distinction Crystal Apple award in 2007 and Champagnat Award from the Marist Brothers in 2008. In 2011, he was inducted into the school's Hall of Fame.

Coe, who has been married to his wife, Laurie, for 36 years, would like to teach until 2019, giving him four decades at the school. But Coe jokingly said he has one out clause.

"I've taught kids whose fathers I've also taught," Coe said. "But if I ever get a kid who said 'You taught my grandfather,' I'm outta there."