BELLAIRE - When it got down to finding a replacement for Don Zinni, who retired as the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Football Commissioner last month, the conference's executive board didn't have to look very far.
OVAC Executive Secretary Tom Rataiczak has announced that Dave Clutter, who's been Zinni's assistant for more than a year, has been formally approved by the board and will take over the role of commissioner effective immediately.
"The OVAC is very pleased with the promotion and appointment of Dave to the football commissioner's position," Rataiczak said. "We brought Dave on as Don's assistant so he could see his grandson play and were extremely pleased with his efforts during the past year. When Don announced his retirement, it was a unanimous decision of the board to elevate Clutter."
Clutter is excited to get started on his new role as the chief assigner for OVAC football officials. However, he also plans on leaning on Zinni for advice and pointers as he settles into the position.
"It's a win-win situation for me," Clutter said. "Don has agreed to stay on in an advisory role as long as the OVAC will have him, and from my standpoint, he's more than welcome. He did this job for 17 years and you don't pick up everything in 18 months, so I plan on relying on him heavily."
Rataiczak also spoke highly of Zinni's work during his tenure.
"Losing a man the caliber of Don Zinni is always regretted. But knowing Don, he'll be around for years to come in other capacities with the conference," Rataiczak said. "The OVAC wishes him the best in his retirement, but we also plan to have him help in an advisory capacity and in observing and evaluating crews.
"Don held this position longer than any other football commissioner and has done an outstanding job in organizing not only the officials, but in expanding the boards and assisting member schools with football-related problems, especially in scheduling."
Clutter, a 1967 Wheeling High School graduate and 1971 graduate of West Liberty State College, officiated football in both Ohio and West Virginia for 38 years. His expertise landed him five Super Six assignments and one Ohio State Championship Game during his career.Clutter has some ideas he'd like to work on for the football officials groups, but realizes that they might not happen overnight.
"My biggest objective is to improve the overall officiating in the OVAC," Clutter said. "I also want to mold the various boards that we use into a more cohesive unit, so people can identify with the officials regardless if they're from Morgantown, Parkersburg or even Columbus. We want people to realize that these are OVAC officials because I think there's a perception out there that some guys aren't true OVAC officials."
Work is already well under way for Clutter as schools are sending in their 2013 football schedules.
"This is definitely a 12-month job," Clutter said. "The (officiating) crews have until Dec. 15 to submit their 2013 application to the conference. Then the ratings forms from the coaches are due and then the actual scheduling begins."
The schools are required to have their schedules - completed or not - to the OVAC by Feb. 1. Clutter will have the officials assignments to them by late April and then onto the schools' athletic directors to begin the contracts.
"Dave's personality and professionalism allow the conference to showcase our officials the way they should be," Rataiczak said. "With the foundation built by Don, we look for Dave to further develop our crews to be the best to be found in either state. We are looking forward to new leadership and ideas that he will bring to the table and have total confidence in his ability to execute them. This looks to be a very smooth transition."