LIMA — When Jim Offenbaker was named Lima Senior High School’s athletic director in July 1999, his experience as an administrator was limited.
“Zero,” Offenbaker said, with a smile, when asked what administrative background he brought to the job.
But, as he pointed out, it’s a job where you learn lessons every day. Fourteen years and many lessons later, his lesson plan is to retire at the end of the school year.
He announced that intention months ago and now is down to the final weeks of a 34-year career as athletic director, a teacher and an athletic trainer in the Lima City Schools.
The last 14 years have been eventful, with Lima Senior having to find two new leagues, the addition of several major facilities and the ongoing attempt to restore the football program to competitiveness.
Going from the Greater Miami Conference to the Greater Buckeye Conference to the Three Rivers Athletic Conference, with a stretch as an independent, ranks at the top of Offenbaker’s list of tasks he handled as athletic director.
“The league issue was a very big part of my career, always trying to figure out what we were going to do,” he said.
Lima Senior’s last season in the GMC, the 1999-2000 school year, was his first as athletic director.
For three seasons after that, the Spartans played an independent schedule in all sports. From 2003-10 they were in the Greater Buckeye Conference, and when that league folded, they found their current home, the Three Rivers Athletic Conference.
With the opening of the new Lima Senior High School in 2004, the Spartans moved into a new gymnasium. In the years since then, the school has built new baseball and softball fields and new practice fields on its campus and has installed artificial turf and new east side bleachers at Lima Stadium.
Maybe the most stubborn problem to solve has been the football program. The Spartans have won only 20 of their last 120 football games. They have had seven head coaches since 2000 — actually, eight, if you count one who gave the job back a few days after accepting it.
“I’ve always wanted the football program to be successful because if it’s successful, it seems like the rest of the school year is very successful. If we can get the football program turned around and get more young men playing football, it will be good for Lima Senior and the Lima City Schools system,” Offenbaker said.
He was the trainer for Lima Senior’s 1996 Division I football state champion team and still wears a ring honoring that season.
“I’m one of the few guys still around here (Lima Senior) who has one of those,” he said.
After 14 years, Offenbaker has game nights down to a routine. “The people around me have made me look good because of the way they did their jobs,” he said.
But even the most carefully designed plans can go awry and then it’s time for some repair work.
For example, there were times when an official wasn’t there and it was time to make some phone calls.
Offenbaker remembered one of those situations. “It was a tournament game and it’s late in the fourth quarter (of the first game) and he’s not around,” he said. “So I call him and say, ‘You’ve got tonight’s tournament game,’ and he says, ‘No, I’ve got tomorrow night’s game.’
“I said, ‘No, you’ve got tonight’s game,’ and he looks at his schedule and says, ‘Ohhhh.’ ”
Offenbaker, a native of Newark, graduated from Ohio University in 1979 and has a master’s degree from the University of Dayton. His entire teaching career has been at Lima Senior.
He will stay in Lima, but has no specific blueprint for his retirement. “I don’t have any plans and that’s O.K. I just need to relax. I’m going to travel a little and relax,” he said.