July 23, 2021

Joliet Central hires 24-year-old Mike Ivlow as new head coach

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Mike Ivlow always envisioned himself running his own football program at some point.

He did not expect it to happen so soon.

Ivlow, 24, was officially named head coach of the Joliet Central football program on Tuesday. Ivlow replaces Fred Gandy, who left the post to accept a position at Thornton High School in Harvey. Gandy posted a 1-8 record at the helm in his only year at the position.

Ivlow is believed to currently be the youngest varsity head football coach in the state.

"Jennifer Doede, the athletic director, has given her trust in me and decided to go with a young guy and I'm forever grateful for that," Ivlow said. "One of the commitments I made to her was that we are going to do our best to increase our numbers and do our best to make sure our kids are having fun. That's the two things I promised her and as a young head coach given this opportunity and this big task, one of the worst things would be to let her down. I do not want to let her down and our administration down. And therefore, it lit a fire under me. I want to come ready to work."

Ivlow spent last season as the defensive back/running back coach at Joliet Catholic and spent one season as a graduate assistant at St. Xavier University where he also played, but the breadth of his coaching experience has considerably more reach than your typical first-time varsity head coach. Ivlow is the son of current Bolingbrook head coach John Ivlow, who has amassed a 141-56 record and a state title (8A, 2011) as he enters his 19th year with the Raiders.

"I have a unique perspective on a lot of other coaches in the area, I've been around football as a fan of football and a coaches son since I was five years old," Ivlow said. "And I've got to meet and watch some of the best coaches in Illinois history. What I am going to do is take everything that everyone has taught me and shown me and take the things that I like and build around that."

Ivlow, who will officially begin his role as head coach on Monday, will get approximately one week of team camp to introduce himself to his student athletes. And while the next step beyond that is uncertain with the status of fall sports still very much in question, Ivlow is still very much itching to get going.

"My goal is just to get to know our kids on a personal level and as a student athletes," Ivlow said. "I just want to see where our kids are at in life, are they enjoying football? What can I help them with? What can I do to help them on the practice field? What can I do to help them in the community? I think that's the biggest issue. Showing these kids, I'm only six or seven years older than you guys and I have a sense of what you guys are going through and I want to be there in any way that I can."

Ivlow becomes one of the youngest appointees to a head coaching football position in Illinois history. John Hart, father of current Kankakee High School head coach Derek Hart, was hired by Edwards County at the age of 22. Current Sycamore coach Joe Ryan was hired for his first head coaching job at Eureka at the age of 23.

Steve Soucie

Steve Soucie has been the Sports Editor at the Joliet Herald News since August of 2018. Prior to that, Soucie worked at the Kankakee Daily Journal and for Pro Football Weekly.