MCC Alumni Feature: Coach Schulte, leading MCC school board into the 21st century. 

April 20, 2022

MCC Alumni Feature: Coach Schulte, leading MCC school board into the 21st century. 

Spartan News is presented by Mason County Central Schools in partnership with Mason County Press. This special series of Spartan News features alumni of MCC. 

By Sarah Jensen, Contributing Writer. 

  • Mason County Central Class of 1970
  • Undergraduate degree: Physical education/athletic administration, Central Michigan University
  • Career: College football coach (CMU, Grand Rapids Community College) and physical education instructor; inducted into the Mason County Sports Hall of Fame, 2008
  • Current service: President, Mason County Central Board of Education.

Jim Schulte’s passion for sports began early. His football career started in junior high, and in high school, he was on the MCC football team for four years, receiving all-state recognition as a senior. He was also on the Spartan track and field team for four years and the basketball and wrestling teams for two.

His abilities shone beyond the athletic arena as well. He was president of his class, a member of the varsity club, and took part in the senior play. MCC’s music and arts director Randall Missamore had the uncanny ability to entice even hardcore football players to take part in creative activities. “I got talked into joining the glee club,” Jim says. “I wasn’t good enough to perform in a play, so I was on the stage crew, putting sets together and changing scenes in The Music Man.”

When it was time to think about college, Jim’s first inclination was to focus on sports with an eye toward teaching. “Many people on my mom’s side of the family were educators,” he said, “so I knew I would go into education.” His mother, Frances, longtime English teacher at MCC, knew that the chances of landing a job with only a physical education background would be slim to none. “She told me, ‘If you’re going to go into education, you’d better make yourself marketable,’” Jim said.

At Central, Jim excelled on the gridiron. In his senior year, he was defensive captain and the team’s starting middle linebacker, leading the Chippewas in season tackles with 153, a school record that held until 1982.

His mother’s sage advice paid off, and Jim’s phys ed major and English minor was the winning combination that landed him an atypical entry-level position. Shortly after graduation, he found himself at Suttons Bay High School not only teaching English courses to all four grade levels but as head of the entire English department.  

But the following June, CMU invited him back to coach football, his true passion. For 28 years, he lived a football player’s dream, teaching a range of PE classes from racket ball to bowling and coaching football, leading the Chips to more than 150 wins and four MAC championships.

In 2003, Jim took a position at Grand Rapids Community College as the head football coach and instructor in its wellness department where he taught and served as co-athletic director until his retirement in 2009. 

Jim credits his high school coaches Barry Aspenleiter (track), Don Peterson (wrestling), and O’Neil “Boots” Newkirk (football) and exceptional teachers like Missamore for forming the foundation of his success. “MCC’s teachers of that era had a big impact on me,” he says, citing Earl Keith, Newkirk, Bruce Krieger, his mother, and longtime history and English teacher Dorothy Landon who lived kitty-corner from the Schultes in their close-knit Scottville neighborhood at the corner of Reinberg and Broadway avenues. 

During his time recruiting players for Central and attending GRCC away games, Jim visited most of the high schools in Michigan and had a chance to observe their facilities. “When our kids go to visit different schools for sporting events or forensic competition,” he says, “they see up-to-date schools, and they think, ‘Man, this is pretty sweet! How come they have these things and we don’t?’” 

The upcoming $33 million (1.95 mill) MCC bond referendum includes improvements to the high school and to athletic facilities, among many other needed improvements (see for more information). 

“They do an amazing job with the facilities as they are,” says Jim. “So add into the mix updated facilities, and it would be even more amazing for the kids. B hall hasn’t changed much since I went to school there. My mother’s classroom hasn’t changed. The referendum would make long-overdue improvements to classrooms and hallways. If a school looks good and is up to date, students feel better, and if they feel better, they’ll perform at a higher level.”

Jim remembers a time when improved facilities were only items on an impossible wish list.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’d hear arguments between the football coach and the band director,” he recalls of his high school football days. “The band wanted to go out on the grass football field and practice their halftime performance,” he says. “But their marching and routines would wear out the 40-yard line on both sides, beat them right down to mud. The football coach would say, ‘You can’t practice on my field.’ Back then, there was no such thing as artificial turf, so everybody expected to just play around in a mud puddle.”

Without artificial turf, he points out, the problem continues. “This spring, they had to postpone the first game of the baseball season because the field was unplayable,” he says. Years of football practice on the outfield had damaged the grass, and it never grew back. “There should be an artificial surface on the football field so practices don’t tear up the baseball outfield. Artificial turf is no longer just a want. It’s a definite need,” says Jim. “We’ve achieved a great deal in the past, but there are necessary tools we need to help our kids to really soar.”

Now retired, Jim has returned to live in Mason County and sees himself as having come full circle. “I’m home,” he says. 

Retirement hasn’t ended his involvement with his alma mater, though. He is currently president of the MCC school board and for several years was assistant to high school football coach Scott Briggs. In March, he spent an afternoon reading aloud to Scottville’s second graders as part of National Reading Month. The book he chose, Kobi Yamada’s Maybe: A Story About the Endless Potential in All of Us, was most appropriate to read at MCC, a school that has laid the groundwork for so many successful careers.  

Editor’s Note: The Schulte family’s roots go back to the origins of Scottville. His great-grandfather, Herman Schulte, the son of German immigrants, came to Sweetland (now Scottville) in the early 1870s. His grandfather helped start the Scottville Fire Department and the Scottville Merchants’ Band (the predecessor to the Scottville Clown Band). His uncle, Ray, started the Scottville Clown Band in 1947 and his father, Jim, was a long-time member of the band.  

Read more about the Schulte family in Scottville here.

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