NeveHarms When Mike began coaching Junior Football League games in 1972, money was tight. "We had our meetings on Adams Street, and they'd have to walk across the street to South Side Bank to sign a note to fund the season," Burns said.
The 55-year-old Washington native retired earlier this month as president of the JFL of Central Illinois. During his 15 years in that volunteer position, Burns added flag football and cheerleading, developed seven new JFL areas and increased total participation by I,500 for today's total of about 4,000.
Participation in JFL coaching clinics increased about six times, to around 600. And
the formerly cash-strapped organization had about $280,000 in the bank and an annual operating budget of nearly $500,000 by the time Burns retired.
"We had a bad reputation with a lot of high school coaches and officials, for good reason," Burns said. "We had some coaches out there who had no clue about youth sports. They were out there reliving their high school days. Now, high school coaches all welcome the JFL. We cleaned up a lot of things."
Burns is retired after working 30 years as a Caterpillar, Inc. assembly worker. Although he had no college degree or background in the field, Burns became adept enough to start his own fundraising business.
He is now retired from that job as well, in order to spend time with wife Crystal, daughters Kelley and Missi, stepsons Sean and Troy and three grandchildren.
But Burns still plans to help the JFL, remain president of the Old Timers Association - which raises $15,000 to $17,000 annually for youth sports and charities - and help a host of other causes.
"Anything I'm involved with, he's my first choice to add to the committee," said Old Timers treasurer Quent Yerby, the 1978 Neve Harms winner. "Everything Mike has ever done, he's never gotten paid. He won't accept anything - maybe a free lunch."
When Mike began coaching Junior Football League games in 1972, money was tight. "We had our meetings on Adams Street, and they'd have to walk across the street to South Side Bank to sign a note to fund the season," Burns said.
Larry Leitner was among the state's elite officials for more than 40 years, officiating high school, college and professional sporting events from 1960 through 2003 and he remains involved in sports by serving on the board of directors for the Pekin Insurance Holiday Tournament, as well as evaluating current officials and moderating IHSA rules clinics.
Among his officiating highlights, Leitner worked more IHSA basketball and football tournament games than any official in the state's history, earning 27 consecutive boys basketball regional assignments. He also worked the IHSA boys basketball state finals in 1973, 1974 and 1976, including the 1976 championship game, and three IHSA football finals, including the first-ever 2A state championship game in 1974. A charter member of the Gateway Conference officiating crew in 1988, Leitner was part of the crew that officiated the 1990 and 1993 NCAA Division I-AA quarterfinals and he served as an associate official for the Big Ten Conference from 1984-88.
Leitner also was called upon to officiate two IESA state championship games, the 1990 National Catholic Basketball finals, three Shriner All-Star football games and the 1980 IBCA All-Star Classic, while also working for two seasons in the Midwest Professional Football League.
Leitner is a member of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association, Peoria Officials and Bloomington/Normal Officials Halls of Fame.