There are more than 600 head coaches in the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference - many of whom have enjoyed most memorable seasons in the 19 sports that the OVAC recognizes each school year.
Thus, narrowing the list to five, and then down to one, as the Wheeling News Register Bill Van Horne OVAC Coach of the Year can be a daunting task.
After receiving nominations from Ohio Valley media members, a 12-person committee met recently to attempt to widdle down the names and arrive at the 44th annual recipient of the award, which has been given to 45 coaches, which only 36 different winners as there's six two-time recipients and Steubenville Big Red football coach Reno
Saccoccia has won the award three times.
The award, which will be presented during Monday's 27th annual OVAC Banquet of Champions by retired Wheeling Intelligencer Sports Editor Doug Huff, includes coaches from the spring of 2011 and the fall and
winter of this school year.
The OVAC Coach of the Year Committee consists of: Tom Rataiczak, Bob Koch, Ron Mauck, Don Zinni, Shawn Rine, Rob Metzger, Bubba Kapral, Jeff Harrison, Seth Staskey and Huff.
Here's a look at the five finalists in alphabetical order:
MIKE BLACKBURN, Steubenville Wrestling - This Big Red head coach has been at the helm of one of the area's most up-and-coming wrestling programs for seven years.
It's safe to say his Big Red program officially turned the corner this past season when it sent eight wrestlers to the Ohio Division II State Tournament.
En route to getting - what tied for the largest delegation - to Columbus, Big Red won the OVAC 4A dual and tournament title, while finishing second to Parkersburg South for the overall banner in the Ron Mauck OVAC Tournament.
Steubenville cruised to the dual title in the OVAC's new format, posting a 14-1 record in duals. It's only loss came to South in the championship match of the Park Duals in December.
Blackburn's Big Red squad also won the Division II sectional title at Buckeye Local and then held off perennial district power Claymont to win the Division II East/Central District title.
At the state tournament, Steubenville finished fifth with 67 points and produced five all-Ohioans, including state runnerup Charlie Keenan.
This is Blackburn's first time as an OVAC Coach of the Year finalist.
KIM CLIFFORD, St. Clairsville Basketball - This Red Devil basketball coach just completed his 21st season at the helm of the Belmont County program.
He and his Red Devils enjoyed their most memorable season in school history this past winter. Clifford guided his all-underclassmen team to an outstanding 23-3 record, which included a 22-game winning streak.
The Red Devils pocketed their first-ever OVAC boys basketball championship in Februrary when they downed East Liverpool, 79-64 in the 4A title game. It carried the momentum directly into the OHSAA Division II postseason.
St. Clairsville advanced to the district championship game for the sixth time under Clifford's watch and got another monkey off its back with a 70-53 victory against the Potters.
At the regional tournament in Athens, St. Clairsville dispatched Chillicothe and New Philadelphia to reach the Division II state tournament where it fell to eventual state runnerup Elida.
Clifford owns a career record of 372-229 overall, which includes a tenure at Cadiz High School. His rrecord as the Red Devils coach is 283-181.
This is the first time Clifford has been a finalist.
PAUL JACKSON, Parkersburg South Wrestling - When you talk about building a juggernaut in the sport of wrestling, there's no better place to start the conversation than with Jackson.
The South High graduate put the finishing touches on his brilliant coaching career with another robust campaign with a West Virginia Class AAA championship for the fourth straight season. He captured the overall and 5A championship at the Mauck OVAC Tournament. It was South's third straight title in the conference meet.
Jackson's squad finished with just one loss in duals and it snapped a 115-match winning streak.
All told, Jackson won nine big-school Mountain State titles and produced 26 state champions. Last month, Jackson was named West Virginia High School Coach of the Year.
This is the third consecutive year that Jackson has been a finalist for this award.
DAN LIEDTKE, Fort Frye Boys and Girls Basketball - This coach might have been one of the conference's busiest and most successful.
For the third consecutive season, Liedtke served as the head coach of both the boys and girls basketball teams in Beverly. It was his 27th season overall as boys' coach.
Liedtke brought his teams to Ohio University Eastern on back-to-back weekends for the OVAC Tournament and left with the top prize both times.
His boys upended Magnolia in Class 3A, while the girls beat Monroe Central.
All told, the Lady Cadets, who were also PVC champions, finished 22-3, were ranked sixth in the final Associated Press poll and eventually won the Division III District title.
They fell to eventual state champion Columbus Africentric Early College in the regional semifinal.
The Cadet boys finished the season 17-5 and advanced to the Division III district tournament along with winning another PVC title.
Liedtke was named Eastern District Division III Coach of the Year for boys and girls and was named Ohio Division III Coach of the Year for girls.
This is Liedtke's second time as a finalist. He was also one in 2003.
MIKE YOUNG, Wheeling Central Football - This veteran head coach leads one of the most consistent programs in the state of West Virginia.
And this past season was definitely no different. Despite a trying off-season, the loss of 12 seniors from a state title team in 2010 and being counted as an underdog by many, the Maroon Knights won their first nine games of the season before running into the Linsly buzzsaw in Week 10.
However, Young and company rallied their troops for the Class A postseason and were basically never challenged en route to winning their fifth state title under Young's watch.
In the opening round, the Knights thumped Parkersburg Catholic, 39-14. That was followed by a 34-16 victory against Moorefield and a 37-14 win against East Hardy in the state semifinals.
The Knights beat Williamstown 35-21 for the state championship.
For Young, this is his fourth time as a finalist.