After the summer break ends, Somerset High School will prepare for the upcoming 2021-2022 athletic season.
Athletic fields will be striped, new uniforms will be purchased, equipment will be updated, season schedules will be finalized, and coaches will be hired.
But for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century, Somerset High School athletics will be without longtime Athletic Director Bob Tucker - who will retire this spring after working in the education field for nearly a half a century. In all, the 70-year-old Tucker has been at Somerset High School for 45 years – with the last 23 years as the school’s athletic director.
Tucker’s grandmother, Mabel Muse, graduated from Somerset in the early 1900s. His parents, Ralph and Christine, also attended the small school in Pulaski County. His wife Sherrye is a proud Somerset alum, as are their sons Ryan and Neal. Grandson Kannon will get his Somerset diploma in May.
And while Bob Tucker has many family connections with Somerset High School, it was only by chance that he ended up spending 45 years of his life at the small institution on College Street.
Born and raised in Somerset, Tucker played basketball and baseball at Boone County High School after his family moved north. After attending Anderson College and Eastern Kentucky University, Tucker returned to Somerset – but not as a Briar Jumper.
At the age of 22 years old, Tucker took the boys basketball head coaching job at Shopville High School.
“I enjoyed my time there at Shopville, but I started hearing rumors that the smaller county schools would be consolidating with Pulaski County High School, and I wasn’t sure how that mould affect my teaching or coaching career,” Tucker recalled.
So, in 1976, the young Tucker decided to leave Shopville for Somerset High School.
Five years later, Shopville High School became defunct after being consolidated (along with Burnside, Nancy and Eubank) into Pulaski County High School. But by then, Tucker was already the Briar Jumpers girls head basketball coach – a position he held for eight seasons.
In 1987, Tucker was named the Briar Jumpers boys basketball head coach, and led them to the 1989 12th Region Tournament championship game. Tucker spent six seasons as the Somerset boys basketball head coach, with a record of 102-65.
In 1990, Tucker revitalized the girls golf program at Somerset High School, and led them to the program’s only state title in 1994.
During his 45 years at the local small school, Tucker has seen and done it all. He has taught civics and government, math, physical education, and practical arts.
“At one time or another, it seems like I have coached almost every sport here at SHS,” Tucker laughed. “As athletic director, I have offered guidance to my new younger coaches. I have tried to help out every athletic program here at Somerset, and sometimes that meant spending time on the sidelines.”
At a small school like Somerset, Tucker soon found out his job as the Briar Jumpers’ athletic director entailed much more than just athletics.
“For many years, I was the only one that knew how to fix the popcorn machine at the Briar Patch,” Tucker chuckled. “I have delivered soda pop to ball games, I have given kids car rides home, and I was always the one coaches called when they were locked out of the gym.”
And while Tucker has done millions of unnoticed little things that made the SHS athletic programs run smoothly, he has also achieved some monumental tasks that will be part of Somerset High School athletics for may generations.
Tucker has been with the All “A” Classic since it started holding a state-wide basketball tournament for small schools in 1990. Not only has the All “A” Classic provided a chance for small schools compete for state championships, but it yielded much statewide success for Somerset High School over the past 31 years.
The Lady Jumpers basketball team won the 2000 All “A” state title and were state runner-up n 1999. The Somerset boys basketball program finished as All “A” state runners up four times (2001, 2002, 2004, and 2005).
All “A” statewide success hit even closer to home for the longtime AD when grandson Kannon Tucker won the All “A” state boys golf title this past fall.
“The All “A” has been good for the small schools in Kentucky, but it has been especially good for Somerset High School,” Tucker stated. “The All “A” gave many of our athletic teams and athletes hope to competed for state titles in sports where numbers matter.”
For nearly a decade, Tucker also organized and maintained the Ray Correll Bowl – which featured all three local football programs playing in a doubleheader at Clark Field at the start of each gridiron season.
“The Ray Correll Bowl was a revenue-maker. We’ve really benefited from it,” he said. “It made our football program solvent.”
In 2006, Tucker was inspirational in the building and organizing of the Ray Correll Somerset High School Athletic Hall of Fame, which inducts new members each year and is highlighted with the Hall of Fame room in the Briar Patch.
After 45 years on the job, Tucker rarely looks back at his personal accomplishments. But the things he will remember the most about his time at Somerset High School is the relationships he has made with the school’s staff, coaches and – especially – students.
“I always enjoy meeting up with a former students or athletes to talk about a past story or a memory they had while at Somerset High School,” Tucker said with a large smile. “It is gratifying to feel like I have touched so may lives in my 45 years here at Somerset, but there has been even more people at Somerset High School who have touched my life.”
STEVE CORNELIUS is the CJ Sports Editor and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @CJSportseditor.