High school football: Influential former Buffalo Grove football coach Grant Blaney dies at 85

Grant Blaney, who started Buffalo Grove’s football program and led it to an undefeated state title run 12 years later, died on Tuesday.

He was 85.

Blaney played at Amundsen and Iowa State before embarking on a lengthy coaching career that included stints as an assistant at Thornridge and Wheeling before he came to Buffalo Grove when the school opened in 1973.

The Bison’s first football season was 1974, and just four years later, they finished second in Class 5A with an 11-2 record. That started a nine-year run during which Buffalo Grove went 102-13, capped off by a 14-0 season and the 6A title in 1986.

It was the first state football title for a Mid-Suburban League school.

Blaney resigned after the 1989 season, finishing 133-45 in 17 years. But his coaching career was far from over.

He spent time as an assistant at Harper College and Lake Forest College before joining Chris Schremp’s staff at Prairie Ridge in 2005.

Blaney came to the Wolves through his connection with veteran coach Bill Mack.

“The way I got coach Blaney on my staff — I knew Bill Mack, he was teaching me the option,” Schremp said Wednesday. “I said, ‘Coach, you got any of your old cronies who want to be on my staff?’ He was the one who told me about Grant.”

The partnership lasted through 2008, when Blaney retired. Schremp believes it laid the foundation for Prairie Ridge to be the elite program it is today with three state titles and a runner-up finish since 2011.

“Bill Mack, he really taught me the Xs and Os,” Schremp said. “I always felt like Grant Blaney taught me about the art of coaching.

“He was at the end of his career, but just to see the connection he was making with 15- and 16-year-old kids — those kids loved him all the way till the end.”

Schremp said Blaney was ahead of his time in his push for two linchpins of most successful programs today.

“He was one of the first for two things,” Schremp said. “He was one of the first public school coaches who really pushed (the importance of) the weight room. And he was huge in two-platoon football, giving (more) kids a chance to play.”

Three years after he left Prairie Ridge, and 25 years after the Bison’s state title, Buffalo Grove named its football stadium in honor of Blaney.

It was one of many honors, including conference and state coach of the year awards.

But maybe Blaney’s most enduring legacy was his collaborative style.

“He taught me a lot of intangible things,” Schremp said. “He did whatever it took to make our team better.”

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