In 52 years on the sidelines, Raczek ranks as the second all-time winningest high school football coach in state history with 360 victories.
Due to his health, Raczek had planned to retire before last season, but returned for his grandson Jesse’s senior season last fall, as he shared co-head coaching duties with his son, Steve.
“Coach Bob’s passing is a sad day for the Stevens Point Area Catholic Schools (SPACS) family,” read a SPACS statement from SPACS president Todd Kuckkahn following Raczek’s death. “As coach’s teams have battled on the field, he valiantly battled cancer.
“Coach had incredible success on the field yet he will be best remembered for the impact he had on so many young men who are part of the Pacelli football program. He was so proud of his players and what they accomplished on the field, in the classroom and in life. Our prayers are with Bob and his family.”
Born in Mosinee in 1938, Raczek attended Mosinee High School, and then went to the University of Wisconsin-Stout (UW-Stout), where he competed in football, wrestling, volleyball and track.
Following his playing career, Raczek spent one season as an assistant football coach at UW-Stout in 1961 and four seasons as the head football coach at Tri-County High School in Plainfield.
He came to Pacelli in 1966, where he spent one season as an assistant coach for the football team, before he took over as the team’s head coach in 1967.
Through the years, Raczek also coached wrestling, track and field, and hockey at Pacelli, but it was on the football field where his teams achieved the most success.
In 46 years as the head coach of the Cardinals, Raczek led Pacelli to Wisconsin Independent Schools Athletic Association (WISAA) State Titles in 1986 and 1995, as well as six other State Championship Game appearances.
In 2005, he guided the Cardinals to the WIAA Division 7 State Title with a 46-20 win over Gilman, which was the 300th win of his career, as he became only the third coach in state history to reach that mark.
Just over a year earlier, Raczek had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2004, but he continued to coach while he fought the disease.
The Cardinals went on to advance to at least the State Quarterfinals in four out of the next five seasons from 2006 through 2010, while they increased the number of Conference Titles won under Raczek to 15.
In August 2008, Pacelli decided to honor Raczek for his contributions, as it named the football field outside of the school “Bob Raczek Field.”
“People like Bob Raczek, they’re very special,” said former University of Wisconsin athletic director Pat Richter in 2008, following a banquet held in honor of Raczek for the field dedication. “You can just see the kind of love and respect that he has in the community and the job that he’s done.”
After coaching his sons Steve, Mark and Matt in the 1980s, and bringing Steve on as an assistant coach in 1997, Raczek had the opportunity to coach his grandson and Steve’s son, Jesse, starting in 2009.
The following year, Raczek celebrated his 50th year in coaching, as he and his wife Pat led the 2010 Pacelli Homecoming parade from his golf cart, which some of his former players purchased for him years earlier to help him get around the practice field.
But as his health deteriorated while he battled cancer, Raczek decided to stop coaching after the 2011 season.
However, Steve talked him into returning last fall for Jesse’s senior season, as they served together as co-head coaches.
“It took some coaxing, and I tell you, it was a gutsy move for him,” said Steve last October. “His health is not good. And I think it meant a lot to him that Jesse was a senior this year, and it meant a lot to me to have that mentor still there.
“And he was a huge help all season long,” said Steve.
With Pacelli needing to win in the regular season finale against Wittenberg-Birnamwood on Oct. 12 to keep its playoff hopes alive, Raczek watched the game from his car in the parking lot on the south end of the stands at Community Stadium at Goerke Field after he suffered a fall during the week.
Jesse went on to rush for a career-high 267 yards and five touchdowns in a 62-15 win, while the Pacelli football players surrounded Raczek’s car following the victory for a post-game speech.
The win sent the Cardinals to the playoffs, where they beat Wild Rose 34-7 in the opening round, before they suffered a 22-14 loss to Rosholt, in what proved to be Raczek’s last game.
Raczek also coached that game from his car in the same spot in the parking lot, where he delivered a final post-game speech after the team ran out and surrounded his car again.
“He had his words with them, and thanked the seniors for four great years, and we said a little prayer, and that’s about all you can do,” said Steve after the game. “The kids respect the guy, and these seniors are going to miss him.
“He’s taught these seniors a lot about football, and probably even more about life,” said Steve. “So it’s always an emotional moment over there, because you just never know if it’s going to be the last one you’re going to have.”
In May, Raczek learned that he was to be inducted into the UW-Stout Athletic Hall of Fame this coming fall, and had hoped to make the induction ceremony on Nov. 2, but he lost his battle with cancer on July 28.
He is survived by his wife, Pat; daughter, Mary Ellen Hurrish; sons Steve, Mark and Matt; and grandchildren Ryan, Theresa, Rochelle, Jesse, Emily, Alexandra, Gabriella, Benjamin, Isabella and Anthony.
A 2000 inductee to the Wisconsin Football Coaches Hall of Fame, Raczek left his mark on the high school football record books, as he stands as the second all-time winningest coach in state history with a 360-165-2 record, and has coached more football games than anyone in Wisconsin history with 527.
Raczek continued to coach for as long as he could, and after the win over Wittenberg-Birnamwood in the regular season finale last October, he talked about his time at Pacelli.
“Even today, I was sitting here in the car, and I had a bunch of former players just stopping in here, and talking about, ‘hey, you’re still running that same play we ran here 20 years ago,’” said Raczek. “And talking about how they enjoyed the game and coming back and watching us play yet.
“I don’t think there’s any words that describe it,” said Raczek of coaching at Pacelli. “It’s been just great.”