Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Merle Levin, 80, Cleveland State sports information director, SMACO director

Merle Levin, former Cleveland State University sports information director and SMACO (Sports Media Association of Cleveland & Ohio) executive director, died June 10, 2009, at age 80.

He began his career with Fenn College in 1955 and continued as sports information director when Fenn became part of the newly established Cleveland State University in 1964.

Levin, a resident of Gates Mills, Ohio, retired as the university’s associate athletic director in 1992.

Persuading newspaper, radio and television sports to print items, however small, about the CSU athletic program became his forte.

He was always such a positive and friendly person,” said retired Plain Dealer sportswriter Dick Zunt. “Everybody liked him. He always brought things of interest, and we tried to get it in the paper. It was a tough sell with all the pro teams in town. In his own way, he understood the business. He was happy for whatever was printed.”

In turn, when reporters sought information about and interviews with Vikings players and coaches, “Merle was always approachable and always upbeat,” Zunt said.

Levin helped found SMACO about 30 years ago. For most of those years, the organization of sports reporters and representatives hosted an annual banquet at which they honored professional, collegiate and high school athletes.

The group also hosted an annual celebrity golf tournament that raised thousands of dollars for such charities as Our Lady of the Wayside, based in Avon, Ohio, which provides services to people with mental retardation and developmental disabilities.

SMACO disbanded a few years ago as Northeast Ohio became flooded with golf tourneys and awards banquets put on by a plethora of athletic organizations.

Levin also championed charitable endeavors that did not fall under SMACO’s umbrella. For example, when Vikings basketball standout Paul Ira Stewart suffered a fatal heart attack in 1986 at age 19, Levin and Stewart’s teammate Shawn Wood set up a memorial fund for Stewart’s infant daughter.

During his tenure at CSU, Levin helped form the Mid-Continent Conference, the league in which CSU played from 1982 until 1994.

He handled media operations for five NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) swimming and diving championships and numerous regional tournaments in basketball, wrestling and soccer, which CSU hosted.

Levin belonged to CoSIDA, the national association of college sports information directors which honored him with four national awards for his media guides.

He served as an assistant press director at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

In his retirement, Levin continued organizing and assisting with press relations for banquets and other public events.

The Cleveland native graduated in 1946 from Glenville High School and in 1950 from the University of Michigan, where he was sports editor of the Michigan Daily.

He worked as a reporter for the Chagrin Valley Herald and handled public relations at WHK-AM radio and KYW-TV Channel 3, now WKYC, in Cleveland before joining the staff at Fenn.

Levin was inducted into the CSU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.

His first wife, Marilyn, the mother of his three children, died of complications from cancer in 1976.

Levin and his second wife, Dolores “Dollie,” took a keen interest in animal-rescue efforts. He raised Siberian huskies - Chanook, Kasha, Thor, Laika and Snoway - who had been rescued. His faithful companion in his last months was a cat named Cassidy.

In addition to his wife, Levin is survived by his daughters, Nancy of Mentor, Ohio, and Judi Gogolen of Geneva, Ohio; son, Denny of Vashon Island, Wash.; and two grandchildren.

Levin’s life will be celebrated at noon Tuesday, June 16, 2009, in the banquet room on the 4th Floor of CSU’s Wolstein Center, 2000 Prospect Ave., Cleveland.

This obituary was written by Alana Baranick and originally posted on ObitsOhio.com on June 15, 2009.

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