Sideline Guy: A Night of Celebrations

[Note: This is an entry of an ongoing Stagg Bowl blog by sideline commentator Frank Rossi. To read his previous entries, click here for the first entry or here for his second entry.]

The official portion of our first day in Salem ended with the awarding of the Gagliardi Trophy to Greg Micheli. The reception included both teams and their coaching staffs, as all of this weekend’s participants celebrated one player’s great achievements.

A lot of people want to try to compare the Gagliardi Trophy with the Heisman Trophy, but there are many differences that, I feel, make the Gagliardi concept superior. First, the criteria for the award include factors that make the recipient a well-balanced individual, not just a great football player. The award has been nicknamed the ”Academic Heisman” because of its emphasis on a player’s classroom performance, but a player’s service record is also considered in the balloting. This is an appropriate measure because, as we always point out on the air, the odds are greater than 99.9 percent that Division III Football players will not play at the next level — making the other aspects of their collegiate experience as or more important than their participation in the sport of football. This, too, is why the award is presented only to a senior — so that the player’s entire academic and athletic careers can be evaluated, not just a portion of each.

What jumped out at me about Micheli’s resume wasn’t the 2008 season pass efficiency rating he’s compiled (which was amazingly over 200), but his 3.84 GPA at Mount Union — in his mathematics and physics double major. This guy’s got brains and tremendous career potential, and in the interview I did with him after he received the Gagliardi Trophy (included below), he discusses his plans for after graduation.

The other thing that makes the Gagliardi Trophy superior is that the ceremony is crisp. From the beginning of dinner to the final speech took about 90 minutes — the ceremony seemed to fly by. It’s not that I was excited to just be done with the ceremony; instead, the efficiency of the ceremony allowed me to retain focus as to why we gathered together with our Division III colleagues to celebrate. The only shortcoming I can find is that there is no suspense at the actual ceremony — the winner is announced about a week before the ceremony — and the suspense could create a celebration of a few more very deserving players that we should honor. This point could be debated either way, but the St. John’s “J Club,” the Salem Rotary Club and Jostens should be proud of the job they did tonight in celebrating Micheli’s career.

Upon returning to our hotel, we joined some members of the NCAA Selection Committee, fans and media in the hospitality room. The night came full circle as we all kicked back and discussed the day and the season, as the son of Coach Gagliardi, St. John’s Offensive Coordinator Jim Gagliardi, sat and talked football with us for a decent amount of time. What became clear was that while his father is truly a fixture at St. John’s who exemplifies the values of Division III Football and coaching in any division, Coach Gagliardi’s bloodlines contain that same extreme passion, understanding and love for the sport. It gave me a better perspective as to why the Gagliardi Trophy was named after Coach Gagliardi beyond the fact that he holds the record for wins by a Division III coach. Like I said about the coaches’ interviews we performed earlier in the day, these moments humanize the figures in this division with whom we might not have much personal contact during the actual seasons. Tonight furthered this point.

So, I go to bed tonight thinking about the celebration of two careers I witnessed tonight — one career that will begin to head in a different direction after Saturday and one career that has helped pave the way for the first man to have memories that will never be forgotten. Congratulations to Greg Micheli, and thank you to Coaches Gagliardi, both father and son.

2 thoughts on “Sideline Guy: A Night of Celebrations

  1. Frank,
    Great piece. I have boy,girl twins. Both athletic both get letters for athletics. But recently my daughter was selected to the Ohio Cross Country All-Academic Team. It was the proudest moment of me and the Mrs lives. I keep preaching to my kids, those balls will all stop bouncing one day. It’s great to see Greg and all these kids in DIII that put so much effort into their academics so when they step onto the football field it’s just what it was mean’t to be, a game and not a way of life.

  2. Excellent story, Frank.
    I have a special affinity for D-III sports, mostly because they’re played by true student-athletes(most of the time, at least). My parents both went to Alfred(that’s where they met, in fact), and I am an alum of ODAC member Lynchburg College(Class of ’74), so I’m very familiar with the small college experience.

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