Tony DeMeo

A Coach’s Influence

On December 28th, 2008, Ben Bedini, a retired football coach, passed on. Though his passing won’t get the notoriety of the passing of Bear, Woody or Bo, to those that played for him, it was just as significant.

Ben Bedini’s record as a football coach was truly amazing. He had two 33 game winning streaks at Rye High School in NY and won over 100 games while losing less than 10.

Coach Bedini gave instant credibility to the Iona College football program, still has the highest winning percentage in Iona College history and he coached one of the two undefeated teams.

But Ben Bedini was much more than win-loss records or undefeated seasons. In addition to being a wonderful family man, he was a role model and mentor to many others. He taught more than Xs & Os, he taught values: the values of discipline, hard work, tenacity and integrity. He taught about doing it the “right way”. He taught team work and the importance of being part of something greater than individual glory.

Coach Bedini was a mentor to me throughout my coaching career. As a player, many feel that I personally turned his wavy black hair into wavy gray hair. The mere sight of my black leather jacket and long hair would send him into a tirade. At half time of a game, he threatened that if I didn’t get my hair cut I wouldn’t be allowed on the bus. Fortunately, we scored 28 points in the second half so I was safe. He once said to me after I was caught from behind that if I was a little faster he would consider me slow. But he took a black leather jacket kid and turned him into a football coach. This would be like someone taking Jesse James and turning him to Wyatt Earp. He discussed strategy for hours with me – one on one. I was a sponge.

He followed my career through its ups and downs and was always available for advice. When one of my teams was struggling he told me “T.D. it all comes down to blocking and tackling, if your team can’t block and tackle all the Xs & Os in the world won’t help you.” We got down to basics and went on a winning streak. Another call was when I got another head coaching job – we did not have an option QB, and I asked him if I should change my offense. He said “Do what you do, adjust it a little but do what you do” – we did and had a huge turnaround.

Though our styles of offense were different (Coach Bedini made Woody Hayes look like Bill Walsh – his idea of a pass was something you did on a highway) the principles were the same: control the ball, score in the Red Zone, have perfect ball security and above all TEACH FUNDAMENTALS. Any play is a good one if you can coach it in DETAIL. The more detail the better. He also believed in playing great defense and to always be sound in the kicking game. I still follow these principles 40 years later, they’ve never gone out of style.

I talked to Coach on his 87th birthday, and he was still coaching me up. He was aware of our record, knew stats and could have talked to me all day. He loved talking football.

Coach Ben Bedini may have left this earth on 12/28/08 but to those that really knew him, his legacy will live forever. And to anyone coaching young people, YOU can make a huge difference in their lives like a coach made in mine.

Thanks, Coach.

T.D.