Andy Accardi never planned on going into coaching.
Now 20 years into being the Newman High School boys track and field head coach, Accardi has been named the Illinois Track and Cross Country Coaches Association Class 1A Coach of the Year.
He didn’t plan on being Coach of the Year, either, despite Newman’s state championship last spring.
“I didn’t even know it existed,” Accardi said. “I wasn’t focused on it. I didn’t think much about it. But it means a lot, considering the people who have been named it before.”
Also honored at the association’s meeting and clinic Jan. 10 in Oak Park was Sterling High School assistant coach Tom DePasquale, who received one the association’s three Dave Pasquini Assistant Coach Awards. DePasquale is entering his 40th year as an assistant coach.
“It came as a shock,” DePasquale said. “The other coaches I work with who nominated me, and my wife [Mary] knew back in November.”
Accardi planned on being an athletic trainer at a university or with a pro team. He was a trainer at the University of Nebraska before winding up here. Accardi is an Effingham High School graduate who went to the University of Illinois for his undergraduate studies, and to Nebraska for his masters.
“I was sitting in the training room at Nebraska one day and I got a letter from our curriculum director at Illinois about a job opening in Dixon at a place called Medical Arts,” Accardi said. “First, I just threw it away. Then, I picked it back up and sent my resume in. A few months later, I was hired.”
At Medical Arts, he was a part-time physical therapist and part-time athletic trainer. Medical Arts was starting an outreach program with area high schools.
Accardi called Newman High School. Athletic director and football coach Mike Papoccia answered, and the rest is history.
“There’s been a lot of fate and faith. God had a plan,” Accardi said. “He wanted me to be there.”
A year later, Accardi became Newman’s head track coach.
DePasquale, like Papoccia a member of the Newman graduation Class of 1970, thought he was just going to the association’s clinic, like he has so many times before.
“They pulled a fast one on me,” he said. “They said, ‘Let’s go up the night before.’ We usually just go for the clinic. They had me hook, line and sinker. When they called my name, I thought maybe I was parked illegally or something. I didn’t know what was going on.”
DePasquale had opportunities to become a head coach, but he had to weigh his priorities.
“I was asked two or three times, but I turned it down each time,” he said. “The reason I passed was because, as a counselor, I never felt I could balance both. I toyed with it each time they asked me, but I thought I was doing the best service I could in the role that I was in. And, I like my role.”
High school: Effingham (Class of 1986)
Colleges: University of Illinois (undergraduate, Class of 1991); University of Nebraska (masters, Class of 1993)
Track coaching: Newman High School (head coach since 1994)
High school: Newman (Class of 1970)
College: St. Ambrose College (Class of 1974)
Track coaching: Assistant coach at Bettendorf (Iowa) High School (6 years); Tampico High School (10 years); Sterling High School (past 24 years)