Upstate Football Weekly
by Mark Adair
November 18, 2011
All In The Family
The Football Weekly has named Southwestern coach Jay Sirianni the Coach of the Year.
While the previous NYS championship teams from Southwestern were loaded with All-state players who would move on to play in college, this year’s Trojans had to do more with less.
“All season long people were saying that we weren’t the Southwestern teams of two years ago,” Sirianni said. “Well, we’re not. We lost a lot of kids from the 2010 team but, coming back, we had kids that wanted to work. Talent can only get you so far anyhow. These kids have bought into what we are trying to do and they wanted to work hard. When you have 30 kids that have faith in the system, you can accomplish a lot.”
Sirianni is proud of the fact that his team bounced back from a regular-season loss to eventual league-champion Salamanca. It was the first regular-season loss in four years for Southwestern and they dropped fast in the NYS rankings.
“We lost a football game,” Sirianni said. “It happens.” He also said that naming him Coach of the Year was a reflection on the entire program.
“I haven’t made a single tackle this year,” Sirianni said. “We are all excited to be here but our kids earned it.”
Sirianni is certainly near the top of any list of WNY coaches. In fact, his entire family can be considered its own small WNY Coaching Tree.
Sirianni’s father, Fran, was the head coach at Southwestern from 1976 until 1984.
“My older brother and I would go to practice with my dad all the time,” Jay said. “When a lot of my friend’s dads were at work, I was at work with my dad. I’ve been part of Southwestern football since the day I was born.”
It’s an understatement to say the Sirianni’s are a ‘football family’.
For the past ten years, Jay’s older brother Mike has been the head coach at Washington & Jefferson College in Pennsylvania. Entering the 2011 season, Sirianni had a won-loss record of 82-17.
Jay’s younger brother, Nick, is an offensive assistant coach in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs.
That’s a lot of coaches to lean on for advice and ideas…something Jay says he does regularly.
“Nick and I talk Wednesday night after the Chief’s practice,” he said. “Sometimes he’ll call me after our game. Sometimes we’ll talk on weekends at midnight or 1 in the morning. Mike will get updates from my dad on the sidelines during our games.”
Jay Sirianni says his family was not consumed with football as he was growing up.
“We were a typical family,” Jay Sirianni said. “My parents were very much involved in what we were doing. Football was just a part of our lives. Family was our focal point and football was only a part of it.”
Sirianni says that he understands how that popular misconceptions could be spread.
“I’ve been asked about that a lot,” he said. “People have defined us that way but it’s not the most important thing to us. We don’t just talk strategy. That’s certainly a part of it but that’s not all we talk about.”
This past season, Jay asked his father to join the varsity coaching staff at Southwestern.
“My dad is a big part of Southwestern football,” Jay said. “He’s always been around.”
Fran Sirianni was working with Southwestern’s modified team until the district discontinued the team during recent budget cuts.
“When we dropped modified football we brought him up,” Sirianni said. ”I use him as a QB coach and that enables me to work with WR’s and RB’s. He gives us an extra coach at practice and that’s just huge.”
Fran Sirianni actually got some professional tutoring in how to work with QBs—from a family member of course.
“He went out to Kansas City and watched some quarterback drills with Nick,” Jay Sirianni said. “He came back with a notebook full of stuff that he got from Jim Zorn, one of the best QB coaches in the NFL. Dad was pretty excited.”
Fran Sirianni was Southwestern’s head coach from 1976 to 1984. He left the position after he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
“I had to step back and re-evaluate things,” Fran said. “I wasn’t able to actively coach but I was able to help out a bit.”
He also said that was a difficult time for his family.
“It was hard on those guys, Fran said. “Mike and Jay were old enough to know where our family stood and what we were facing. Mike was going into freshman year and Jay was playing modified football. I was able to go to all the games and eventually I beat it. Doctors say re-mission, I say healed.”
Fran Sirianni played football for Kane High School in Pennsylvania, near Bradford. He played Division II football for Clarion College and was named an All-Conference DB.
He and his wife Amy have been married 40 years and, when the kids were small, he never once thought that they would all grow to be coaches.
“It’s ironic,” Fran said. “In high school, all three of them would rather play and coach basketball but they settled on football. They came to every practice and game with me when they were young children. They have been around football since they were old enough to walk, so it’s nice.”
Sirianni said that he is immensely proud that each of his sons has been as successful as they have.
“They all put in a lot of hard work,” he said, “and they have all made their own tracks. Nick could never coach anywhere but professional football. Mike is at Washington & Jefferson and has the 3rd best winning percentage at all levels in the NCAA. Jay will be a lifer at Southwestern. He’ll never be interested in coaching anywhere else.”
Jay has put up some amazing records lately. His team won 39-straight games and have posted a record of 47-2 over the past four seasons.
“He’s an amazing coach,” Fran Sirianni said. “He’s an amazing teacher, too. He’s so good at working with young men. He’s so concerned about their character and what they will be after football.”