Forest Park coaching legend Bill Santilli retires

CRYSTAL FALLS – Bill Santilli planned to coach one more season when Forest Park’s 2013 football campaign kicked off.

He kept that promise.

Santilli, who guided the Trojans to the 2007 Division 8 state championship, submitted his letter of resignation to the Forest Park Board of Education Monday.

Santilli, Forest Park’s head football coach since 1996, said during the pre-season that this would likely be his final year.

“My decision to leave was certainly a very difficult one, but I feel it’s time,” Santilli said.

Santilli and defensive coordinator Dave Graff guided the Trojans to 17 straight playoff appearances from 1997. Forest Park played in seven state championships including six in a row from 2004 to 2009.

The 2007 Trojans defeated Fulton-Middleton 22-14 for the state title.

“I’ve been so blessed throughout my life because of the game of football,” Santilli said after winning the state title. “Words cannot explain how proud I am to represent our football program and community.”

Santilli, who posted a 171-45 career mark, registered a 12-1 record last season. The Trojans bowed out in the state semifinals to Beal City.

Santilli and his assistants have accumulated 13 conference titles, 10 district and nine regional championships.

Santilli will coach one more football game, agreeing to lead the West in this summer’s U.P. Football All-Star Game in Marquette.

“I felt that it would be a nice way to put closure to my football coaching career,” said Santilli, who coached in

two other U.P. all-star games. “They were both great experiences.”

Santilli will continue to coach junior high basketball for at least one more season.

“That would give me 25 years of working with the youth of our community,” Santilli said.

A record-crunching running back in his playing days, Santilli is believed to be the only person to win Michigan high school football state championships as a player (1975) and head coach.

The U.P. Hall of Famer has been named U.P. Coach of the Year four times.

“I have been blessed in more ways than I could’ve ever imagined,” Santilli said.

In a statement e-mailed to media Tuesday morning, Forest Park Superintendent Becky Waters said the departure of ‘Coach Sount’ leaves the Forest Park School District with big shoes to fill.

“Bill Santilli was called to work with children,” she said. “Coach Santilli is not only a football coach, he is a character coach. He truly believes in the development of the whole child and has made a difference in the lives of so many young adults. Coach Santilli’s leadership and dedication to the game is rare.”

The process of hiring a new head football coach will begin immediately.

“He has not only created a winning tradition, he has fostered a winning attitude,” Waters said. “Coach Santilli also brings home a strong work ethic, the meaning of unselfish play, teamwork, the benefits of hard work and goal setting. Over the years, his players have excelled not only on the field but in the classrooms as well. The Forest Park School District is very thankful and appreciative to have had such a positive influence on their students.”

In the press release Tuesday morning, Santilli stated, “I would like to thank the Forest Park Schools for allowing me the opportunity to be their head football coach throughout the past 18 years. I have enjoyed my involvement with the football program and will forever cherish the memories that have been created. My most satisfying accomplishment during my tenure has been the relationship that I’ve established with fellow coaches, officials, administrative school personnel, sports reporters, fans, and most of all, the players. I have been blessed in so many ways with intangibles that money can’t buy and I can’t sell. It has been a pleasure to play and coach football at Forest Park High School. I will always remain a Forest Park Trojan!”