by Peter Coyle
Coach Michael J. Vendetti died on March 20th leaving behind a strong army of believers who will continue to carry his message and share his legacy. His wife, Joan, passed away in January 2012 after a lifetime struggle with Lupus. Coach V leaves three sons and their wives and seven granchildren. This space was a favorite for Vendetti and his accomplishments through the years. What made the Vendetti Era at Nichols College unique was that it will never be done again. It’s that simple. The Vendetti Way should be the Nichols athletics way today. Be accountable, work hard, and leave your ego at the door. Let’s continue with simply saying that Coach Vendetti was the “best.” He shared his human condition with everyone who came into contact with him. He made life fun. Sure, there were ups and downs, twists and turns, peaks and valleys, but Coach Vendetti had a faith that was effective by the way he applied his beliefs to the daily grind and the way he treated people.
To some, Coach will be remembered only as a football coach because of his great accomplishments at Nichols College. Five New England Conference Championships in a span of seven years back in the seventies when Division 3 football was a select few and not watered down with every state school having a football program like it is today.But to anyone who really knew him, he was much more than a football coach. His physical presence got your attention from the start. An All American tackle at Boston University and a Leominster High School Hall of Famer, the 6’ 4’’ Vendetti didn’t have to say much.First impressions are always a good measuring stick and humility became this giant of a man’s way of life.
Vendetti was at his best when he delagated authority to those who deserved it. Coach never looked for credit, but he always gave it out. His assistant coaches and players came to believe in this way of being unselfish. He put you in your place in an understanding way. It was the perfect way to build any type of organization, let alone a football program. Give credit, rely on the people you believe in and success wil follow. Coach would say everyday, ”let’s practice to win.” There’s a big difference in practicing to win than playing to win. Winning was automatic on Saturdays after practicing for five days under Vendetti’s watch. The pressure on game day wasn’t even a thought after going through Vendetti’s weeklong routine. Games were easy compared to practice. Vendetti’s teams were always in better physical and mental shape than Saturday’s opponent. Do your job within Vendetti’s Way guranteed success. Organization, delegation, and a work ethic second to none were the ingredients of the championship Nichols College football teams of the seventies.
The supporting cast of loyal assistant coaches Ed Kunkel and Rene Langevin and the works of Bates Craver, Bruce Baker, and Paul K. Brown were important to Vendetti’s system as were the expert scouting Vin Becker, Buddy Langevin, and Gerry Kunkel.
Hal Chalmers, then the athletic director, supported Vendetti’s blue print for Nichols’ success. Joan Vendetti and sons Michael, Mark, and Paul were all part of the “golden era” of the seventies and the greatest time ever at Nichols College.
The Vendetti’s lived on campus next to the Chalmers and morning coffee was had at Bazzie’s. If you wanted a hair cut, Mike Pio had a chair outside of Bazzie’s and visited the campus on Thursday nights. After the victories on Saturdays, the Vendettis hosted the post game victory party. The key moment was when Channels 4, 5, and 7 flashed the Nichols football score on the television screen. It was a very special time for the Nichols community. The scouts would then present Vendetti with their report and work began for the upcoming week. Anybody involved in Vendetti’s world during this great era in Nichols history shared in the hard-earned championships with pride.
Vendetti’s moral compass was full of sincere compassion. He understood people and had a quick wit about him. He never shied away or apologized for his opinion about the things he knew and believed in. The former Bison Bowl on the Nichols campus was renamed the Michael J. Vendetti Field in 2004 and there is a special bench named “Vendetti’s View” that overlooks Vendetti field and a place where Vendetti would sit during his retirement days to recall his memories of his many years at Nichols.
Vendetti has touched so many lives in a positive way and made Nichols College a proud place. He leaves a loyal army that will never forget its leader. Coach V was the best and until we meet again, may the sunshine on Joan and you forever.