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Samko steps down at Tufts

Posted by Craig Larson, Globe Staff  December 14, 2010 08:44 PM

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Bill Samko still has a passion to coach football. "I'm not burned out yet," he cracked.

And he loves Tufts University. But after 17 seasons as head coach, and the yearly tussles with Amherst, Trinity, Wiliams, and the rest of the NESCAC, he has decided to step away.

"You know, 17 years is a pretty long time, and sometimes I feel that [the players] need to hear another voice, it is time," said the 59-year-old Samko from his office Tuesday afternoon.

In his final season, Tufts finished 1-7, dropping its final seven games after kicking off the season with a 21-10 win over Hamilton. The Jumbos finished fourth in the nation in passing with Winthrop's Anthony Fucillo at the trigger, but struggled defensively with just two returning starters.

"We did a lot of good things [this year], we competed well," added Samko, noting that the Jumbos were ahead at the half in six games. Competing with perennial titans Williams (8-0 this year), Trinity (7-1), and Amherst (6-2) is one thing. Beating them is another.

"It does get frustrating," said Samko, who produced four winning seasons (1998, 2001, 2003, 2007) in his tenure and finished 57-79 overall.

"I wish that we had won a few more games than we did, but it's still about the [players], and the relationships."

And he will treasure those relationships forever.

The 'Inbox' in his email is full. "I stopped counting at 100," he said. And the phone never stopped ringing with well wishes from former players. "This has been a pretty gratifying day."

A University of Connecticut grad who prepped at Worcester Academy under the legendary Dee Rowe, Samko first arrived at Tufts as a 22-year-old assistant under Paul Pawlick to coach the offensive line. He stayed five years (also serving as the head baseball coach) before a five-year stint on Carm Cozza's staff at Yale. After a successful seven-run run as head coach at the University of the South, he was lured back to the Tufts campus by former AD Rocky Carzo. It's been home ever since.

"It's not all about the wins and the losses, it's about the relationships, and I'm really lucky," he said.

Samko and his wife Mary Kay, the longtime men's and women's swim coach at Bentley, have made their home in Arlington. Three of their four children, Tracey, Kristin, and Peter, are Tufts graduates. Their fourth child, 15-year-old Michael, attends Buckingham, Browne & Nichols.

Now, he'll take a step back, and analyze his next move.

"Dee Rowe, who has been a great influence in my life, told me yesterday, 'you need to have a plan, keep coaching,' " said Samko. "And I'd like think that my reputation is pretty good. It's been a good ride, but stuff happens."

Offensive coordinator Jay Civetti will coordinate recruiting efforts and off-season activities at Tufts on an interim basis while the university conducts a national search for a successor.

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