Dan Weber: Remembering NKY Football Coach Professor Rudy Tassini
Dan Weber writes a sports column for LINK nky. Contact him at [email protected]
They will meet on Saturday afternoon in Erlanger to say a fond farewell to Rudy Tassini, the retired football coach and physical education teacher who died on Friday at the age of 80 after nearly a month at the hospital with complications from COVID-19. No doubt Rudy will be remembered with smiles and stories from his 35-year career in Northern Kentucky.
But the headline here is how his former PE students at Covington Catholic and Lloyd Memorial will remember the coach/teacher who cared so much about them. “He had so much compassion for the kids,” recalled Beechwood football coach Noel Rash, who was a pupil at Rudy’s Elementary School in Erlanger. This is especially true for those who weren’t football stars. For whom PE has not been easy.
“He kept records, he stopped the class,” recalls Rash, when a young person did not think he could do it. . . did it. “And salute the accomplishment.”
“He had fables he would tell us,” Rash says, “he would sit us down and tell us about his pet tarantula that could jump 10 or 12 feet when we were working on two-legged jumps. . . it was about improving ourselves. Getting us to do things we didn’t think we could.
Did Rudy have a tarantula as a pet? Who knows? But he had children who thought they could get better. “Kids would want to be in his class,” Rash said. Indeed, how many PE teachers are there whose former students boast of being in their class?
“He was a bit old school,” says Randy Tomlinson, who played and coached with Rudy at Lloyd. “He never married, never had a family, so the players were his children. He did so many things for the kids who needed it, buying them clothes, giving them money for feed himself, but he never told anyone about it.
Like how he had fun joking – now that was back then, remember – how ‘football was a Commie sport’ but never telling anyone he was a goalkeeper all-state football at South Fayette High School in western Pennsylvania. Born in Canonsburg (just like famous singers Perry Como and Bobby Vinton and football coach Marty Schottenheimer), Rudy came to Cincinnati as a UC football freshman.
An offensive lineman who would also end up punting, Rudy was a classmate of four years and Hep Cronin’s best friend for 60 years, also coaching CovCath before returning across the river to Cincinnati. Hep, in the kind of story that will often repeat itself Saturday from 1-5 p.m. at Linnemann’s Funeral Home in Erlanger (30 Commonwealth Avenue), recalled one of Rudy’s classic moments as an undergraduate student – and a reminder of how the rehabilitation of low-tech athletes was then.
“Rudy was playing in the spring game and broke his leg and you could hear the bone cracking all over the stadium,” Hep said. “The tibia was sticking out. . . a very ugly compound fracture. . . the coach told Rudy to bite his jersey for the pain and when they brought him to the hospital he had bitten a hole in it.
“Now a few weeks later we all hung out at a place called Art’s Cafe up the street on a hill and his teammates took Rudy into Art’s in one of these little red wagons with a full cast on. After a few adult drinks, they pushed him down the hill to the dorm and decided to let him go. You can imagine Rudy’s language going down the hill in this high-speed wagon.
By the time he arrived at CovCath in the school’s third year of football and Rudy’s first year as head coach, he had the best AA team in the state at a time when he didn’t. there were only three classes.
Defending state champion Highlands was the only Northern Kentucky team to play us (I say “we” because I was an assistant coach on that team) and it was a 35-6 win at CovCath. The lone loss was by one point to Badin of Hamilton, Ohio before falling to undefeated AAA state champion Louisville St. Xavier in the final game of the season. But without enough Kentucky opponents, this CovCath team didn’t qualify for the playoffs.
Rudy hardly ever mentioned it. He would have been a state champion coach in his freshman year with a team that had an incredible 11 players in college to play football. He had another team in Lloyd that lost a game before the state title game.
Rudy helped out at CovCath for his former assistant Lynn Ray then took over at Lloyd from 1987 to 1999, leading the Juggernauts to an 11-2 record in 1991 and 12-1 in 1995. In 17 seasons as a coach -chief, Rudy was 96 years old. 91 before retiring in 2000. He spent a lot of time traveling and even did radio DJ work with his love of music.
“Rudy was way ahead of his time as he was very present in the lives of his players,” Rash said. “He always made time to come to one of my team’s games – or more – and then wrote me a letter after every season. It meant the world to me – and not just me. He made everyone feel special. When he spoke to you, it was like you were the only person in the room.
*** GREAT JOB, COMMISSIONER KHSAA TACKETT: Courtesy of Danny Weddle’s Maysville Courtside Blog, here are Commissioner Julian Tackett’s comments during the KHSAA Board of Control working session last Wednesday to those downstate folks who complain they have to play the 10th District tournament in Holmes, near the four 37th District schools. – Scott, Campbell County, Bishop Brossart and Calvary Christian.
“We have four schools in the, if I remember correctly, it’s the 37th District,” Tackett said. “Two of them are located in Kenton County and two of them are not, and they decided to hold the tournament at the largest gymnasium in Kenton County, Holmes High School. not in the 10th region, and some of the other people objected to that. But it’s a large neutral facility located in Kenton County, and so we don’t have anything to prevent that from happening. People we asked to intercede. very group that wanted to do it where each year the districts rotated who hosted, who had to choose. And, again, one of those things where you don’t always get what you want. But it’s is where Region 10 is going to be for this year.”
*** LET’S TALK ABOUT REGIONAL SITES: Here they are, the updated regional boys tournament hosts: 1. Murray State; 2. Hopkinsville; 3. Owensboro Sports Center; 4. Western Kentucky University; 5. Nelson County; 6. Louisville Valley; 7. Louisville Valley; 8. Henry County; 9. University of Northern Kentucky; 10.Holmes; 11. University of Eastern Kentucky; 12. Pulaski County; 13. Arena Corbin; 14. Breathitt County; 15. Pikeville University; 16. Morehead State.
*** BETTER LATE THAN NEVER: Sorry we missed this a few weeks ago, but what Ryle’s Connor Bishop accomplished with the first quadruple-double in 30 years of school basketball is worth noting when the 5-foot-6 senior inch scored 14 points with 10 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals against Fleming County. You think it’s no big deal? This has only happened four times in all of NBA history and three of them were by 6-11/7 foot players.
Photo: Rudy Tassini (via Linneman Funeral Homes official obituary)