Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ruggeri leaves Zephyrs after breakout season

Ruggeri leaves Zephyrs after breakout season
Recorder Sports Staff
Football season may be over for teams in Amsterdam, but that does not mean there isn't a buzz about the sport going on. The city's resident semi-pro football team, the Amsterdam Zephyrs announced the resignation of their head coach Dom Ruggeri.

Ruggeri and team owner Tony Marotta both say the resignation was due to personal reasons.
"There was a combination of things, but 90 percent of it was my family," said Ruggeri. "In February we start recruiting and meeting players. Going from February to November makes it very difficult to commit 110 percent like I have the last two years and give the organization my best. I did not want to slight them or the players. The other 10 percent pertains to my job. It has nothing to do with the management of the Zephyrs or the organization. It was a difficult decision but it is something that had to be done."

"I think he just wanted to be home more," said Marotta. "I think he thought it was too much for him. He left on good terms. It was all his call."

The Zephyrs have shown consistent improvement in their on-field performance since their inception in 2005. In their inaugural season, with Marotta as head coach, the Zephyrs went 1-9. Ruggeri was hired in 2006 and brought the team to 2-8. This past season Amsterdam made to the Empire Football League playoffs but lost in the first round. They finished 5-5 overall.

"The team is going in the right direction," said Ruggeri. "I encourage anyone interested to get involved or play for the Zephyrs organization. I think they're a class organization that is doing a lot for the city. I do, however, think that the city government needs to do more to support the Zephyrs, and not just the [Amsterdam] Mohawks [collegiate baseball team]."

"We had improvement over the years," said Marotta. "There has been a greater influx of players. We went from 28 players in 2005 to nearly 50 in 2007. It's a growing entity that is starting to catch on, and we're doing a lot for Amsterdam," said Marotta.

Marotta would not say what candidates he is considering for the job but said it would be a decision made by the front office and the coaching staff. Marotta said general manager/assistant coach Joe Hall, offensive coordinator Mike Finocchi, defensive coordinator Jim Schurr and others would be involved in the process.

Marotta also spoke of what qualities he is looking for in his new head coach.
"We want to get to the next level. We want a coach who has more experience in semi-pro football. We made it to the playoffs but now we want to win the championship,"Marotta said. "We want more of a controlled team that is regimented and focused on football. We aren't going to let players skip practice or take days off."

As for Ruggeri, his retirement was short-lived. Two days after resigning from the Zephyrs, Ruggeri accepted the job as the Albany Metro Mallers' assistant head coach for their post-season run.

Albany has traditionally been Amsterdam's biggest rival until the Mallers left the EFL prior to the 2006 season. Albany left the EFL for the North American Football League, a national semi-pro organization.

The Mallers play in the NAFL Eastern Conference's North Atlantic Region in the Empire Division. The Mallers made it all the way to the NAFL championship game called the Harvest Bowl at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando last season. The team won their division again in 2007 and has picked up Ruggeri for the post-season run in hopes of returning to Orlando.

Albany fired its head coach and defensive coordinator prior to the national tournament.
Ruggeri stresses that the offer came after Mallers management found out about his resignation.
"I was retired all of two days and I was approached and accepted an offer from the Mallers to coach the team for the Harvest Bowl run," Ruggeri said. "It is just for the Harvest Bowl run. They approached me after I resigned. The key word is after. I did not leave Amsterdam to go to Albany."

Ruggeri spoke about his new position with the Mallers and his future.
"Anytime two coaches are let go and someone comes in, it can be chaotic," said Ruggeri. "I would consider a full-time position with the Mallers if they were interested but at this point, it's not even being discussed. I'm not busy at this time of the year but after the first of the year, it changes. They were our rival. It's hard for me to go from here to there."

Ruggeri is a Broadalbin resident and played for Bishop Scully High School in his teen years. His first game as Albany's assistant head coach will be this weekend against the Monroe County Sting.

The Zephyrs are expected to make an announcement on their new head coach in the coming weeks.

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