Tony Fardella's voice still echoes in the minds of generations of Bay Area high school students and athletes from South San Francisco High to Oakland HIgh, and finally Skyline High School where his greatest coaching accomplishments were achieved. He cared deeply about his influence and effect on young people, both in the classroom and on and off the field. He hoped that the lessons in respect and dedication which he shared would stay with them beyond high school, and throughout their lives. Though he was a strict disciplinarian, his teaching and coaching style were often infused with a sense of humor and fun. He often greeted students with a friendly and enthusiastic "HEY!"
A third-generation San Franciscan, Tony was born to Vincent and Isabelle Fardella at St. Luke's Hospital on December 3, 1931. His grandparents had emigrated from Spain on Isabelle’s side, and Italy on Vincent’s side during the late 1800s and early 1900s, and settled in the City’s Telegraph Hill and Mission districts. For most of Tony's childhood, he lived at 3222 Harrison Street, just up the block from Precita Park. He had an older brother, Kenny, and was especially close with his Sicilian grandfather, Antonio.
An outgoing and social child, he was very athletic and grew up playing all types of sports with neighborhood friends. He attended LeConte Elementary (now known as Leonard Flynn), Horace Mann Junior High, and Mission High School. He especially loved football, and his first experience on an organized team was playing tight end for Coach Joe Verducci and the Mission Bears in 1948.
Tony also loved music, and, inspired by big band and popular music of the 1940s, learned to play the trumpet. His band teacher at Horace Mann, Mr. Alan Popes, was the first to inspire young Tony with the idea of a teaching career.
He graduated from Mission High in 1950, and was first in his family to attend college. He initially majored in music at SF State, and after his first year, decided to change his major to Physical Education with a minor in Health. He played tight end, guard, and flanker for the football team, the Gators, earning a block letter each season. He was also active in Kappa Omega fraternity.
During his high school and college years, he worked for the San Francisco Parks and Recreation Department as a director at various playgrounds around the city including Jackson, St. Mary's, and Julius Kahn, and coordinated activities for after-school and weekend programs at Precita Valley Community Center, and the Elks Club. He was also a lifeguard at Aquatic Park and Fleishhacker Pool.
His first teaching position was as a driver training instructor at Lincoln High School in San Francisco in 1955. After graduating from SF State with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1956, he went on to teaching and coaching positions at South San Francisco High in 1957, Oakland High in 1963, and Skyline High in 1969. In the late 1960s, he returned to further his education at SF State, and in January 1971, he earned a Master of Arts degree in Physical Education. Over his 37 year career in San Francisco Bay Area high schools, he taught physical education, biology and driver training, and coached football, track, wrestling and golf.
He was best known as the head football coach at Skyline from the 1969 through 1986 seasons, where he inspired the Titans to two overall undefeated seasons, seven undefeated Oakland Athletic League seasons, seven Oakland Athletic League Championships, three co-championships, and four Silver Bowl titles. He also led the team to a 22-21 victory over De La Salle High School in 1984 with a fake field goal and fake point-after-touchdown in the final minutes of the game. His lifetime record as a head coach is 127 wins, 52 losses, and 5 ties.
Overall Undefeated Seasons: 1974, 1984
O.A.L Undefeated Seasons: 1973, 1974, 1978, 1981, 1984, 1985, 1986
O.A.L. Championships: 1972*, 1973, 1974, 1975*, 1976**, 1978, 1981, 1984, 1985, 1986
* 1972 & 1975 shared O.A.L. title with Oakland High
** 1976 shared O.A.L. title with Castlemont
Silver Bowl Titles: 1981, 1984, 1985, 1986
In the early 1970s, he developed the acronym PRIDE, and worked tirelessly and enthusiastically to instill its core values in his students and players:
P: Pay the price
R: Respect yourself and others
D: Discipline and Dedication
E: Execution of your game plan
He retired from coaching at Skyline after the 1986 season, and from teaching in 1992, then went on to become a real estate agent and broker, eventually starting his own company, Pride Realty. While he enjoyed working in real estate, his heart and soul remained on the football field, and he loved reminiscing with former players and students whenever he had the opportunity. As he found himself missing his role in football, he returned to the field as an assistant coach during the late '80s through mid '90s at Diablo Valley College, St. Mary's High School, and Bishop O'Dowd. During his coaching career he was honored with many awards, including:
- 1973 Doten Pontiac Coach of the Year
- 1975 Flecto Bay Area Coach of the Year
- 1984 Northern California Coach of the Year
(Joe Verducci Memorial Award, presented at San Francsico Coach of the Year Clinic)
- 1985 Section Coach of the Year (Presented at San Francsico Coach of the Year Clinic)
In his spare time, he enjoyed spending time with his wife Sophia and daughter Tania, traveling, studying astronomy and art, reading, watching Jeopardy, and working in his garden growing organic fruit and vegetables. He also enjoyed cooking, and his specialties were minestrone soup and pasta with pesto. He was dedicated to staying in shape throughout his life. Running, weight lifting, yoga and meditation were part of his daily routine. He especially loved the city of San Francisco.
Tony Fardella passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in January of 2012 due to a stroke, but his legacy continues on in all whom he inspired.