Angelo’s 6 Years as Franklin’s A.D. – A Remarkable Era
Tom Angelo’s six years as Franklin High’s A.D. were a success on many fronts.
By KEN HAMWEY,
Staff Sports Writer
Tom Angelo’s six years as Franklin High’s Athletic Director could be summed up in three words — The Midas Touch — because it seems like everything the personable sports chief achieved turned to gold.
Angelo’s career at Franklin concluded last month when the New Jersey native retired. To label his era as “significant’’ misses the mark. The 60-year-old administrator not only changed the culture of athletics, but he also helped to transform many of the Panthers’ programs into juggernauts.
During his brief time at FHS, championships at all levels were as common as candy at Halloween. Here’s the rundown: 112 Hockomock League crowns; 36 sectional titles; 6 state championships and one New England title. The Panthers’ baseball team was competing in the Division 1 championship final after Local Town Pages deadline.
Another accolade that doesn’t get much attention is the number of Dalton Trophies Franklin has won with Angelo in charge. The total is three in five years but a fourth, which will be tabulated and announced next month, looks very promising. The Dalton Trophy is named for the late Ernie Dalton, who was The Boston Globe’s school sports editor. The award goes to a high school that produces the top winning percentage in all varsity sports.
Winning championships and prestigious awards no doubt is rewarding for a school, its student-athletes and its coaches. Angelo, however, is more than just an administrator who put an exclamation point on winning.
He’s much more.
In his first year on the job, a new policy on chemical health gradually took hold and became the catalyst for success.
“When I was interviewed by then principal Peter Light, he asked me if I could change the culture of the school’s student-athletes with regard to chemical health,’’ Angelo recalled. “I met with the coaches, and we set a high bar on the issue. We informed parents on what would occur with student violators. We then established a chemical health policy that was far more stringent than what the MIAA requires. We’ve implemented zero tolerance with some of our programs, which means violators are off the team.’’
Another goal Angelo achieved was the establishment of a unified sports program. That’s where special needs students compete with student-athletes with or without disabilities in track and basketball.
“We’ve become a model for Massachusetts, and we’re recognized as a national unified school by the Special Olympics,’’ Angelo noted. “Our basketball team competed in the U.S. games in Florida last month and won a gold medal by defeating Oregon. Getting unified sports up and running was my favorite moment as Franklin’s A.D.’’
Angelo’s most disappointing moment in his six years as A.D. speaks volumes about his caring nature and his character.
“In 2020, our boys’ and girls’ basketball teams were playing in the sectional tourney at Worcester State,’’ he recalled. “The boys played first, and when their game ended, 80% of the student section left. Here we are with the best girls’ basketball team in the state, and we couldn’t get the students to stay. The girls’ team finished unbeaten at 25-0 and ended as co-champions with Andover because the MIAA canceled the state finals due to COVID-19.’’
Angelo obviously enjoyed seeing FHS teams win, and he was acutely aware of the dedication and devotion that coaches and student-athletes relied on to elevate a majority of the school’s teams.
“Our victories in athletics were a by-product of quality coaches doing things the right way,’’ he emphasized. “Our coaches focused on teaching skills. When I accepted the Dalton Trophies, I accepted them on behalf of coaches and the student-athletes. The coaches have dedicated their lives to FHS, and the athletes knew the importance of high standards.’’
Angelo also appreciated the support he received from principals, superintendents and the school committee. Two other keys he cited for the school’s “good fortune’’ are administrative assistant Sue Jacobson and athletic trainer Jen Edmunds.
Another area where the Midas Touch was evident came in hiring coaches. Angelo’s first hire was Paula Lupien, the girls’ gymnastics coach.
“The first year there were no wins, and the second year we had one victory,’’ he recalled. “Then, in year six, the gymnastics squad won the sectional, was second in the states, then won the New England crown.’’
The COVID-19 pandemic no doubt was the biggest challenge Angelo had to deal with. Unpopular statewide decisions had to be enforced and the onus was on the A.D.s.
“No one was happy with their decisions,’’ he said. “Most of them were made by the Department of Health, the State Department of Education and the schools. Being flexible was important because decisions were made that changed within 24 hours. The best people in the crisis were coaches and student-athletes. They did everything needed to return to normalcy.’’
An educator for 38 years, Angelo was an A.D. at Somerset-Berkeley and Plymouth. He also worked as director of technology at Tabor Academy for 15 years and also coached baseball and softball at the Marion prep school. His baseball team won a state title in 2014. He also coached football, wrestling and track at the middle school level in Austin, Tex.
When Angelo’s parents moved to New Mexico, he competed in baseball at Santa Fe High and was on a championship team in Legion baseball. He played baseball at New Mexico State where he earned his degree in physical education and health science. He also has a master’s degree in athletic administration from Endicott College.
Angelo and his wife Suzanne, who’ve lived in Marion for 34 years, have two sons.
Retirement will begin with a trip to New Mexico to visit his brother Joe, then Angelo and his wife will spend time in New Hampshire.
“I’ll stay on the Unified Sports Committee,’’ he said. “I also want to get involved with volunteer work, like the Big Brother program in New Bedford, which is near my home. Eventually, I’d like to pursue coaching, either a freshman team or at the middle school level.’’
Tom Angelo was a high caliber player, coach and administrator. A classy individual, his era at Franklin high was spiced with success, and it definitely featured the Midas Touch.