By Frank Rizzo
ELDRED Febuary 02, 2001 - Until recently, Eldred Central School football coach Phil Marrella had never heard of the Down Under Bowl, but by the time he comes back from the Land Down Under in the second week of July, 2001, he will have been immersed in it.
Marrella was unexpectedly chosen to coach the New York State select team and has been picking 35-55 players to represent the state in the Down Under Bowl.
The 13th edition of the all-star football tournament will be held in Sydney, Australia from June 28 to July 8 and will involve all-star teams from all 50 states plus New Zealand and Australia.
Marrella will be the first to admit that he has no idea why he was tabbed.
He believes his work at the Charles Way Giant Football Camp last summer may have a lot to do with it. The camp, in East Stroudsburg, is run by a former New York Giant and includes retired and current Giant players one named by Marrella was veteran tight end Howard Cross.
I applied for the camp and was chosen, and it was a really enjoyable experience, said Marrella. There were coaches from all over.
At the camp, Marrella chose to concentrate on the offensive line.
Its my passion, and Im good at it, Marrella said of his chosen position. I got a lot of really good positive feedback for my interaction [with the campers] and teaching techniques.
Marrella speculates that it was this impression he made that landed him the job after first being nominated and interviewed.
Lists and Lists
Marrella contacted coaches all over the state, perused all-star lists, and got calls from coaches with their nominations.
Its a very lengthy list, Marrella said, and yes, he is considering players from Section IX and Sullivan County he just thinks it would not be a good idea to name names at this time.
The final roster will be in place by early March, after Marrella makes trips to Rochester and Albany (and possibly in New York City) to make presentations.
Once chosen, the players have to raise $3,000 for the trip.
The Down Under Bowl is run by a for-profit organization called International Sports Specialists, Inc. (ISSI).
ISSI has a number of great fund-raising activities, Marrella noted.
Many of the large schools have booster clubs or teachers associations which make it easier to raise funds.
Marrella, who will receive a stipend for his coaching duties, has picked John LiGreci of Glen Spey as his assistant. LiGreci was also Marrellas assistant on the Eldred football team.
Another assistant coach will be Bob Butler of Tappan Zee HS.
Marrella hopes to set up practices for area players in the weeks before jetting to Australia on Wednesday, June 27.
He hopes to have the full squad in Eldred the Monday and Tuesday before departure for a final practice.
Marrella acknowledged the help of Eldred CS school-to-work coordinator Bob Skibinski, who has been a great help, has [offered] great ideas, and is trying to get host families for the [out of town players].
According to Marrella this marks the first year that New York will have a team previously, individual New Yorkers competed on other squads.
Each team at the Down Under Bowl is guaranteed at least two games.
Well be in a tough bracket with other large states California, [and possibly] Texas, and Florida, said Marrella. I do know that we play California first.
It will be a great learning experience just to talk to other coaches from other states, Marrella added. Hopefully, Ill have something to contribute.
It has been a hectic month for Marrella. In addition to his teaching schedule and coaching modified wrestling, he has had to spend countless hours on the phone getting candidates names.
Its been very exciting and rewarding, Marrella said.
Down Under Bowl
Eight days in Australia
Three days in Hawaii for rest and relaxation
Play at least two football games
Visit theme parks and wildlife sanctuary
Tour Sydney, including Olympic site
Full time tour guide
The Marrella File
Born in Medina, near Buffalo
Bachelors degree from Bridgewater College, Virginia
Masters degree from Roberts-Wesleyan College, Rochester
Coached football at the Churchville-Chili (Rochester) district
Eldred football coach since 1998. Coached only two varsity games before injuries and lack of numbers forced team into modified schedule. Hopes to field a varsity schedule again this fall.
Has never been outside the United States, except for Canada and I dont know if that counts!
Teaches health and physical education at Eldred CS
Is aged 37. Wife Sharon and son Cullen, 3.
Later this summer Eldred will be the center of the state football scene when a select group of state standouts will be practicing there in preparation for the Down Under Bowl to take place in Australia. After a guaranteed two games in Sidney, the players can heal their bruises as they get to relax for three days in Hawaii. Eldred football coach Phil Marrella got tabbed to coach the squad.