Column: Inside the life of a football coach
Published: Friday, October 21, 2011
Updated: Friday, October 21, 2011 00:10
Sometimes as a reporter, I like to joke about how funny it would be if there was someone in the athletics department with my name so people would accidentally send me scandalous athletic department emails by mistake.
I never imagined that would actually happen, until one day over the summer I got an email from Justin Macione, the communications director of the New Orleans Saints, congratulating me on my new position, followed shortly by a phone call from UConn asking me to help set up my new direct deposit account that I didn't set up.
I had just been promoted, but still, what's the communications director from an NFL team doing congratulating me out of the blue? As it turned out, the UConn football program had just hired someone else named Michael Cerullo, who had previously worked for the New Orleans Saints, to be a new program aide.
I never did intercept any juicy emails, but once everything was squared away with his email and bank accounts, I had a chance to meet coach Cerullo, who provided a fascinating look into the aspects of football that often get overlooked.
Cerullo's job title of program aide is a vague way of saying that he's an everyman, someone without a specific role who is available to help out in any way he's needed. He worked with head coach Paul Pasqualoni in a similar capacity while both were at Syracuse, and when Pasqualoni arrived at UConn, he decided to bring Cerullo back on board.
"The program aide, in the past, has had a criteria of 10 different things to do," Cerullo said. "Well I'm doing those 10 things and then adding on to that with my experience that I can help with, such as anything that has to do with watching film or giving my opinion on stuff. I'm kind of an extra hand right now."
Cerullo also spends much of his time recruiting. On game day, he will spend time with the recruits, talk UConn football with them at the recruiting tent, take them down on a tour of the locker room, then onto the field for pregame warm-ups and then watch the game with them from the stands.
And when he's not doing any of those things, he's working on something else related to football. According to Cerullo, the atmosphere within the program is very focused, so much so that it becomes easy to lose track of the outside world. Cerullo joked that didn't even know UConn had a student paper, and even within the program, he's often so focused on his responsibilities with the defense that he hardly ever interacts with people on offense.
"We're so separated that we might not see each other until game day," Cerullo said.
This fact is in sharp contrast to the reality of other places, where the football program doesn't have as much support. Cerullo described one of his older jobs, back when he was an assistant coach at Division III Curry College under former Patriots player Steve Nelson in 1999, where he worked on a stipend and needed a different full-time job to support himself.
"At Curry College you had the head coach who was a full time employee, two coordinators who were full time and everyone else who was either a volunteer or a stipend coach, such as myself," Cerullo said. "The time you put in was always after your other job, it was always late nights because you worked a full time job and then you went to Curry and did all the football stuff that everyone else does here. The support system is the biggest thing, because you didn't have the extra support system."
Cerullo steadily moved up to bigger programs with better support structure, first to Northeastern, then to Syracuse, and then the NFL, where he worked in personnel with the Atlanta Falcons for two years and then as an assistant coach with the Saints for four. Today he has a family of his own to support, and he admitted that the confusion over the summer about his direct deposit account made his wife anxious.
"My wife's sitting around going, ‘We need the money! We need the money!'" Cerullo said. "And I'm like, ‘I dunno, they said it was supposed to hit today.'"
He did get his paycheck, but I'm still waiting for that rogue email to come in someday.
"Eh you never know," he said. "Too bad I wasn't involved in any scandal."