Frank Cosentino played for seven of his 10 CFL seasons with the Hamilton Tiger Cats Photo courtesy of Peter Cosentino

York University honours former CFL coach Frank Cosentino

  • May 2, 2012

TORONTO - Frank Cosentino, who parlayed his start in coaching with the Catholic Youth Organization to the Canadian university ranks, will be honoured by York University for being the most successful football coach in school history.

The Toronto university will be holding a dinner to honour Cosentino on May 11.

“I’m honoured and very pleased that a group of people got together and thought I contributed something to their lives,” said Cosentino, a 10-year Canadian Football League quarterback, from his Eganville, Ont., home.

Coaching began as a pastime for Cosentino in Hamilton, Ont., where he played seven of his 10 CFL seasons with his hometown Tiger Cats. He first got behind the bench on the basketball court in the early 1960s through the CYO before moving on as assistant coach for the Cathedral High School senior boys basketball team from 1963-65. Cosentino had attended Cathedral during his teenage years.

Putting coaching on hold, Cosentino focused on his career as one of the last Canadian quarterbacks in the CFL before retiring in 1969, having won two Grey Cup titles with the Tiger Cats.

Afterwards it was back to the University of Western Ontario, his alma mater, to start a second career as a professor and coach of its football team, a position he held for five years. He moved to York in 1976, where coaching was not in his future, or so he thought.

Coach Frank Cosentino offers some instruction to one of his York Yeomen players in this photo from the mid-1980s. York University is honouring Cosentino, now 74, with a dinner May 11.

Coach Frank Cosentino offers some instruction to one of his York Yeomen players in this photo from the mid-1980s. York University is honouring Cosentino, now 74, with a dinner May 11.

During his first two years at York, where he was chair of athletics and a professor of sport history, Cosentino found that balance between work and home he had sought after stepping away from football. But it wasn’t long until pressure mounted at York to disband the football team. Stuck in a multi-season losing streak things looked bleak for the Yeomen as supporters of the university pushed the athletics department to drop the program, claiming it was depreciating the value physical education had to offer the developing institute, then in existence for less than 20 years. Cosentino stepped up for the program.

“Really I didn’t anticipate that I’d be doing any coaching,” he said, but he couldn’t stand on the sidelines as his team faced elimination.

So in the summer of 1978, weeks before the season began, young men decked out from helmet to cleat surrounded Cosentino who once again had a clipboard in hand, plays in his head and a vision.

“It was an opportunity for me to take a look at, and see, what the problems were and hopefully work towards solving some of those problems,” said Cosentino.

Quickly it became evident that it wasn’t multiple problems which had plagued the team, but a single problem — low morale.

“It was a group of talented people but because they had lost so many games they seemed to not really be aware of what they were capable of,” he said. “We had to try to build some sort of sense of confidence and not go into a game expecting that we were going to lose.”

So before making his coaching debut with the Yeomen, Cosentino called a pre-grame meeting after typing up a few words he’d used with other teams. He distributed copies to each player and gave them instructions.

“We’re going to practice our victory song and get used to the words because after the game that’s what we were going to sing,” said Cosentino, who admitted the locker-room harmony received laughter, some at the vocals, some at words and some at the notion.

But when the Yeomen were ahead of McMaster University 15-10 as the final whistle sounded, a booming rendition of the victory song they’d laughingly practised earlier echoed across campus.

The team would go on to win three more games that season as Cosentino, and his ability to inspire, lead York University to a 4-3 record, the squad’s first winning season.

In succeeding years the team would make the playoffs and at one point earned a national ranking under Cosentino’s guidance. Times have not been so good for the renamed York Lions since.

He retired from coaching in 1978, but was lured back in the mid-1980s to take over again. He retired as York’s most successful coach with a 25-25 record.

Now retired, the 74-year-old Cosentino stays busy with tennis and golf and continues to write.

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