Solvay's Merola named to Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame

To Al Merola, the foundation for the success he enjoyed as Solvay High School's varsity football coach was rather simple.

"Longevity, dedication and knowledge in your coaching staff are always an asset to developing a winning program," he said.

All those assets led to 210 victories on the football field, a long list of championships -- and this week, the announcement that Merola is one of the newest inductees into the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame.

Merola joins a Class of 2007 that includes high school coach/administrator Dick Bader, basketball coach Dave Brodsky, broadcaster Doug Logan, speed skater Patricia McCarthy, and golfing great Jim Roy. They will be formally inducted at a dinner Oct. 22.

For Merola, the dedication to football began in his Syracuse youth. He attended North High School and played tailback there, earning all-league status.After graduation, Merola went into the United States Air Force, serving at Great Lakes Naval Base and also doing a stint in Alaska.

During that time, Merola began college, attending the Citadel and the University of Alaska before returning home and getting his degree from Syracuse University in 1964.

Certified as a physical education teacher, Merola immediately took a teaching job at Pleasant Street Elementary School in the Fayetteville-Manlius district. It didn't take long for him to get back into football, as he was hired as a varsity assistant coach at F-M under Al Vedder, where he stayed for the rest of the decade.

When the Solvay varsity football head coaching job opened up in 1970, though, Merola took it, beginning a remarkable tenure that would stretch more than three decades.

In just Merola's second season at the helm, in 1971, the Bearcats won its league title. And 16 more league championships would follow, the last six of them in a row from 1998 to 2003. This helped Merola earn Coach of the Year honors eight different times.

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