CRYSTAL FALLS – Bill Santilli, a major influence on Forest Park High School sports and the Crystal Falls area for many years, has been named the recipient of the James E. Trethewey Distinguished Service Award that is awarded by the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association.
This award is given to an individual who has worked to benefit opportunities for Upper Peninsula student athletes. Trethewey was a founding member of the UPSSA, longtime editor of The Mining Journal and the first executive director of the U.P. Sports Hall of Fame.
Santilli, a former Forest Park High School football star and coach, was nominated by Troy Margoni of nearby Iron River radio station WIKB. They have been neighbors for 30 years.
“I have seen first-hand the positive impact he has had on student athletes not only in Iron County, but surrounding ones as well,” Margoni said. “During Bill’s coaching career at Forest Park as the varsity football coach, if a player was hurt on his team or the other team, he was usually the first person out there to check on the athlete.”
Margoni also recalled a Forest Park Week 9 game with Lake Linden-Hubbell.
“During that summer, one of Lake Linden’s star running backs got hurt in a car accident and was unable to play football his senior year,” Margoni said. “Forest Park played Lake Linden in the last regular-season game.”
Santilli got a call from Lakes coach Andy Crouch requesting one carry from scrimmage for his injured player but without contact.
“Bill said no problem,” Margoni said. “We will just let him run for a touchdown and that’s what the young man did.
“Bill didn’t care about the score of the game, the rivalry, the shutout, he cared about the opposing player and what he missed out on due to a car accident that summer.”
Another season after the Trojans knocked off rival North Dickinson in a one-score game to advance in the playoffs, he allowed a group of North Dickinson players to stand on the sidelines of their game the next week at the Superior Dome.
“Not many coaches would allow a rival team to do that,” Margoni said, “but Bill had a great relationship with the opposing players as those players just had so much respect for him and the Forest Park football team.”
The four-time UPSSA Coach of the Year in 2000, 2005, 2008 and 2013 led the Trojans for 18 football seasons from 1996 to 2013. Forest Park made the playoffs in all but one year during that time.
He guided the Trojans to 13 conference titles, 11 district titles, nine regional titles, six state runner-up finishes and the 2007 state championship.
Santilli posted a career mark of 171-46, a winning percentage of .788. He had a playoff mark of 40-16.
Santilli, inducted into the U.P. Sports Hall of Fame in 2005, recently became the Forest Park High School athletic director.
These are some of Santilli’s other accomplishments at Forest Park Schools and in Crystal Falls:
Coached Little League for eight years (1991-98)
Umpired Little League for 10 years (1999-2008)
Coached youth basketball known as “Saturday Buckets” for 10 years (1988-97)
Coached Winter Games boys basketball for 14 years (1991-2004)
Coached Forest Park junior high boys basketball for 27 years (1990 to present)
Crystal Falls Lions Club co-Citizen of the Year in 2008 with Dave Graff
Pop Warner referee for 19 years (1993-2012)
Forest Park junior varsity football coach for four years (1992-95)