Might Carmel Reinstate Legendary Grid Coach Cayea?

Direct RaysHigh-Risk Sports Green-Lit by Cuomo, Student Athletes Await Local Decisions

All any professional ever wants to do is give an honest day’s work and, in the end, go out on their own, dignified terms. Twenty-five years tenured, after feeling slighted by the Carmel School District in the winter of 2020, rumor has it legendary football Coach Todd Cayea could (emphasis on could) soon be reinstated as the lead dog on the Rams’ sideline.

As usual, personnel decisions like this come with a two-sided gag order, so NOBODY would confirm or deny the rumors until an official announcement, but where there’s smoke one can only assume there’s fire, or the egg will never come off my face. Living in town, I hear things I simply
can’t ignore. 

Forget the malarkey that went down in January of 2020, just two months after Cayea, a P.E. teacher and 2019 Section 1 Coach of the Year at Carmel High, led the Rams to the Class AA title game in November of 2019. Because none of that matters now if the band should get back together, as hope would have it. It appears we might soon have a clean slate after lawyers on behalf of Cayea, and attorneys representing the school district, recently reconciled, leading to newly-minted Superintendent Mary-Margaret Zehr’s potential sign-off on the impending return of Coach Cayea.

Coach Todd Cayea
Carmel grid Coach Todd Cayea will be bringing the band back together in early Feb. for a spring tour.

The lead-up to a potential reinstatement was a long time coming for Cayea, his wife Debra (a newly elected Carmel school board member) and his kids. The Cayea name, as respected as any in Carmel, was disparaged during what some would call a witch hunt while the Carmel School District simultaneously dealt with a mass exodus — from its beleaguered superintendent, Andy Irvin, to its beloved director of health, athletics and physical education, Susan Reid Dullea.

A once tight-knit, fun-loving district was suddenly and inexplicably down in the dumps, but has since rebounded with typical vim and vigor. Teachers, coaches, families and administrators wondered about the direction of the Putnam County-based school district. Heck, even Mahopac felt bad for Carmel (as if!), but was happy to have the heat on the other side of the West Branch Reservoir for a change.

Getting Coach Cayea back on board would do wonders for morale, which received an additional boost with Friday’s announcement from the governor’s office that COVID-19-suspended high-risk sports have cleared their biggest hurdle. NYS Gov. Andrew Cuomo officially passed the torch to local health officials and school superintendents to reinstate sports like football, hoops and lax as of Feb.1, fueling hope for some form of normalcy for student athletes across the state.  

They could potentially celebrate Cayea and these other announcements at Our Lady of the Lakes Knights of Columbus Council when the district officially rolls this info out in the days ahead, probably upon conclusion of the Feb. 9 Carmel Board of Education meeting #Bravo! Unless the BOE meets sooner for an emergency session (out of necessity) to iron out the coaching staffs for what could be a wild, five-month ride through June, for schools across NYS.

No matter how you slice it, getting Coach Cayea back on the Carmel sidelines — should it come to fruition — is tantamount to Billy Martin returning to manage George Steinbrenner’s Yankees: No matter how crazy it seems after all the bullspit, it just feels right…

I cannot imagine a scenario whereby high-ranking health department officials in the Section 1 counties of Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess and Rockland can’t get on the same page with school superintendents regarding the installation of NYSPHSAA-sanctioned high-risk sports beginning Feb. 1. I mean, yeah, I CAN envision something going wrong, because so much has since COVID-19’s affliction last March, but seriously, it’s time to push on, time to burst the bubble and #LetThemPlay.  

Under serious pressure from a handful of NYS politicians, outspoken coaches, undaunted parents and student athletes, NYS. Gov. Andrew Cuomo finally relented last Friday and gave the go-ahead (passed the buck, actually) for high-risk sport to begin practicing on Feb.1., thus opening the door for winter sports, ‘Phase 2’ fall sports and spring sports.

Mahopac football Dominick DeMatteo has been on the front lines of this fight, advocating on behalf of student athletes across the state. Complacency is something he warned against and many in the know agree. 

“It’s a major first step,” DeMatteo said. “I was speechless when I first heard it, but today I’m ready for ‘Phase 2’ (fall sports) to begin. That said, there’s still much work to be done.” 

Local athletic directors backed Cuomo’s decision and hoped NYSPHSAA and their supers would get on board.

“It’s great news, obviously,” Hen Hud A.D Tom Baker said. “But we need to hear from the state athletic association. We need approval from them. We still need department of health approval from the county. Lots more we still need, but a huge hurdle here.”

Yorktown A.D. Rob Barrett has expressed similar optimism, but understands we haven’t cleared the final hurdle.

“Fingers crossed it isn’t a smoke screen,” said Barrett. “I’m optimistic that it will happen. I think we are ready for any protocols that are put in place and I think athletes are understanding and accepting of any protocols. I hope winter sports can go. My teams have been doing winter workouts safely, so I think they are ready to go.”

Since the day he took over last summer, Mahopac A.D. Stephen Luciani, the former Pelham High A.D., has been hamstrung by COVID-19 limitations, so he’s admittedly stoked for the return of all sports.

“This is what I’ve been waiting for,” Luciana said. “I can’t wait.”

Tell your wives, tell your moms and dads… we’ll see you in June when all is said and done because it’s go-time, boys and girls. #Continue2Advocate because there are still many hoops to jump through.