Frank Amato's 47-year legacy secured at Loyola Academy

A Loyola Academy track coach for 47 years, Frank Amato saw his student-athletes' lives as a marathon, not a four-year sprint.

"A winning or losing record was not my whole focus of being a coach," he said in a Loyola video at the time of his retirement in 2013.

His focus was to see his athletes go on to lead successful careers and lives with their families, as "good citizens" who contribute to society.

"That's the legacy I want," Amato said then.

Having secured that legacy and plenty of success on the track, Amato died Jan. 28 at Glenbrook Hospital. He was 96 years old.

"Coach Amato influenced countless Rambler athletes, colleagues, parents, and even opposing coaches," said Dave Behof, a 1992 Loyola graduate. "His belief in each athlete he coached led them to believe in themselves and excel on the field, on the track, and in life."

Behof competed on Amato's teams then returned two decades later to the private Jesuit high school to teach math and assist in track and cross country.

"Pre-meet talks, including the themes of 'competing versus participating' and 'the standards and traditions of Loyola Academy,' unite decades of Loyola Academy track athletes," Behof said. "Personally, my favorite times with coach were spent sitting in his office learning from someone who had so much to share. His legacy will live on through 'his coaches' and all those who competed for him."

That theme of competing versus participating was strong in Amato, not surprising given that he served overseas as a Marine in World War II.

His military service came in between two stints at the University of Notre Dame. Amato was recruited to play football after graduating from high school in his native Kingston, New York. He played for the legendary Fighting Irish coach Frank Leahy.

Amato's playing career ended with a broken leg, but his coaching career started with interhall football at Notre Dame.

Amato also met his wife, Alice, in South Bend, Indiana, on a blind date. The two married in 1951 and had five children. Alice Amato died July 28, 2022, after 71 years with Frank.

"I always think of it as Frank and Alice, never just Frank," said the Rev. Pat McGrath, former Loyola president, now pastor of Old St. Patrick's Church in Chicago.

"It's sort of this team that we know so well, Fank and Alice, who have poured themselves into the life of Loyola Academy," McGrath said in Amato's retirement video. "I think that the Amato legacy is this wonderful Catholic couple who have invested themselves in their family and in this institution."

Born on Christmas Eve 1926, Amato's first official coaching job came in 1953 at Norfolk Catholic High School in Virginia, where he was the athletic director, physical education teacher, and head football, basketball and track coach. Amato also coached at what now is IC Catholic in Elmhurst and the since-closed St. Thomas Catholic in Rockford and St. George in Evanston.

In 1966 Amato fielded a call from Loyola's Father Michael English to coach track and football, and began a 47-year coaching career in Wilmette that included coaching girls track in 1995 after the school became coeducational.

His Ramblers track teams won a combined 31 indoor and outdoor Chicago Catholic League championships. Amato, whose boys were unbeaten in 65 straight outdoor meets between 1970-74, earned induction into the CCL Hall of Fame in 1985.

That same year the Illinois Track and Cross Country Coaches Association inducted Amato into its hall of fame, followed by his 1990 enshrinement into the Loyola Academy Athletic Hall of Fame.

In 2011, the National High School Athletic Coaches Association named Amato its coach of the year for boys track and field. In May 2018, Sports Faith International gave him its Lifetime Achievement Award in a ceremony at Mundelein Seminary. Loyola Academy's track is named after Amato, who also has an endowment award at the school.

"In order to be successful you have to have a great desire to excel," Amato said in his 2013 retirement video. "If you want to be the best there's no limit on what you can reach."

Frank Amato is pictured here at his final Chicago Catholic League outdoor track meet in 2013. Courtesy of Loyola Academy
Francis Joseph Amato
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