Edward Sweeney, a high school and college football coach from Long Island whose nearly 40-year career included more than 170 wins at the collegiate level, died Jan. 28 at a hospital in Lewes, Delaware.
He was 67 and was being treated for multiple myeloma, a form of cancer.
Sweeney, as those who knew him said (and as the stats show), had a talent for turning around teams with losing streaks. In his first season coaching at Dickinson College in Carlise, Pennsylvania, in the 1980s, the NCAA Division III team won just one game. But in just three seasons, the team went 10-1, winning a conference title, according to a remembrance posted on the college’s website. From 1985 to 1992, the team had 56 wins and won 71 percent of their games.“His own coaching philosophy was full-out all the time and you’re a member of a team,” said his brother, Michael Sweeney, 72, of Old Westbury. “He was a team builder, besides being a man builder.”
In a social media post, Kevin Nathan, a Westhampton native who Sweeney coached at Dickinson from 1986 to 1989, echoed the sentiment.
“His tough love and no-nonsense, disciplined approach transformed one of the nation’s worst div III programs into one of the best,” Nathan, now a sportscaster at NBC Connecticut, wrote. “But more important than changing a football culture, he changed us as people. Coach Sweeney taught us to always put the team first and to be accountable for ourselves in everything we do.” Nathan kept in touch with the coach over the years, he said in a phone interview, and since his death has commiserated with dozens of former players.
“Ed Sweeney was the greatest mentor of our lives,” Nathan said. Edward Sweeney was born April 27, 1949. His family moved from New Jersey to Floral Park and eventually settled in Bellerose village.
One of five children, he got his first taste of the sport playing Pop Warner and was on the team at Holy Cross High School in Flushing, Queens.
He graduated in 1971 from then-C.W. Post College, now Long Island University, playing football there, and got a master’s degree in education in 1973 from the University of Vermont, where he had a brief stint as an assistant coach, a title he also held at Comsweogue High School. He coached for two years at a prep school outside Boston, ending his tenure with a 7-0 season and then from 1978 to 1984 was the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator at Boston University, with the team appearing in three NCAA Division I-AA championships. From 1993 to 1995, he was head coach at Colgate University in upstate Hamilton and went on to coach at Frostburg State University in Maryland until 1999. He then landed at Mount Ida College in Newton, Massachusetts, and in 2010 was hired as an assistant coach and defensive coordinator at Stevenson University outside Baltimore, Maryland.In his spare time, he liked fishing and surfing.
He married the former Michelle Agnew and had three children: Kaitlin, of South Bend, Indiana; Sean, of Hoboken, New Jersey; and Callie, of Danvers, Massachusetts. The marriage ended in divorce.
Sweeney is also survived by siblings Kathleen Buehler, of Woodloch Springs, Pennsylvania; Geraldine Eloraga, of Bellmore; and Tom Sweeney of Westbrook, Connecticut.
A funeral Mass is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Friday at Our Lady of Victory Parish, 2 Floral Pkwy., Floral Park. He was cremated.