New Sachem AD Always a Sachem Guy

Posted Saturday, July 10, 2010 by

Sachem has always been home for Pete Blieberg. Though he hasn't worn Red, Black & Gold since 1985 when he left the district as a coach and physical education teacher and headed to Kings Park, the affection for Sachem Nation has remained in his spirit.

With long stints as the athletic director at Kings Park and East Islip, where he was last for six years, Blieberg returns to Sachem as the new athletic director. His first day was July 1. Since the position was restructured, Gary Beutel is now the assistant athletic director and John Mankowich has left for the Jericho School District.

"It was a no brainer for me," said Blieberg at his office in Samoset Middle School this week. "It was an opportunity to come home."

Already wearing a black Sachem polo shirt and sporting a 1986 Rutger's Trophy ring from Sachem's historic year on the gridiron, Blieberg not only talks the part of the district's new athletic czar, he also looks it.

It was at Sachem where he grew wings as an educator, first teaching at Gatelot Elementary in 1981 as a leave replacement and eventually finishing the year as a health instructor at Seneca Middle School – then a junior high. His final three years he taught gym at Samoset – then called Sachem South. His father, a former Superintendent at Islip Schools was a friend of Dr. Len Adler, Sachem's Superintendent during the early 1980's.

"From day one he was flying with energy," former Sachem football coach Fred Fusaro recalled.

Had he not been offered the head football coaching position at Kings Park, Blieberg would have been content spending his career at Sachem.

"I knew Freddy Fusaro wasn't going anywhere," said Blieberg, who has a picture of the legendary coach on his windowsill, "so I took that position."

It was Fusaro, one of Long Island's most successful football coaches, who taught Blieberg how to act in a respectful and ethical manner as a coach. The characteristics learned through the football program also carried over into everyday life.

"For me, the sun rises and sets on him," he said. "When I got here, Sachem had a core group of coaches that built programs the right way. Being around Freddy for five years, I tried to mimic my career after him. He's a perfect role model. He proves you can win by doing things the right way and working hard."

Fusaro taught him to stay to the end of games – no matter the situation, the weather, or the score.

"He told me a story when he was at Hofstra [coaching] and they were playing Delaware," Blieberg said. "There were some late touchdowns scored when Freddy left. He told me you have to stay to the end. I was scouting North Babylon one time under an Army poncho with a penlight in my mouth writing under the poncho. He taught me that."

Blieberg is also famous for creating the A or U stickers synonymous with being a "chAmp" or a "chUmp" on the field – it was a well-known motivational statement during that period of Sachem football. He put the stickers on lockers or wherever players could see them.

Blieberg, a graduate of Islip High School and Ashland College in Ohio, was already at Kings Park in 1986 when Sachem won the Rutger's Trophy as Suffolk County's top football team. Since he was a strong part of the program, coaching ninth grade football and serving as an advanced scout for the varsity, Fusaro deemed it necessary and proper to honor him with the individual hardware.

"That's the type of person he is," said Blieberg.

Fusaro coached at Sachem during a time of great success in athletics, a time of domination that few athletic programs have achieved. The goal is to get that back. How? Since James Nolan took over as Superintendent of Schools at Sachem, it's clear the motto of "We Are Sachem" means more now, then ever.

In the coming months, the district's administration – from academics and athletics – will strive to promote the Sachem name, not just East and North.

"You want to drive through town and no matter where you are, see that Sachem logo," he said. "You want to be feared, revered and envied. You want it to be intimidating."

Blieberg said the district is working on a unified logo that will represent the entire district. He also mentioned that all uniforms for athletic programs will say Sachem, and not East or North separately.

If a rivalry game pops up between both schools, then the district will construct ways of community bonding: food drives, coat drives, fundraisers, etc.

"The two teams will come together, win or lose," he said, "to help the community out."

At Ashland, Blieberg played one year of JV football and four years of lacrosse, which he also dabbled in with the Long Island Lacrosse Club along with Sachem coaches Tony Petillo and Mickey Menna.

A founding member of the National Football Foundation's Suffolk County branch, Blieberg also serves as the game coordinator for the Outback Steakhouse Empire Challenge, a game held each year to raise money and awareness for cystic fibrosis for the Boomer Esiason Foundation.

He stresses that while football is a passion and love, it does not take precedence over Sachem's other sports.

He was also a founding member of the New York State Football Coaches Association and received his Master's Degree from Stony Brook University and administrative certificates from Dowling College. His resume speaks for itself.

"Pete Bleiberg is one of the most highly respected athletic directors around," Nolan said. "His expertise and experience will be an asset to our district."

In his office, amidst the myriad of unpacked boxes, photos of former athletes and coaches, and a slew of commemorative footballs and helmets, sits a blank wall. Blieberg said it's the future spot of the eventual logo/banner the district is developing.

Like the clean slate on his wall, he'll help take Sachem's athletic program to another level; one with championship banners, more Rutger's Trophy rings and back to a time of dominance that others can only imagine.