Carlini left tall legacy in Nevada prep sports
“I will always be proud of what he accomplished and only wish I can someday be remembered in the same light as he is today” — East Fork Fire District Chief Tod F. Carlini
When asked about his role model during a 2004 interview with The Record-Courier, Tod Carlini never hesitated in his answer. It was his father, the late Tod V. Carlini, who served as coach, teacher, school administrator and superintendent during his 30-year career in education in Lyon County.
“Without a doubt, my role model is my father,” junior Carlini said in that question and answer interview. “I don’t think a day goes by when I don’t think of him or apply his influence in my life. He was an incredible man who overcame very meager beginnings in an Italian immigrant family. He served his country in World War II, received a college degree, turned down an offer to play professional football for the Detroit Lions, and helped to education thousands of children over a 30-year history in Nevada education.”
Talk about a legacy! The senior Carlini, who passed away on June 1, 2002, served as director of high school athletics for what was then known as the Nevada Interscholastic League during a span of about 10 years from the mid-1960s into the ’70s. In 1993, he was inducted into the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association Hall of Fame as coach and administrator. Carlini — whose actual name was Todino — could have just as easily been inducted as an athlete, since he was a standout in football, basketball, as well as track and field at White Pine High School in Ely. Carlini’s grandfather was a railroad worker, who originally moved to Nevada in 1913 from the Pennsylvania and Ohio region.
After a three-year stint with the U.S. Navy that included action in the Pacific — his ship survived a torpedo attack in the waning days of World War II — the 5-foot-11, 215-pound Carlini went on to star as a bruising fullback at Utah State University from 1949-51. Among those highlights for the Aggies was the 1950 opener at home in Logan, Utah, in which he took a screen pass 70 yards to set up the winning score in a 7-6 win against the Nevada Wolf Pack.
By the way, that touchdown to beat Nevada was scored by Jim Garrett, who was later a scout for the Dallas Cowboys and whose son, Jason Garrett, is now head coach for the Cowboys.
The elder Carlini’s roommate at Utah State would also go on to gain notoriety in football, LaVelle Edwards, the longtime head coach at Brigham Young University. Yet another Utah State teammate in 1950 was John Rockne, son of legendary Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne.
“My dad was an exceptional football player,” Carlini said. “He was drafted by the Detroit Lions, but he said no. I never really knew what drove him into education, or why he wanted to be a teacher. My dad always loved kids and he loved sports.”
Carlini remembers his father as a man who always gave 100 percent to any project.
“He very much cared about his teachers. Even as school superintendent, he always tried to put the people first, whether it was their wages, their benefits, their jobs, he simply cared,” he said. “And he cared about his students. He ran intramural sports when he was in college; in fact, the thesis he did for his masters was on intramural sports and interscholastic activities in schools, so he not only practiced it, he studied it. That was just the way he was.”
Tod V. and Elizabeth Carlini (who passed away in 2014) were married on Dec. 24, 1950, then he graduated from Utah State in 1951 and received his masters degree in 1953. The elder Carlini began a new job as teacher and coach at Yerington High School in the fall of 1953, and his impact was immediate, because the Lions won back-to-back state football championships in 1953-54.
Yerington won state championships in 1964, ‘69 and then ‘73 — when Carlini was a sophomore center — but didn’t win back-to-back titles again until 2013-14. Another ironic note about those state championship teams was that they were coached by Mike Lommori, who played for coach Carlini in the early 1950s. Lommori also coached Yerington to 12 state wrestling championships from 1968-83 and a streak of 107 consecutive dual meet victories. Fittingly, Carlini and Lommori were inducted together in the NIAA Hall of Fame Class of 1993.
Neal Freitas grew up knowing the Carlini family, and graduated in the same Yerington Class of 1976 with young Tod. Freitas later became a coach at Douglas High, administrator in the Lyon County School District and currently sits on the Douglas County School District Board of Trustees.
“He was a helluva coach and superintendent,” Freitas said. “The thing about him, he was always very social, someone who always put you at ease.”
Freitas vividly recalls one particular football game during his freshman year against Bishop Manogue.
“We were standing there and this guy came over … and it was Gov. Mike O’Callaghan, whose son played for Manogue,” Freitas recalled. “I thought it was incredible that the governor would come seek out somebody just to shoot the breeze with, and it was Tod’s dad.
“But that was the thing, whether it was Gov. O’Callaghan coming up, Mr. Carlini was just an everyday person. You wouldn’t know how other folks hold him in such high esteem, and Tod is the same way.”
Carlini served as executive director for Nevada interscholastic athletics for about 10 years, from the early 1960s before the NIAA was formally organized in 1974, with Bert Cooper as executive secretary.
“I think back then the individual schools funded it, and that my dad might have gotten $100 a month to do it,” Carlini said. “You know, $100 a month was probably a lot to them at that time, but the pay didn’t matter to him. My dad loved it. He was an organizer and he loved being totally immersed in anything to do with athletics at the high school level.”
Did the senior Carlini see a football field as an extension of his classroom?
“Absolutely, and I would venture to guess, anyone who was coached by my father would tell you that there were probably more lessons of life learned on the football field than there were in the classroom,” Carlini said. “People that my dad had coached always told me that. It’s interesting, and I only found this out later in life, that there are people well into their 70s who have a picture of my dad at their bedside.
“It was respect. It’s the same respect any us had for Mr. Lommori when we played for him,” he continued. “To this day, it’s hard for me to call him anything but Mr. Lommori.”
As far as Tod V. Carlini was concerned, however, the football field was probably preferable to the lessons he learned during World War II. Just consider that on July 22, 1945, he was aboard the troop transport USS Marathon when it was torpedoed by a one-man suicide submarine in Buckner Bay, Okinawa.
Talk about maintaining a proper perspective, though, there couldn’t have possibly been anything to fear on any athletic field after overcoming such tremendous odds during the war in the Pacific and Europe.
“When that core of athletes came back from the war, they were pretty tough people,” Freitas said. “There probably wasn’t anything they didn’t think they could have done, whether it was on the sports field or whatever.”