Saturday, November 22, 2003

Thumbs Up: St. X's Steve Rasso

Coaching legend retires

Even in a town as rich in high school football luminaries as Cincinnati, Steve Rasso has been a standout. This week, Rasso announced his coaching retirement after 26 seasons leading the St. Xavier Bombers. It marks the end of a local sports era. As one colleague, La Salle coach Tom Grippa, put it, "I think we're losing a coaching legend in Cincinnati."

Rasso was the force behind some of the finest prep teams in our area during the past quarter-century, carrying on such memorable rivalries as St. X-Elder. Although Elder beat St. Xavier handily 28-7 last month, those competitive feelings were just as intense as ever. "No matter what, St. X is always our biggest game of the year, and it's great to beat them," Elder center and co-captain Corey McKenna said after the game.

Rasso, 65, led St. X to 189 wins since 1978, with just 86 losses and two ties. His teams won six Greater Cincinnati League championships, had 11 playoff appearances and three times played in the state championship game. This season, St. X failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 1996, but it compiled a 6-3 record - including a 20-17 victory over the state's top-ranked team, Cleveland St. Ignatius.

A head coach since 1967, Rasso has consistently produced winning teams, with a career record of 249 wins, 122 losses and six ties. Before taking the St. Xavier job, Rasso was head coach at Covington Catholic (5-4-1), La Salle (47-30-3) and Mariemont (8-2).

Over those years, Rasso helped shape hundreds of young athletes' futures, and many went on to success at higher levels. For example, Tennessee Titans linebacker Rocky Boiman, who played at St. X and went on to Notre Dame, has kept in touch with Rasso. Recently, Boiman told the Enquirer he considered it "an honor" to have played for Rasso, who also coached Boiman's father at La Salle.

Although Rasso is retiring as coach, his work with students isn't finished. He said he'll remain at the school as a phys ed teacher for now. That's good news for St. X students. "Not only is his record awesome," Grippa said, "but he's a classy guy."

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