Orange Coast AD pays tribute to CoSIDA Bud Nangle Award winner Tony Altobelli

Orange Coast AD pays tribute to CoSIDA Bud Nangle Award winner Tony Altobelli

Bud Nangle Award
Presented to a member of CoSIDA or to an individual outside of CoSIDA who shows ethics, integrity and bravery under unusual or stressful situations while carrying out their job duties. Voted on by the Special Awards Committee. Will be selected only if the Awards Committee deems worthy.

Related Content
Tony Altobelli Fights Through Losing Brother John In Helicopter Crash (ESPN.com, Jan. 30, 2020)
Brother of Baseball Coach Who Died In Helicopter Crash Pens Emotional “Thank You” Letter (Today.com, Jan. 30, 2020)
LetterDear John…Thank You…Love, Toad
Past Bud Nangle Award Recipients

Photo gallery (click here and scroll to bottom)

by Jason Kehler, Orange Coast College Director of Athletics

In the world of sports information, one could easily classify the daily operations of a California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) sports information professional as “unusual or stressful situations.” The few SIDs that work at roughly a third of the colleges in the state are mostly one-person departments, required to be the college’s athletics media liaison, official statistician, webmaster, photographer, social media director, public address announcer, scoreboard operator and, well, you get the picture. At Orange Coast College, the largest athletics department in the CCCAA, Tony Altobelli wears all of those hats for the college’s 24 intercollegiate teams. Every day could be considered unusual and stressful as he transitions from one athletic event to another.

But on the morning of January 26, 2020, the terms “unusual and stressful” took on a whole new meaning for the college’s 14-year SID. That was the day that his brother, John Altobelli, OCC’s head baseball coach, was killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, CA. The same helicopter crash that killed eight other people, including John’s wife, Keri, his daughter, Alyssa, and basketball star Kobe Bryant, among others.

In that moment, Tony had lost his brother at the same time OCC’s athletics department was thrust into the national spotlight.

No one would ever be expected to have to go to work following the loss of a family member, and no one expected Tony to have to go to work. But what transpired over the next three weeks was an extraordinary display of professionalism, courage, and flat-out dedication to one’s job. His response to this crisis is what led to his nomination, and ultimate awarding, of the Bud Nangle Award from the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).

Earlier this spring, Tony was also honored with the 2020 Brass Top Award from the California Community College Sports Information Association (CCCSIA), given to an SID at the community college level, or someone working closely with members of the CCCSIA, to recognize outstanding service and accomplishments. The longest tenured SID in the history of Orange Coast College athletics, Tony served as President of the CCCSIA from 2009-11 and was voted into the position in just his second year on the job.

Immediately upon learning of the tragedy, I talked to Tony on the phone shortly after the news came out about John.

I told him, “I will do anything I can to help him. He thanked me, and then texted me about five minutes later asking when he should send out the press release. I couldn’t believe it. I told him we could find someone on campus to help with that sort of thing, but he insisted.”

Roughly two hours later, Tony walked on to the OCC baseball field where a makeshift vigil was forming, gathering together campus staff, coaches, and current and former players. Tony addressed the team, talked to several different media outlets that had arrived, and then walked to his office and began updating the website and writing an official press release.

His work didn’t stop there on that Sunday night. He was in the office the next day, fielding calls from the media (national and local) and from friends and family while also putting the finishing touches on various media guides. It was, after all, the first day of the spring semester and the spring sports were all getting underway.

The next day, Tony went to the baseball field for opening day. Any other baseball game, Tony would settle into his press box and turn on the stadium music, set the starting lineups in both his computer and scorebook, turn on the scoreboard and ready himself to be the game’s PA announcer, statistician and scoreboard operator. But this day, he added the role of master of ceremonies as the college honored John in a pre-game ceremony.

When the game was called due to insufficient light, Tony reemerged on the field where he gave more interviews to the media, leaving well after darkness claimed the entire ballpark. As any SID can tell you, the work doesn’t stop when the game does. Tony returned to his office and wrote a game recap for the college’s athletic website and began preparation for the next day when the Pirates would be hosting a softball game. The work never stopped, and neither did Tony.

CoSIDA’s Nangle Award has only been awarded four times since it’s inception in 2013.

Tony’s outstanding courage and commitment to his job and to honor his family in a time of absolute crisis makes him such a worthy recipient of the Nangle Award, given to “an individual who shows ethics, integrity and bravery under unusual or stressful situations while carrying out their job duties.”

That was, and is, Tony.