As Barron Collier students, teachers, athletes and coaches returned to school this week, it marked the first time in 28 years that they did so without Ken Andiorio inspiring the Cougar Nation with his passion and dedication.
Andiorio recently retired as Barron Collier’s athletic director, but AD was not his defining role. He was a football coach, a history and economics teacher, a baseball accountant and a basketball table operator, among many other roles, for two decades before overseeing Cougars athletics in the last seven years.
“No one put more hours in that building than Ken Andiorio,” said Charles Shanks, who taught in the same department and worked as an initial football assistant for retired AD.
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As Andiorio steps aside for a well-deserved break, those who worked with him say his love of school and his students made him a beloved favorite at Barron Collier for 27 years.
“The best times as a coach were when you really got that kid,” said Andiorio, 63. “When you connect with them and see that noticeable change in their attitude and skills.”
By training their hearts
Andiorio spent 20 years as a beginner football coach at Barron Collier, and so is best remembered.
After spending 13 years selling and shipping products, Andiorio came to Barron Collier in 1994 as a suspension teacher at the school. Football was a natural fit, and he started that year as a volunteer assistant with the Cougars student team.
Growing up in New Jersey, Andiorio was an all-state defensive finish in high school and played four years at Rutgers. He had helped establish the Collier Youth Football Association shortly after moving to Naples in 1990 and was its former president.
Andiorio became the starting football coach in 1997 and held the position for 17 years. He was promoted to AD in 2014.
“Kenny always wanted to train kids’ hearts,” said close friend Rick MacCluggage, who coached on the first student team with Andiorio for nine years. “To do that, he had to develop a close relationship with his players.
“He was one of the good guys as a coach. Very few coaches reach that level with children. “
Andiorio was known for his joke on Wednesday with the first student team. He meant a stern joke the night before the game, one that might have caused groans, but that was always memorable.
“I started training my first football with him (in 2005) because I knew it would be fun,” Shanks said. “There was no excitement on Friday night and all that pressure. “We would just train beginner football, have a good time and teach some kids.”
This is not to say that Andiorio did not take his role seriously.
“Kenny was very passionate about his football program,” Shanks said. “This guy ran his first program as his university team, from the way we distributed the equipment to the way we disassemble the film to fundraisers.”
Andiorio also compiled prominent player tapes and sold them to parents as a fundraiser. As video editing technology advanced, Andiorio began taking videos of players as first students and then as seniors and fading them together to show contrast. Parents liked it and the videos were the hit of the Cougars annual banquet.
“That was my biggest training joy – watching them grow,” Andiorio said.
More than a football coach
Andiorio had the same passion in the classroom as on the field.
With a degree in agricultural economics from Rutgers, Andiorio eventually became a history teacher at Barron Collier. He also taught economics and government.
In 27 years at the school, Andiorio worked for every principal in the history of Barron Collier. Founding principal Butch Manley was still there when Andiorio arrived in 1994. Andiorio then worked for a week under new principal Sean Kinsley, his principal and the school’s 11th principal, before retiring on August 2nd.
He loved learning for the same reasons he loved coaching – it was a chance to touch a young man’s heart and make a difference in their lives.
“He takes care of the kids,” said Cougars football coach Mark Jackson, who has worked under Andiorio for the past six years. “This is his most important, attractive quality. He does everything with good intentions for the children and the school. “
Andiorio went ahead for his students and school.
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He created the “Know Your Collier County Government” and “Youth In Government” programs. He set up visits from the Sheriff’s Office and the local SWAT team to help children learn the practice. He often read the morning announcements, always signing with a cordial “For blue and gray, go Cougars!”
Andiorio wanted to give lessons that students could use later in life. This is why he particularly liked economics, which is about decision-making – estimating the costs of opportunities and choosing one option over another. He also taught about finance, especially saving and investing and increasing interest.
If anyone at Barron Collier needed a volunteer or support for an event, they knew who to ask.
“Kenny was always ready to take part in anything,” Shanks said. “He did not say no.”
Shanks recalls having Sumo Night at a school event where Andiorio wore a bloated sumo wrestler costume and collided with another teacher.
In October 2020, Andiorio offered to dye his quarantine beard pink to raise money for breast cancer awareness. After the students nearly doubled their $ 1,500 fundraising goal, Andiorio stayed true to his word. He showed off his pink beard at a college football game before finally shaving.
“Ken Andiorio was more than a football coach,” Shanks said. “He was a mentor to a lot of people. He still will be.”
Honor and privilege
As much as he loved coaching and teaching, Andiorio wanted to help Barron Collier on a larger scale. So in 2014, when Cougars AD Mark Rosenbalm became the athletic director for the school district, Andiorio took over the post at Barron Collier.
By not training anymore, Andiorio tried to influence the athletes in other ways. He brought nutritionists and sports psychologists to speak. He also worked to improve facilities and equipment.
The athletic director’s work included long hours – early in the morning, but also many nights and weekends. It can be tedious, especially for someone like Andiorio who gives everything for everyone.
“He gave everyone his time,” MacCluggage said. “His spirit is to help anyone. The work was in Kenny’s heart because he listens to everyone, and an AD can not always do that.”
Speaking in the language of a coach, Andiorio said he was not tired, but could say he missed a step. He decided to retire to allow a new voice to run Barron Collier athletics.
At the age of 63, Andiorio also wants to focus on his health before it is too late as he has undoubtedly gained weight.
“I have developed a lot of bad habits over the years,” Andiorio said. “Exercise is not one of them. I have to focus on myself. I would also like to enjoy more family time. “
Andiorio and his wife of 32 years, Karen, plan to travel and visit with their three sons and two granddaughters, aged 10 and 6.
“To sum it all up, I really enjoyed serving the community and the students, faculty and staff of Barron Collier High School,” Andiorio said. “School is really a family. I put so much time there that it is really hard to leave, but there is always a time to go. It was an honor and a privilege to serve BC Nation.”