To replace one of the most accomplished sports figures in its history, Bishop Timon-St. Jude has turned to a young man who has already cemented legendary status in Western New York high school sports.
Former Williamsville South and University at Buffalo star quarterback Joe Licata will succeed Charlie Comerford as athletic director and football coach at the South Buffalo private school. Licata takes over the positions vacated three weeks ago by Comerford, who resigned suddenly because he was unhappy with the school's decision not to retain Michele Battin as principal.
In Licata – who set passing records both at Will South and UB – Timon replaced a big name with another. Licata said officials from the school reached out to him last week to see if he'd be interested in the positions.
They apparently left an impression on him, and vice versa, as the school announced the hire at 11:40 p.m. Friday night.
"All it took was one sit-down" with Timon's search committee "to be all in," said Licata, a history major with a minor in education who at this time last summer was preparing for his first NFL training camp with the Cincinnati Bengals as an undrafted free agent.
"It's too good an opportunity to pass up," he said. "It's an opportunity to have an impact on kids, coach football and have an impact on sports (at the school)."
Licata, 24, graduated from Williamsville South in 2011 owning the Western New York career passing yards record (6,671). That mark was broken last season by St. Francis' Jerry Hickson, but Licata still holds the WNY record for career passing touchdowns (87).
Licata went from wearing the blue and white of the Billies to the same colors with the University at Buffalo – where he set program records for passing yards and touchdowns.
Licata had a tryout with the Buffalo Bills in 2016 during a rookie minicamp before hooking up as undrafted free agent with the Cincinnati Bengals. He was released by the Bengals last Aug. 29.
Licata started his own business, Joe Licata Football Inc., to help "improve the level of football in Western New York" and to help athletes reach their full potential. Licata was also a radio co-host on "The Tim Graham Show" with News Sports Reporter Tim Graham on 1270 The Fan this past year.
"We're very excited to have him," said Ted Overdorf, a former chairman of the board at Timon who was part of the search committee headed by board vice chairman Dr. Steven Hietanen. "He's a terrific young man. He presents himself very well."
Hietanen added: "Naturally when looking for someone to fill the position, genuine leadership is what is needed. Timon has had a history of that in the athletic director position. Joe fit the bill. His athletic achievement makes it natural for the students to admire and want to emulate. It is hard to believe that Timon will be fortunate enough to have two of the most gifted athletes in Western New York history serve as AD in Charlie and Joe."
Timon hopes to reap the benefit of Licata's personality, enthusiasm and instincts since this will be his first job not only as an administrator but also as coach of a team. While that seems daunting, it's not a foreign concept to the Licata family.
Licata's father, Gil – who is currently the principal at Starpoint – was in his 20s when he was hired as athletic director and basketball coach during the 1980s at Turner/Carroll.
"We have complete confidence in his ability," Hietanen said.
"I'm very lucky I have a great support system with people willing to help me," said Licata, who added that he took a couple coaching classes in school. "I'm not doing this alone. I know I have people in my corner who want to see Timon succeed."
While Licata is not from South Buffalo, he said the outpouring of support he's received has been fantastic.
"I'm excited to embrace the South Buffalo tradition," Licata said. "I think everyone in South Buffalo is as excited as I about the future."
Licata plans to address Timon football players either Monday or Tuesday to discuss his vision.
Licata declined to get into specifics about the future direction of the football program until after he meets with team members, but there have already been some changes to the Tigers' schedule for this season even though Licata has only been on the job since late Friday.
Timon's plan to go out of state for three of its first four games has changed, as Licata confirmed that Week One and Two games at national power Buford (Ga.) and Ohio state-title contender Central Catholic have been canceled. He declined to give a reason.
FOOTBALL: MOJO's Sep. 22nd opponent, Bishop Timon NY, has cancelled their trip to West Texas. Possible replacement opponent TBA
— Permian Panthers (@OdessaPermian) July 14, 2017
Earlier, Permian of Odessa, Texas, announced the cancellation of the Week Four matchup against the Tigers. That leaves six regular-season games on Timon's schedule.
Two of Timon's top players from last year also won't be back with the program.
Two-time All-Western New York first team lineman Jeremiah Sanders – considered the best at his position in the area – has transferred back to South Park for his senior year. Junior wide receiver Juston Johnson also plans to transfer, according to his older brother Des Randall.
That move is mostly due to Randall's decision to step down as Timon's basketball coach earlier Friday, but the uncertainty surrounding the football program prior to Licata's hire also played a role in Johnson's decision, according to Randall.
At the moment, the status of senior quarterback, Connolly Cup finalist and first team All-Western New York selection Matt Myers, who recently verbally committed to attend University at Buffalo, seems uncertain. Will Myers return to Timon or transfer to his home school district in West Seneca?
Licata declined to comment on the roster because he still hasn't met members of the team.
"I love Matt," Licata said. "I think he's the best quarterback in Western New York. I would love to work with him but he has to do what's best for him and his family."
Myers said he will make a decision soon but believes Timon made a good hire in Licata.
"I think it's great for the program," Myers said. "He's a great guy and can build the team fast."