Gene Zinni, the long-time offensive line coach at Buffalo State and coaching veteran in Western New York for more than a half a century, died Thursday. He was 79.
Zinni suffered serious injuries in an auto accident in January. After time in intensive care he was moved to Hospice Lockport.
Zinni played on the 1958 University at Buffalo team that gained fame for voting not to participate in the 1958 Tangerine Bowl because two African-American members of the team would not be allowed to participate in the game in Orlando, Fla.
A coaching “lifer,” Zinni also coached at Sweet Home High, the University at Buffalo and for area semi-pro teams. He was head coach of the Twin City Gemini and was an assistant coach with the Buffalo Destroyers of the Arena Football League.
Zinni served two stints at Buffalo State covering 18 seasons. The second was the last six seasons after he was with the Destroyers. He also was involved in the founding of the annual Kensington Lions Club Football game held each summer featuring all-star teams of graduating high school seniors and the Jim McNally football camp for offensive and defensive linemen.
“Gene arrived on my staff in 1990 which, coincidently, was the start of our great run of success throughout the 90s,” said Buffalo State coach and director of athletics Jerry Boyes. “He was a great friend who was so loyal to Buffalo State. Devoted to his players and their development on and off the field, he lived his entire life doing what he loved, coaching the game of life through football. He will be missed.”
A resident of Royalton, Zinni is survived by his wife, Marlene, and three children, Laurene, Eugene and Michael.