Jan. 20, 1934 – Oct. 11, 2019
For Sal Esposito, the second-winningest soccer coach in University at Buffalo sports history, the most memorable triumph may have come in a home game on Sept. 27, 1977, at Rotary Field.
Against powerhouse Cleveland State, the Bulls pulled off a 2-1 victory – one of UB’s biggest sports upsets of all time.
“Goliath has been slain,” reporter Michael Rudny wrote in a story emblazoned across the front page of the student newspaper, The Spectrum. “The soccer Bulls picked up their slingshot on Tuesday, fired it at the seventh best soccer team in the nation, and then hung on for dear life.”
“I’m very ecstatic,” Mr. Esposito told Rudny after the game. “We had everything to gain and nothing to lose. ... We kept our cool and didn’t get rattled.”
When Mr. Esposito stepped aside after 16 seasons, in 1989, his record stood at 108 wins, 105 losses and 21 ties, a mark surpassed only by John Astudillo, who succeeded him as soccer coach.
Inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta, he coached one All-American, 15 all-New York State players, 57 all-conference picks and three players who turned professional.
A longtime North Tonawanda resident, he died unexpectedly Friday in Buffalo General Medical Center. He was 85.
Salvatore R. Esposito was born to Italian immigrant parents in Philadelphia, the youngest of six children. He attended West Chester State College, now West Chester University of Pennsylvania, where he played sports, then completed a bachelor’s degree at the University of North Carolina.
He taught and coached high school basketball and soccer in Wall Township, N.J., and Oxford, Pa., before becoming a college coach.
He was an assistant soccer coach and head lacrosse coach at North Carolina, assistant wrestling coach at the University of Maryland and head soccer coach at American University.
He served as a physical education instructor at UNC and Maryland and director of physical education at American.
After completing his doctorate at the University of Southern Mississippi, he came to UB in 1973 as head coach of a soccer program that had begun with a club team two years earlier.
When UB established a new department of recreation, athletics and related instruction in 1976, Mr. Esposito was named its first chairman. He was an assistant dean in the division of undergraduate education.
After leaving his coaching position, he continued as associate athletic director for basic instruction. He retired in 1998.
In retirement, he was active in the Scalp and Blade fraternity and helped run its scholarship program. He was a member of the Men’s Club at the UB Newman Center and was a guitarist in a band of seniors who played concerts in nursing homes.
He was a winemaker. “Everywhere he went, he would bring along a bottle,” his daughter, Maria Goldman, said.
He made frequent visits to relatives in his parents’ hometown in southern Italy and was particularly devoted to his grandchildren.
“He was their babysitter,” his daughter said. “He would take them to school, go to their sporting events. He was with them constantly.”
Survivors also include a son, Richard; another daughter, Angela Duffy; and eight grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the Newman Center, 495 Skinnersville Road, Amherst.