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Tom Blackford


Enshrined 2023

Ask Tom Blackford, and he’ll tell you that at the age of 10, a bit more than 60 years ago, he knew that he would grow up to be a teacher and a coach.

Turns out, the kid — then living in Cazenovia and destined to forever be a Central New Yorker — was an oracle.  Because here we are, all this time later . . . and there is Blackford, retired as a Physical Education instructor, but still scratching out his X’s and O’s at Hamilton Central High School.

He’s been the head basketball coach at Hamilton Central (27 seasons) and at Fayetteville-Manlius (14 seasons) for 41 consecutive campaigns now.  And — with a cumulative record of 607-290 (.677), aided greatly by his signature 1-3-1 zone defense — Tom has won more games than anybody in Section 3 history.

If that isn’t enough to grab you by the lapels, try this:

Blackford’s teams have won 15 league titles, six Sectional tournaments, six Regional crowns and two state championships.  Thirty-six of his clubs have qualified for Sectional play, 32 have enjoyed winning seasons, eight have earned at least 20 victories.

He’s coached 29 All-State selections, eight 1,000-point scorers and two New York State Players of the Year.  Oh, and on the side, Tom — who, traveling along the path to all those wonders, somehow managed to also compete in Ironman triathlons — has coached football, softball and girls lacrosse.

No, he’s not twins.  Tom Blackford — a graduate of Cazenovia High School and SUNY-Cortland — is, merely, remarkable.

“Teaching and coaching is my life,” he once explained.  “It’s the most rewarding thing you can do.”

If the awards and citations and plaques that Tom has earned across parts or all of the five decades of his career — the ones including sportsmanship, academic achievement and leadership, in addition to coaching — were to be stacked one on top of the other . . . well, a pole-vaulter would be needed to clear them.  (Meaning, they can’t possibly be listed here.)

But the true beneficiaries would be Blackford’s students and athletes who have been helped/guided/coached by Tom in season and out . . . across the school calendar and during the summer . . . in good times and the not-so-good ones.

“I didn’t get into this,” he once said, “to break records.”  But break records, this man has.  And, with just the right touch, he’s inspired countless young people along the way.  His vision at the age of 10 was a clear one. 

For his accomplishments in coaching and contributions to his community, 
Tom Blackford becomes a member of the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame, Class of 2023.

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