Phil Scaffidi

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All-Around Athlete

The challenges of high-level athletics often produce in their participants a tenacity and fortitude that aids them in facing real-life crises. In the case of St. Joe’s standout Phil Scaffidi, the determination, courage, and perseverance that led to unsurpassed glory on the gridiron, the hardwood, and the diamond were on full public display in a memorable battle against cancer that touched an entire community. Accordingly, the passage of time has diminished neither the legacy of Phil’s athletic achievements, nor the inspiration provided by the contest against an opponent that cut short his athletic promise at age 23.

The athletic accomplishments are legendary. Beginning in 1972, his sophomore year, Phil was a varsity letterman in four sports. As a guard, Phil paced Coach Dick Bihr’s basketball Marauders to Manhattan Cup championships his junior and senior years. In baseball, he led talented St. Joe’s squads as a hard-hitting shortstop and occasional pitcher. A speedy option quarterback, Phil produced over 1,500 yards total offense in his senior year, a significant total given the fact that he often watched third and fourth quarters from the bench after helping his teammates build sizeable leads. Scaffidi’s speed as a sprinter not only enhanced his ability in other sports, but also landed him on the 4 x 220 relay team which established a national record at the Penn Relays for Coach Bob Ivory in 1972. A natural leader, Phil captained all his varsity teams (except track) his senior year, and won the Billy Kelly Award in 1974 as the area’s top Senior Scholar-Athlete. In addition, Phil was an All-Catholic selection in all four sports junior and senior years.

Scaffidi was an 8th round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1974, and for two years pursued a career in professional baseball. However, Frank Layden lured Phil back home with a basketball scholarship to Niagara University, and Scaffidi joined the Purple Eagles for the 1975-76 season. Phil was a starter as a freshman and led the Eagles to a berth in the National Invitation Tournament.

Phil stood on the threshold of 1,000 career points, as well as the all-time Niagara assist record, when cancer derailed his senior season. Undaunted, Phil battled back from an eight-hour surgery and grueling rehabilitation to return to the hardwood in December 1979. In an emotional appearance, Phil collected the two assists he needed to set the Niagara record.

Scaffidi’s 15-month struggle against cancer ended in March, 1980., His legacy at Niagara includes a gymnasium named in his memory, an annual men’s basketball player award, and the retirement of his No. 3 basketball jersey, and today, the memory of his outstanding achievements, and character, lives on with his enshrinement in the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.