Anyone even vaguely familiar with Notre Dame High School’s athletic and academic excellence over the past six decades surely has heard of Bill “Sudsy” Sutherland, a graduate of the Union Street school who went on to become one of the area’s finest coaches and educators.
The legacy of “Sudsy,” as he was affectionally known, grew to new heights this afternoon when the Notre Dame community named its football field as Bill Sutherland Field.
Speaking before a large crowd at halftime of the Section V Class D game between the Fighting Irish and visiting Alexander Trojans, ND Athletic Director Mike Rapone called it a “fitting tribute.”
“… The Notre Dame Board of Trustees, administration, athletic department and, most importantly, our Notre Dame school community and alumni recognize that the naming of our football field is a fitting tribute to Bill Sutherland, who dedicated so much of his life to Notre Dame and its students – and much of that time was spent on this field,” Rapone said.
He then presented a plaque commemorating the occasion to Sutherland’s wife, Melanie, a 1970 ND graduate, and his children, Billy (1996) and Jennifer (2000), who were supported by the coach’s brothers, sisters, grandchildren and many members of the Sutherland family (photo at top).
Sutherland compiled a tremendous record as a coach – not just in football, but also in baseball and golf, a record so impressive that he made it into the Section V Hall of Fame. A star athlete at ND, he also is the only person inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame as a player and coach.
He passed away on Aug. 23, 2020 at the age of 71.
“The name Bill Sutherland and his famous nickname, Sudsy, was synonymous with Notre Dame for 41 years and he was recognized by the Genesee Region, Section V and the Monsignor Martin Association for his coaching prowess, the preparation of his teams and the way his teams competed,” Rapone said.
His teams won seven Genesee Region football titles, 13 baseball titles, two Bishop Smith baseball championships, four Section V titles in football, seven in baseball and three consecutive golf championships. In 16 championship game appearances, his teams won 14 times.
Rapone said Sutherland “helped shape the hearts and minds of Notre Dame students as a coach, teacher and administrator.”
“As a coach, Bill was known for his love of players and desire to see them excel on the field, in the classroom and, most importantly, in life,” he stated. “Coach Sutherland would be known for his fiery intensity and his ability to motivate his players like few coaches could.”
Off the field, Sutherland was an excellent teacher and mentor, Rapone said, with a special gift in “in identifying where his students were struggling and (finding) ways to help and understand to improve their performance level.”
ND Principal Wade Bianco thanked the school’s Class of 1967 for its “relentless effort” to make this dedication possible.
“Their (Sutherland’s classmates) tenacity and their passion to get this done almost matched Bill’s,” he quipped.
A reception was hosted by the Sutherland family after the game at T.F. Brown’s Restaurant in Batavia.
From left, Notre Dame High School Principal Wade Bianco, Athletic Director Mike Rapone, Billy Sutherland, Jennifer Sutherland Forsyth, Melanie Sutherland, Pat Becker (Class of 1967) and David O'Connor (Class of 1967).
Photos by Howard Owens.