Hometownlife.com – (CBS Detroit)
Livonia Franklin football state title-winning coach Armand Vigna, wife die from COVID-19.READ MORE: Michigan Launches MI Benefits Center To Help Residents Apply For Food Assistance
Armand Vigna was detail-oriented, well respected, a teacher and a friend to many.
The former Livonia Franklin head coach, who coached football for more than 40 years, helped the Patriots to its only state title in 1975, the first Division 1 state title in the history of Michigan high school football.
Dearborn residents Vigna and his wife Ruthie died Tuesday from the coronavirus within 12 hours of each other.
In his head coaching career at Livonia Franklin, Cherry Hill and Ravenna, Vigna posted a record of 157-114-2, according to the Michigan High School Football Association Coaches Hall of Fame, earning regional coach of the year honors in 1975 and 1982.
“I have never heard anyone say ill words toward Armand Vigna. He was intense, he was competitive to the nth degree,” Livonia Franklin athletic director Ron Hammye said. “Just a person who motivated young people.”
Ahead of his time
George Lovich’s first impression of Vigna was that of a jitterbug.
The head coach of Franklin described his newest hire — the junior varsity football coach — as always wanting to get something done right away, eager to refine the game and better himself and the people around him in any way that he knew how.
Vigna did this in a way that the sports world had not seen at the high-school level: programming.
Through computer code, data and help from a friend that worked for the Ford Motor Company, Vigna would create detailed scouting reports and game plans about upcoming opponents: everything from statistics regarding success at different down and distances to which formations were used in different in-game situations.
“We could tell you the last time you took a glass of water onto the football field,” Lovich jokingly said.
Lovich stepped down from the head coaching position in 1975 to take the vacant athletic director job, paving the way for Vigna to take over. With Vigna as a trusted assistant in the years prior, nothing really changed, as he still ran the offense and Lovich coached the defense.
But the stats affected both sides of the ballREAD MORE: Multiple Students Facing Charges For School Threats In Metro Detroit
Lovich remembers a time when Franklin took on Fordson in a game when Vigna was head coach. The Patriots knew that when the Tractors got within the 30-yard line and faced a fourth down and short yardage, they would always throw a look to the tight end.
That’s what Vigna’s numbers and data showed Lovich, and it paid off.
“We knew it, our kids knew it and we intercepted the pass when they did it,” Lovich said.
Vigna retired in 1992, but returned to the Patriots coaching staff in 2001 when Kelbert took over the program, bringing the same computer program as he had in 1975.
“On Sundays we would get our game plan, our scout plan, and that thing would be 20 to 30 pages long of just old computer code that none of us could decipher except for him,” Kelbert said. “He would take game film, VHS tape, break it down, put it in his computer and give us all the percentages of first down, third down, areas of the field.”
To Kelbert, he called it Hudl, a video and analytics tool primarily used for high school athletics, before Hudl existed.
But to the veteran head coach at Franklin, Vigna was a source of instant credibility, bringing generations upon generations of experience to the sideline.
“Being a first-time head coach and being a 26-year-old, I didn’t know a whole lot, thought I knew a whole lot,” Kelbert said. “Just having him with me, and all the things he had already done and the things he had been through really helped me: his wisdom and just a wealth of knowledge for us.”
More than a coach
To Lovich, Vigna was more than just a fellow coach.
When he was called and told that Vigna had died, he was told that every time he would call his co-worker after both had retired, Vigna’s daughters would always say, “Dad, your girlfriend is calling.”
With that, all Lovich could do was laugh.
“That’s what my daughters would say when Armand would call me.”
Lovich described the family dynamic between him and Vigna to be as close as close can be.
Lovich said what he will miss most is talking football with Vigna, talking about Franklin, long after the two stopped walking the sidelines together.
“But the part that you can’t pick up the phone, call him and start talking football,” Lovich said. “I’ll miss that. It’s not there anymore, even though I knew it was happening.
“For the past two years, I knew it was coming. We tried to keep it going as long as we could.”
Hammye announced the Livonia Franklin football field will have its lights on to honor Vigna Friday night from 9-10 p.m.MORE NEWS: Michigan Medicine Pauses Vaccine Mandate For Its Union Employees, Including Nurses
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