Dr. Frank DeMarco was a remarkable all-around sportsman who held several prominent positions at Assumption College and the University of Windsor. He is remembered for redefining the role of student-athlete in Windsor. DeMarco created countless new opportunities for sports at the postsecondary level in Windsor, all the while famously insisting on strong academic standards for athletes.
DeMarco was born as a Canadian citizen in Podargoni, Italy, on February 14, 1921. He came to Canada in 1929 and settled in North Bay, where his father ran a store.
DeMarco attended North Bay Collegiate Institute and the University of Toronto, where he was an undergraduate from 1938 to ’42. He remained at Toronto to pursue a Master’s Degree, which he obtained in 1943. Between then and 1946, he did postgraduate work at the school and taught in the Faculty of Engineering. He obtained his Ph.D. from Toronto in 1951.
Much of DeMarco’s time as a student at the University of Toronto fell during the war years, when intercollegiate athletic competition was suspended. Still, he played many intramural sports, including football, basketball, hockey, volleyball, baseball, swimming, water polo, and lacrosse.
At his first graduation, DeMarco was named the “most versatile athlete” on campus. During his graduate studies, DeMarco coached the university’s varsity water polo team and every athletic team at St. Michael’s College. His responsibilities included men’s and women’s hockey plus basketball, football, soccer, and water polo.
In 1946, through the Basilian connection between St. Mike’s and Assumption College in Windsor, DeMarco was offered a position at Assumption to develop its Science and Engineering departments and athletic programs. He accepted. In 1949, DeMarco was appointed Athletic Director. He was the first person to coach both football and basketball at Assumption and the first to coach four unrelated sports (football, basketball, water polo, and curling) at the intercollegiate level.
DeMarco’s football teams won two Junior Ontario Rugby Football Union (ORFU) championships, and his varsity team played against American and Canadian universities. Along the way, he coached the future CFL football stars Gino Fracas, Bruno Bitkowski, and Ray Truant.
DeMarco established many “firsts” over the years. He was the first “Lay Athletic Director” at Assumption College, and he established the first organized intramural program and student athletic council in the school’s history. DeMarco oversaw Assumption’s first entry into Canadian intercollegiate competition and was the first person to represent the University of Windsor at Caniadian Interuniversity Athletic Union meetings. He also introduced many “lesser” sports at Assumption.
DeMarco relinquished his Athletic Director and coaching duties in 1955, when his academic and administrative responsibilities as Principal of Essex College and Vice-President of the University of Windsor became too onerous. He was the first former athlete and Athletic Director in our region to become a college principal and university VP.
DeMarco was an excellent athlete in his own right. In football, he combined with Jake Gaudaur, Annus Stukus, and the Toronto Argonauts great Harry Sonshine to form the Toronto Indians. The team competed in the Senior ORFU, a league that challenged for the Grey Cup. DeMarco also played end for Toronto Balmy Beach in the Senior ORFU between 1943 and ’45. After moving to Windsor, he quarterbacked the Windsor Rockets in the same league.
In baseball, DeMarco pitched for the Coppercliff Redmen, winning the Northern Ontario Senior “A” Championship. He played shortstop and batted .408 in the North Bay Fastball League while still Junior aged. He was once named an All-Star while representing Sudbury in a Northern Ontario tournament.
DeMarco played hockey at various points for the Toronto Staffords in the Toronto Industrial Leagues and Detroit AAA in the International League.
In 1959, he took up curling, which he would play until ’86. DeMarco was a two-time champion in Windsor’s Major League and skipped a Windsor rink to victory in the 1968 Detroit International Bonspiel. It was only the second victory by a Windsor rink in that competition. DeMarco also scored an eight-ender in that event. It was the first in the 84-year history of the bonspiel, and one of three in DeMarco’s career. Later, he became the first Windsor skip to reach the Ontario Senior Finals.
In 1989, he was inducted into the University of Windsor’s Alumni Sports Hall of Fame. The DeMarco Trophy, awarded annually to the University of Windsor’s top scholar-athlete, remains the most prestigious award in local university sports.