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Babe Caccia

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I.J. "Babe" Caccia
POCATELLO - Italo John "Babe" Caccia, (91), died August 28, 2009, in Pocatello of natural causes.
He was born Oct. 3, 1917, to John and Anita Leussetti Caccia in Pocatello, the youngest of three children.
    Babe was an outstanding athlete. At Pocatello High School he was a multi-sport star before graduating in 1936. He attended the University of Idaho Southern Branch, as ISU was known pre-World War II, and was a two-year starting center and linebacker as well as a wrestler who lost only one match in two years.
    His athletic success continued at the University of Idaho. Prior to his 1941 graduation with bachelor's and master's degrees in education, he lettered in football twice, was the Pacific Coast Conference 165-pound wrestling champion, and was a three-year baseball starter who led his team in batting in 1940. He was UI's student body vice-president the 1940-1 school year.
    Shortly after graduating, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, serving during World War II. He was first a petty office in the Gene Tunney Physical Fitness Program, then was commissioned a lieutenant and served in the Pacific Theater.
    Babe married Sara Joyce Allen in 1947, and they were later divorced. They had three children.
    After five years in the Navy, he returned to his hometown in 1946, and joined the Pocatello H.S. coaching staff as football offensive and defensive line coach and head wrestling and track coach. His coaching made an immediate impact. Poky won the 1947 state championship, which earned him the chance to move to Idaho State as line coach.
    In 1951, he because ISU's head football coach and in 14 years achieved numerous milestones. His teams won 80 games, lost 38 and tied two, a 67.8 percent win rate. He coached unbeaten teams in 1952 and 1957, and his teams won five Rocky Mountain Conference championships and won the Big Sky Conference championship in 1963, the first year of the league's existence.
    In eight years as ISU's baseball coach, his teams posted a 152-116 record, 56.7 percent. His 1968 team was 28-5 and is considered the best in school history. He has the distinction of being ISU's most successful coach in both football and baseball.
    He also served as head wrestling coach in 1977-9.
    His ISU service also included 14 years as assistant athletic director and eight as athletic director before his retirement in 1986. He is a member of the ISU Sports Hall of Fame and the Idaho Hall of Fame.
    After leaving ISU football coaching, he was line coach of the Canadian Football League's Edmonton Eskimos. The Eskimos won the Grey Cup, Canada's Super Bowl, in 1975.
While coaching in Edmonton, Babe met and married his wife, Tracy, in 1974.
Babe's interests included more than athletics. He served eight years as Pocatello city councilman. He was a founding member of the Pocatello Sports Committee, which formed in 1987 to bring the NCAA Division I-AA National Championship Football Game to Pocatello and today continues to bring sporting events to Pocatello.
    He is a member of St. Anthony's Catholic Church.
    He is survived by his wife, Tracy, of Pocatello; daughter, Heidi (Greg) Linehan of Genesee; sons, Bill (Mary Jo) Caccia of Pocatello, and John Caccia of Hailey; and five grandchildren, Solara, Emma, Thomas, Cody and Wyatt. He was preceded in death by his parents, sister, Lena Stevenson, and brother, Gene Caccia.
    A funeral Mass in his memory will be held at St. Anthony's Church at 2 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 3. A reception will follow in the rotunda of the L.E. and Thelma E. Stephens Performing Arts Center. A Rosary will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 2 with a viewing to follow at St. Anthony's Church.
    In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the I.J. "Babe" Caccia Scholarship Fund at the ISU Foundation, Campus Box 8050, Pocatello, Idaho 83209.
Published in Idaho State Journal on Aug. 31, 2009
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