Berkeley, Calif. - Frank Mattarocci, a former captain of California rugby who also played football for the blue and gold before graduating from the University in 1958, passed away peacefully on January 13 at the age of 81.
"Sometimes the phase 'larger than life' is overused, but not with a description of Frank Mattarocci," said rugby head coach Jack Clark. "He is one of the all-time great characters of Cal rugby and football, and a true trailblazer of California rugby."
Born in in Lime, Colo., on November 8, 1931, Mattaroci arrived in Berkeley as a transfer student from San Diego Junior College after serving his country in the Korean conflict, during which he received a Navy commendation for saving the lives of three shipmates aboard the USS Boxer. Mattarocci continued his athletic career as a two-sport student-athlete for the Golden Bears, having earned MVP honors on the gridiron in junior college, and became a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity at the University.
Mattarocci played rugby at Cal under coach Miles "Doc" Hudson and was part of a memorable Bears roster in 1957-58 that included John Harrison, former All Black Pat Vincent, Bob Brooks, Ron Currie, Bob Chiappone, Jim Cullom, Tom Trutner, Dick Moneymaker, Jack Hart, Tom Fraser and Clark's future Cal football coach, Mike White, among others. As a football player he received the team's Brick Muller Outstanding Lineman Award and Andy Smith Award for most Big C playing time in 1956 and the Iron Man Football Award. Following his Cal career, Mattaroci gave back to the game in abundance, not the least through his contributions to the growth of rugby in the San Diego area.
"Frank was an important part of Cal's San Diego alumni group," Clark said. "He was a big, barrel-chested man in flip flops and a 365 tan, but most importantly, he was a leader."
Mattarocci is survived by three children - Sherilyn Haug of St. Charles, Mo., Marcia Shields of San Diego and Michael Mattarocci of Austin, Texas.
The Cal rugby family extends its condolences to all the friends and family of this great Golden Bear.