By Aram Tolegian, SGVN
In six weeks, the Blair High School football team is scheduled to play its first game of the season. But for some players and their parents, it’s hard to imagine that day will ever come.
While most area teams are concluding their summer preparations, which include practices, passing tournaments and linemen competitions, Blair is a program without a head coach and the team, what’s left of it, has not had an organized practice since early June. The Vikings are scheduled to open the season on Aug. 24 against Hoover.
“Most of the parents have said ‘This is crazy. This is ridiculous. We’re going to pull our kids and take them somewhere else,’” said Carl McClain, whose son Logan was an all-Rio Hondo League defensive end last season as a junior and is still holding out hope something will happen.
“The main players, the majority of them, have left. They’re gone. If my son was in the 10th grade, that would be no problem for us to pick up and go somewhere else, but he’s a senior.
“I shouldn’t have to move my son out of the city of Pasadena so he can go somewhere else to play. He’s a senior. I shouldn’t have to pull money out of my pocket so my son can play somewhere. That’s not fair.”
Blair was coached last season by Gary Parks, who resigned this past offseason after four years at the school. Blair started last season with 22 players on its roster, but Logan McClain estimated that the team had just 12 players when the season ended.
After Parks left, the school began its search for a replacement in April, according to Pasadena Unified School District board president Renatta Cooper.
The school’s first choice was hired but quickly quit due to a lack of equipment and poor facilities, according to Cooper. The school was not able to hire its second choice, who turned the job down because no teaching position was offered. A third choice was preliminarily hired, but failed a background check and was let go.
“The position has been re-flown and it’s my understanding that they’re going to be interviewing again Thursday,” Cooper said on Wednesday. “What more can they do? They had to re-fly the position. It is unfortunate that they were not able to secure the services of a coach. They began the process early enough to have this taken care of.”
“I believe that everything that can be done is being done. I believe they started the process early enough to not have this problem. You would think out of your three top candidates, you would be to secure the services of any of them. Especially when you started in April.”
With no coach and no organized practices, the player pool has subsequently dwindled. In the meantime, parents like McClain are frustrated by the lack of action and answers from Blair principal Trudell Skinner and athletic director Saul Rico.
The closest Blair’s players have come to some form of practice is an open weight room that the school has provided for another program not related to football, according to Logan McClain. So instead, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound college prospect has mostly worked out at home.
Another problem standing in Blair’s way is that even when a new football coach is hired, it’s questionable that there will be enough players to field a starting 11. Logan McClain estimates through his own correspondence with classmates that only eight players remain in the program. Blair will also welcome in a new freshmen class later this summer, but getting those players ready for any level of football competition will be an uphill battle even if a coach is named soon.
The CIF-Southern Section requires teams to have 14 practices before it plays its first game. Each individual student must have had at least 10 practices before being allowed to compete in a game.
With time running out, Blair needs to act fast in getting both a coach and enough players to field a varsity football team. Despite the concerns of many, school officials aren’t ready to pull the plug on the season.
“I’m confident that they’re doing the best they can,” Cooper said. “Are they in danger of forfeiting their games and not having a team? I spoke to the principal and she didn’t seem to feel that. She didn’t express that level of concern. She feels that they’re going to get this taken care of and I’m going to take her opinion.”
Meanwhile, the McClains are left to wonder whether they should trust the school or scramble and figure out Plan B before it’s too late.
“He wants to play at Blair,” Carl McClain said of his son. “He says ‘Dad, I want to finish what I started’ and that’s understandable. He says ‘Dad I want to graduate with the kids I went to junior high school with’.
“But I told him that if you want to play football and this is what you want to do, you may have to give all that up and go somewhere else.”
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