Football: New Direction is No Direction

View from the Sidelines Column
It’s been an interesting year for high school football coaches. Maybe a sad and hard-to- understand year is a better way of describing it.
Over at St. Paul, principal Lori Barr fired coach Pete Gonzalez a year after he won a championship – and didn’t offer any explanation, choosing to take the “no comment” route.
Wilson first-year coach Greg Hoyd wasn’t fired, but was basically forced to resign after going 1-9 and being transferred from Wilson to another school in the district.
A year after La Puente Coach Ray Hernandez won a league title and coached in the Hall of Fame All-Star game, he butted heads with his own school’s administration on how he should discipline players. That led to his resignation.
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Damien fired coach Scott Morrison after two Sierra League championships and four playoff appearances in six seasons, because in the “what have you done for me lately” world we live in, he went 3-7 this past season.

Temple City fired Randy Backus. Then Duarte fired Wardell Crutchfield earlier this week. Crutchfield was one of the winningest football coaches in the school’s history.

Crutchfield led the Falcons to the quarterfinals in three of the four years he was there, but was told by principal Eric Barba that the school is moving in a different direction.

Of course, Barba never explained what direction that is.

Then there are those resigning, like longtime South El Monte coach Erick Escamilla, leaving some area coaches wondering what’s going on.

“I’ve never seen it like this before,” Rosemead coach Matt Koffler said. “How can all these coaches be getting fired, and how are you going to replace them all with quality coaches given the economic situation we’re in? It’s just crazy.

“You’ve had years where a number of coaches have resigned or retired, but nothing like this. I don’t understand all the firings. This is a tough profession. High school coaches deal with so much now, it’s hard to explain for those who don’t do it.”

Charter Oak coach Lou Farrar said that after winning the CIF championship in 1985, they had back-to-back winless seasons in 1989 and ’90 in which the Chargers went 0-6-3 and 0-10, respectively.

“We didn’t do anything different that we did in 1985, but it was a different time back then,” Farrar said. “I don’t know if they would have been as patient with me today as they were back then.

“After that second winless season, the superintendent and principal took me to lunch and told me to hang in there. It was nice to have people who understood all the hard work that you put in. You need that support; I know it made a difference with me.”

What a difference in time. Today, high school coaches are getting fired like major college coaches who have big-time contracts to fall back on.

“We joke all the time that if you averaged the hours we put in compared to the money we make, it would average out to something like five cents an hour,” Farrar said.

Crutchfield’s firing has been a hot topic on the blogs, with many wondering what principals are thinking when they’re firing hard-working coaches because they want to go in a “different direction.”

This comment comes from a Crutch supporter, who weighed in on our blog at

“Duarte has enjoyed winning seasons for the last four years. Most importantly, Crutchfield has sent four athletes from this small school to Division I colleges on scholarships.

“It is Crutch who guided these players and advised them what classes to take during the school semester, summer school or if they needed to enroll in on-line classes that would qualify them for the NCAA at the D-1 level.

“The football players and their friends would always congregate around Crutch’s classroom during lunch, breaks, after school and practice. The atmosphere around his classroom was a feeling of a coach/teacher who was respected and loved by his students/players.

“I can’t understand the principal’s `new direction.’ The only conclusion I can come to is a personality conflict or jealousy – jealous of Crutch’s relationship with the players and students. The respect, love and willingness of these football players to succeed is now just a dark cloud hovering over the football field at Duarte High School. It is so sad that the football players and their families are effected and will suffer most because of this decision to fire Coach Crutch.”

Arroyo coach Jim Singiser didn’t know Crutchfield that well, but he knows that the coaching profession is changing.

“I just wonder, where are they going to get quality coaches to replace all these guys?” Singiser said. “This is a 24-7, seven-day-a-week job. We spend more time with our football team than our own families.”

We’ll end today’s column with breaking news.

Just when you thought South Hills was afraid of playing the big-time heavyweights, coach Steve Bogan surprises everyone by announcing they will take on Pac-5 powerhouse Tesoro.

Because of the uncertainty over the coaching situation at Duarte High School, the Huskies have dropped their Week Three game with the Falcons and have already reportedly signed a contract with Tesoro for what should be a fun-to-watch game at Covina District Field in the middle of September.

This is the same Tesoro that lost to Long Beach Poly in the Pac-5 championship, and should put to rest any kind of thought that South Hills is afraid to take on the big boys.

(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2161

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