Scouting Guru Q&A with Tracy McFate, head of football assigners, and much, much more

The Scouting Guru has been all over the San Gabriel Valley and beyond, and like always, he’s offered to share his thoughts, free of charge. Don’t hate, enjoy it for what it’s worth, which is one man’s opinion on the talent in the San Gabriel Valley.

Guru Writes: When I started to get ideas for what to write this week, I was stumbling a bit. You can only talk college recruiting so much. I wanted to do something that was going to be beneficial to coaches, players and parents. And then it hit me like a sack of bricks.
As we all know football officiating is one of the thankless jobs of the year. You get criticized and yelled at and the stipend are anywhere from $60 to $80. So for this column I wanted to know what the points of emphasis is going to be for the upcoming season and other things. There is one man I know I could call on… Tracy McFate. He is the assigner for the Foothill Citrus Division in Southern California and has been officiating games for a very long time.

“We love the game, just like the players, coaches and fans,” McFate said. “The game has gotten so fast and more sophisticated. So our guys have to do a great job of staying on top of the game and getting better. And with all the video that is available to us, there is no reason why we can’t get better as a unit.”

One of the things that McFate has noticed is that the number of people that want to be officials are up. Right now, he estimates that their are 150 football officials in Foothill Citrus. “We saw the numbers come up two years ago and lot of that is tied to the economy,” McFate said.

One thing that you notice about McFate when you get him on the phone is that he knows his stuff. Besides working HS games during the week, he does college games on Saturday and on Sunday’s he’s part of the staff that works with Mike Periera (former NFL head of officiating and a consultant for Fox) in the Fox Studios watching his assigned game and bringing controversial calls to Periera’s attention. “That is one of the best things that could have happened to me,” McFate said. “You look at the game from a totally different level, and it just makes you a better referee.”

That doesn’t mean what you see on Sunday will be called on Friday nights. “One thing that people have to understand is that the game that you see on Sundays is not the same game you see on Friday night,” McFate says. “There are rules in the NFL that are not in our rulebook on the high school level. And that’s something that the fans have to understand. Just because they are calling it on Sunday’s doesn’t mean we call it on Friday.”

When asked what is still the toughest play to call, it was real easy for McFate to give the answer. “Holding. Without question. The way that we try to call it is ‘Did the offensive player impede the defensive player to making the tackle?’ For our crew, its such a tough call to make. But our guys do a good job in enforcing it.”

So what are the new rules for the 2011 season? “Not a whole lot,” McFate said. “First thing is that there is a CIF state rules that states that if a team is up by 35 points or more in the fourth quarter, there will be a running clock. In the past, if the opposing coach requested it and it was ok with the team that was winning, then we would do it. Now, we have a rule to work off of.
“One of the new rules that players have to know is that they can’t have anything on their eye black. They can use the eyeblack, but there can’t be any writing on it,” McFate says. “One of the other things we have done is redefined the chop block. A chop block is now combination block by two players with or without delay. Keep in mind that it also can be called on the defense as well as the offense. But I don’t the coaches in our area teach the chop block.”

One thing that McFate wanted to get across to the fans is that the less the officials are noticed the better. “We are their to make sure that team A doesn’t have an advantage over Team B when it comes to the rules. The less we are noticed, the better.”

There is so much that McFate and myself talked about in our 50 minute conversation; it was great. So in our next column, we will finish up on what is being looked at closely this season.

10 things I think I think….

1) I think that I’m so glad that the 7 on 7 season is over. I glad it’s over for several reasons.
a) I think 7 on 7s have gone out of control on a regional and national basis. The reason that you go 7 on 7 is to work on your passing game for Friday nights. You don’t work on your passing games on plays that YOU WON’T do on Friday nights. I can’t remember a time of year when I would go to four-way or a passing league tournament and have uttered the words, “you won’t see that on Friday night,” so many times. That’s why it’s very hard to take so teams very seriously if they are not running the stuff you are going to run when the leaves turn brown. But, hey I’m not a head coach (and don’t pretend to play one on TV) so if coaches in the area want to run stuff in the summer so that they have a false sense of security, I have two words to say, “Rock on.”

b) At tournament time, sportsmanship gets thrown out of the window. For the second straight year in a row, their were teams arguing and fighting each other at the Claremont Tournament. Teams need to calm their heads and cheer for their own. It gets pretty ridiculous when you have players from each teams getting into each other’s “grill.”

So when the passing league season is over, count me as the first one at the bar at Chili’s.

2) I think that pretty much every team is set for the fall. One of the things that I’ve noticed through the years is that summer football at the high school level is pretty much spring football at the college level (sans the helmets and shoulders pads, of course). Let’s face it, you work the entire summer to set up your depth chart. After six weeks of football, I can totally bet that all the teams in the area pretty much have an idea on who is where on the depth and who is going to take the majority of the snaps when the season starts. Now, can anything happen when the pads go on? No question… And their will be one change (maybe two if your lucky) on the chart, but after the third day in pads, teams pretty much have their charts set and will be prepping their players for their scrimmages and/or week 0 games. And I thank Urban Meyer for pointing that out on ESPN during the spring.

a) I had one Florida high school coach tell me at the USC Rising Stars camp, “are you people in California stupid. We practice in full gear in the spring for seven days and you really get to know who can play and who can’t. Plus our kids get offers during the spring. Boy, are you guys backwards around here.” Couldn’t agree more.

3) I think that you can count me as a huge fan of Kurt Scoby. After I had written in my last column that I thought his hips were really tight and that he needed more hip flexibility, he came up to me last week and said, “coach, I just wanted to let you know that I read what you wrote and I’m working on that right now.” I love it. A player who doesn’t get his feelings hurt, knows that it’s constructive criticism, and learns to make it a positive. There are a lot of people out there that should take note. A guy like that will always have a spot on my all-time football team.

4) I think that here are my thoughts on some of the teams that I saw this summer on the passing league circuit (except for Bishop Amat… and I hope you understand why)

a) Very impressed with Charter Oak. They have the athletes to make a lot of noise during the season. I thought their o-line and d-line were decent. That’s where they’ll make their hay during the year.

b) Don’t overlook Santa Fe High School. It’s easy to fall into the trap that they don’t have corners. I did and it’s fools gold. They have two very good corners and their safeties are just fine. They are coaches by Romeo Pellum (who is on his way to becoming one of the great young high school coaches in the area) and they will be more that competitive in league and in the playoffs.

c) I thought the two most overrated teams were Bonita and Glendora. As a matter of fact, I think Glendora will be lucky to win five games this year. I have to disagree with the high ranking that they were given by Aram.

d) South Hills will be just fine. And yes Aram, they do have college prospects.

e) I didn’t see West Covina this summer – but if all reports are true, the line on the Loyola game just went up from 14 to 17 points.

5. I think that at this time next year, you will see more teams go 11 on 11 during the summer. If you think I’m crazy, talk to Charter Oak and Bishop Amat who did 11 on 11 scrimmages this summer. I wasn’t at the Amat 11 on 11 scrimmage, but the Charter Oak staff seemed really happy that Crespi came down to do combined practice that concluded with 11 on 11 scrimmage. The atmosphere was great and as one Charter Oak assistant coach said at the end of the night, “This was great work for us.” Now, I’m not in favor of it in the spring, but in July – I’m all for it. You don’t see running back running seam routes between the center and the backside guard while the QB is rolling the opposite way…oops, I’m sorry – I got on that passing league tangent again.

6. I think that I really like the talking to stop when it comes to the Monrovia and Bishop Amat fans. I think that Monrovia has the makings of being a very good team. But, there is no way that they could handle the riggers of playing in the Serra League. Bishop Amat can because – quite frankly – they’ve done it in the past. Even Eric Sondheimer of the Los Angeles Times can’t pick a favorite in the Serra because every team looks really good. I’ve heard this talk in the past that this team can play Amat and every year an area team plays them gets totally whacked. And yes it will happen again this year.

7. I think that here is a good question for area fans. Who are the college prospects for the class of 2013?

8. I think that starting in the next column I will start widening out the breath of the column. With the Pasadena Star News and the Whittier Daily News joining the Trib preps blog, you’ll like my college prospect list a lot better.

9. I think I have a question for all those fans that really believe in passing leagues and tournaments, How did Servite do this summer?

10. I think that here are my non-area football thoughts and random musings…

a) I had a chance last week to spend two days in Malibu for the Elite 11 QB Camp that is run by NIKE. First off, if any team has a chance to go down there for a day, you should be all over it. The skill players get so much work done and get a ton of reps, it’s a totally awesome experience. Plus your players get extra exposure by Internet reporters. Plus the weather was 75 degree (at best). I had a chance to see Kellen Clemens of Boise State work out and let me tell you, this is a guy that doesn’t pass the eye ball test at all. But he is a heck of a QB and a heck of a person. I asked him how much time he spends watching film before a game and he said, “Well, on Monday we don’t practice so after a class in the morning, I’ll go in the QB room and watch film for 5 hours.” Just food for thought for all you area QB’s that want to be great. Here are my other Elite 11 QB thoughts…

i) Trent Dilfer is one of the great teachers of the game and has a passion for the game that is unmatched by anyone I’ve ever seen. He should be coaching, not behind a camera on ESPN.

ii) With apologies to Chris Rix, the best private QB coach that I’ve ever seen is George Whitfield. The man just flat out knows his stuff. He’s expensive, but is pretty darn good!

iii) Just remember the name Jake Rodrigues. He is committed to Oregon. This kid is a stud and is an easy kid to root for.

iv) It’s easy to cheer for Matt Cassell. He is one of the most humble quarterbacks that I’ve ever known. Personable and will always have time for anyone that asks.
b) I will now say it, the SGV is a baseball town. Sorry all you football fans. This area is always fertile ground for the best in high school baseball and with all the area players going to national exhibition games, I say let’s put a sign up that says, SAN GABRIEL VALLEY, BASEBALL TOWN, USA

c) Congrats to Diamond Bar’s Alex Morgan and the USA Women’s Soccer Team for a game to remember against Japan. I was riveted to the TV just like the many of you. I was just disappointed that no mention Alex’s hometown high school made it to the Trib blog the next morning

d) I was at the bookstore several weeks ago and picked up the only magazine that is worth its weight for the upcoming college football season. That’s right, Phil Steele’s College Football preview magazine. Horribly under priced at 8.95, it puts all the other magazine’s to shame. Some insightful thoughts….

i) Great to see Keith Smith’s picture in the magazine after his amazing freshman season…

ii) He picks Notre Dame as one of his surprise teams of the 2011 season. Something tells me that they’ll choke against USC…

iii) When you read the preview page on Alabama, you can understand why he has them playing in the national championship game.

iv) And after reading the preview pages of Georgia and Boise State, you can see why Boise State’s game against Georgia in Atlanta is a make or break game.

v) And yes he has USC winning the PAC 12 south. But he also has UCLA winning eight games and going to a bowl game.
vi) And if he is correct, Rick Neuheisel and Dennis Erickson will be coaching next year.

vii) And for all you South Hills honks, Nick Lamaison will be starting quarterback for UTEP this year.

e) The best NFL reporter in the business is back from vacation… that means it’s time for all of us log on to and read the one and only Peter King.

f) I don’t care who the heck you are, what a shame that the President of the United States calls the Speaker of the House and the answer on the other line is, “he’s unavailable right now.” Is there anything more rude than that? Now that the NFL strike has been settled, its pretty sad that they can resolve an NFL strike but they can stop the gridlock in Washington…pretty sad!

Talk to you in mid August!

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  • BigDog

    I think this is the first time i have agreed with the Guru, Fred didn’t say a word about Alex Morgan from Diamond Bar who scored a goal and almost had two. If it would have been a past athlete from Amat or South Hills you would be talking about it for weeks.Diamond Bar has produced some great soccer players over the years that the SGV should be proud of. I have always said Fred that you should stick to soccer story’s but you really dropped the ball on this one Fred.

  • Casey Anthony

    Guru we need to hooked up we have the same qualities! we like to lie are crazy and we are both not welcome to step on amats campus! We fooled everybody! call me!

  • LecheroHillsHusky

    Dear Mr. Tracy McFate

    Go take a look at the Chino Hills practices, then watch the 2010 game films, then come back and tell us about coaching and teaching the chop block.

    These guys at CH are absolutely coached everyday to chop block. I encourage and challenge you to take a look a these coaches and their teachings. If the coaches were penalized, then and only then are they going to stop teaching it.

  • WTF?

    Is it me or does it take a lot of effort to read this guy’s stuff? Why am I reading it?

    He is wrong on so many levels it would take a novel to point it out.

    So I will point out just a couple. Number 1, YOU ARE ON A STAFF WITH A GUY WHO RUNS PLAYS LIKE A DRAW DURING 7 on 7 and releases 5 into the route all the time. Why are you complaining about 7 on 7 specific plays?

    Number 2, South Hills is not fine. In fact I bet my first born Bonita has at least 2 more wins than they do. You said they were just fine last year, how’d that turn out?

    Number 3, Did Notre dame choke last year?

    Number 4, Who goes to a bookstore and buys a magazine?

    Number 5, aren’t you the Guru? Why are you asking us who the prospects for 2013 are? I’ll give you names for $50 bucks each if you want me to do your job.

    Number 6, When you say with all due respect and then tell someone they aren’t as good, it typically still insults them.

    Number 7, this is a fun game. Let’s see if the rest of the gang can come up with 8-9-10.

  • NotSince1995

    Eric Sondheimer is ball washer to the Serra League because he lives across the street from SO Notre Dame and has for many years. This guy wouldn’t know competitive football if it offered him $1,000,000 to say something bad about the Serra League.
    Not in 2011 either…

  • sgv scouting

    Couldn’t help but noticed some points from WTF that need to be answered…

    “Number 1, YOU ARE ON A STAFF WITH A GUY WHO RUNS PLAYS LIKE A DRAW DURING 7 on 7 and releases 5 into the route all the time. Why are you complaining about 7 on 7 specific plays?”

    Guess you weren’t at the Claremont Tournament. What happened? Did you run out of gas in. The car?

    “Number 2, South Hills is not fine. In fact I bet my first born Bonita has at least 2 more wins than they do.”

    I don’t have any kids but if you care to make a wager – be more than happy to do so.

    “Number 4, Who goes to a bookstore and buys a magazine?”

    Do you know what a bookstore looks like…

    I’ll stop there.

  • BOB

    I think the best statement was this one : a) I had one Florida high school coach tell me at the USC Rising Stars camp, “are you people in California stupid. We practice in full gear in the spring for seven days and you really get to know who can play and who can’t. Plus our kids get offers during the spring. Boy, are you guys backwards around here.” Couldn’t agree more. I think this is a Great idea! Could this be why the State of Florida for some reason has so much talent and speed! I’m sure it helps. Love to hear peoples comments!!!


    BigDog, use your own name. I am Big Dog; not you! If you do not have one, I’ll give you a name, how about Little Wiesal.

  • General Turgidson

    To WTF:

    No. You’re not the only one. It’s difficult to read this tripe. I try to maintain my composure for the sake of Private Fred, but its not easy. But who cares? We wont go to hell for making fun of the village idiot once in awhile…

    To the SCOUTING GOO GOO… um, i meant guru…

    Passing league is about COMPETITION. To some coaches (ie, winning coaches) winning is important. Therefore, passing leagues are invaluable for teaching kids to compete and to accept nothing but excellence.

    Its all very simple Mr. GOO GOO. If you sit down at a restaurant and say to the waiter “bring me anything,” you cant be upset when you get something you don’t like. Similarly, if you accept half effort, second best… don’t be surprised if you can’t take the lid off the cookie jar come game time.

    And before you say “well, most coaches dont take it so seriously…” you need to go watch harry welch or troy thomas at a passing tournament. Leave your kids at home because it aint pretty. And I just may be wrong, but I heard somewhere that Servite and Harry Welch have won a few. Could be wrong… NOT! They expect full effort all the time… and they GET full effort all the time.

    Scouting GOO GOO… here’s a suggestion…. grow up.


  • Colt74

    Passing leagues and Lineman comps are only going to get more popular. It’s competition and a way to keep the teams hungry and fired up during the off season. I’m waiting to see when arm wrestling leagues start next.

    Now, when are the refs going to start calling the horse collar and spearing infractions we see every game? CIF made a big deal about agreeing to the nationwide concern about it and then the refs seem to ignore it.

    Also, since Pomona is so up on themselves this season but we have not really heard about them in the feeds…have you seen them? And if so, what’s your assessment? Rumor is that they have had an abnormally large group of kids transfer in for the “education” over there at P-town.

    Yeah…and I go to Happy Jacks fish farm because I like the “challenge” of catching their fish…..

  • Learn the rules

    Your an idiot. The coaches at Chino Hills teach “cut blocks” not “chop blocks” Cut blocks are completely legal. Learn the difference you moron. I have never in my life heard of a high school coach in the SGV teaching kids to chop block, and to say that CH practices the chop block against their own kids at practice is just plain ignorant.

  • FBFan

    There is a huge difference between a cut and a chop. A cut is something that pretty much all high schools in America do. A chop block is an illegal high/low that is very unethical.

  • LecheroHillsHusky


    I agree with you that the cut block is a technique taught by coaches, but go take a look at the Chino Hills practices, then watch the 2010 game films, then come back and tell us about coaching and teaching the “chop” block.

    This “Learn the rules” moron doesn’t realize what he is defending. Get your ducks in a row dude, then come on here and talk. What those guys have been teaching over there is not only illegal but as FBFan said – unethical.

    We’re ready for them this year. We’re gonna “chop” block the hell out of their Dlineman like they did to us and everybody else they played last year.

  • WTF?

    To SGV Scouting: Let me speak for the group when I say I am relieved to hear you don’t have any kids. however, probably hard to land a decent female when you have to bring ythem home to mom and dad’s couch. In addition, yes I have been to a bookstore; TO BUY BOOKS. You have the IQ of a fish, though and ‘got blinded by all the pretty colors them picture books, aka magazines have on them.’
    Last, my car might run out of gas but I didn’t realize your bus pass allows you to travel to Claremont. At least I have a car.
    You set yourself up for ridicule even when you are trying to quip funny/ crack wise there buddy. Keep it coming I can go all day but I will stop now because trading jabs with you is like kicking a puppy. It is way too easy and doesn’t make you feel too good.

  • General Turgidson

    To wtf:

    Wow. I agree again. Its like kicking a puppy. However, as a man of war, I must say i cannot agree on the very last point you made: “it doesnt make you feel too good.”

    I feel great.

    Keep ’em coming moron. You seem to be the only subject most people on this blog can unite over… we all hate you.

  • Learn the rules

    You sound like a coach, with the “we’re ready for them this year and we’re going to chop block the hell out of them year” quotes
    My questions to you are:
    1. Why are you on the CH campus watching their practices? isn’t that a CIF violation?
    2. You do understand that these are High School kids that you are talking about hurting, right?

    If you believe CH is chop blocking your kids you need to point it out to the ref, not try to cripple a kid for life.

  • LecheroHillsHusky

    Learn the rules

    If your kids were getting “chop” blocked all game long and the ref isn’t throwing the flags, throwing out the perps, or penalizing the CH coaches, wouldn’t you want to know where this is coming from? How else does a detective build a case if isn’t without evidence?

    BTW, numb nuts, my posting of July 26th was addressed to a certain Mr. Tracy McFate. According to GOO GOO’s article this guy is a referee and was quoted as saying “A chop block is now combination block by two players with or without delay…But I don’t (GOO GOO failed to insert the word “Think” here) the coaches in our area teach the chop block.” I take exception to that statement because it is absolutely not true.

    Go take a look at the Chino Hills practices, then watch the 2010 game films, then come back and tell us about coaching and teaching the “chop” block.

    Get it? Got it? Done!

  • AMAT 73

    Happy Jack’s!!!! Damn brother I remember sitting on the banks eating smoked fish and having a cold one. Your line didn’t even have to hit the water as the fish would jump up to grab the bait . Really was like catching fish in a barrel .

  • General Turgidson

    Yesterday I labelled the scouting “guru” as the scouting “goo goo.”

    In retrospect, this has a nice ring to it.

    From this day on… the scouting “guru” shall be known as the scouting “goo goo.”

    This is an official announcement from THE GENERAL.

    Private Fred and maggot Aram, please make a note of this.

  • Know the rules

    Why don’t you post the video on line or on this blog so that we can all see what exactly you are calling “chop blocks”. Also, why don’t you post the practice video as well. We all know that your not going to post it, because it doesn’t exist.

  • LecheroHillsHusky

    Know the rules

    Why are you so concerned? Are you a coach at the Cow Palace? Worried you’re gonna lose your job?

    Well funny you would ask. All of the evidence has been presented to CIF and a formal investigation on the coaching practices of your puppy football program is already started.

    Any day now, CIF is gonna come knocking on your door, videos in hand and play after play after play, to show you what I’m talking about. I predict that Fred, Steve, or Aram will report on this matter in the very near future.

    Its over moron. If CIF doesn’t do anything about it, then every opponent on the CH schedule in 2011 will fix it on the field.


  • Sierra League Fan

    You really think Chino Hills “needed” to use “chop” block in their 54-14 THUMPING of you guys???? WTF dude? get a clue bozo…….they probably “chop” blocked your slow, fat D-line. If your D-line were athletic, they would know how to play against a cut block……you guys tried to cut & chop block Auston Johnson last year and he tore you guys apart. All O-line coaches teach the “cut” block as an effective tool. Also, how the F would you know what Chino Hills does in practice?