BY GARY MARSHALL
The new Sage Creek High School in Carlsbad is beautiful. The back-to-back baseball/softball diamonds and tennis courts are woven into a school complex that blends smoothly into the canyon hillside. It is a tribute to our community.
The facility that excited me the most was the new football stadium, with its sharply lined synthetic turf field, towering light standards and concrete stadium bleachers — all book ended by big yellow goal posts.
My reason for the excitement is that I played many high school sports — football, basketball and track — and then played college football at West Point. My son played high school football, then played football for an Ivy League college. We lived a part of the American dream. Football was tough emotionally and physically. Coupled with academics it was a real character builder.
Inspired about football in the neighborhood, I approached Sage Creek Principal Cesar Morales to see if I could help with the freshman football team. Big surprise — no football. The school offers 18 other sports, but, again, NO FOOTBALL!
Why is there a football stadium, but no football?
To date, the explanation is that Carlsbad’s school board was modeling the footprint of Canyon Crest/Torrey Pines high schools and San Dieguito/La Costa Canyon high schools. There, only one school in the district has football, supposedly creating a more “comfortable academic environment” at the non-football school.
Motivated to hopefully change the school board’s thinking, I sent “The Boys of Fall” video to Superintendent Suzette Lovely and each board member. The video demonstrates what dreams and experiences students forfeit by removing football. The superintendent and all board members are women, so my hope in having them view the video was to show how the emotion and spirit of football, like no other sport, can be transmitted to students, faculty and the community.
However, all subsequent conversations with school administrators came with the vibe that football is a potential negative and Sage Creek High School would be “a more comfortable experience” without it.
My point to them was that football is the most popular sport in the United States and is a foundational standard of the American high school experience. It teaches emotional and physical toughness, team play and responsibility.
Trying to protect students by creating an academic conclave is a mentality that weakens student experience.
In order to get an expert opinion, I contacted Ed Burke, the head coach I assisted for six years at Torrey Pines High School. Ed coached for 43 years and is in the California Coaches Association Hall of Fame. The football stadium at Torrey Pines High was renamed Ed Burke Stadium in his honor.
Coach Burke and I attended the Aug. 14 school board meeting. We were scheduled next to last of 40 discussion items and given five minutes. Ed eloquently explained that in 43 years he taught many subjects and coached nearly every sport. He said, “Football is by far the greatest school experience a young man can have.”
Our suggestion to the school board was to start gradually with a freshman/junior varsity team for fall 2014. Fielding a team would logically answer to the taxpaying community the question of why build a million-dollar football stadium. Lastly, each board member was given a sheet with 42 reasons a Sage Creek football program would provide a more complete and improved school experience. The board was asked if there was any discussion.
The answer from each board member was silence. No discussion. No committee to evaluate a future program.
These types of decisions, by a select few, are a microcosm of America, where comfort and protection trump individual responsibility, hard work, and endeavors that create stronger citizens.
Are these decisions moving America in the right direction?
The school board owes an explanation to the community as to who made the decision to have a football stadium and no football. The school board also owes an explanation on how it was vetted and why the community was so poorly informed.
The above appeared on the op-ed page in the Sept. 7, 2013, UT-San Diego. The author is a 1965 graduate with academic honors from Hoover High who has a long and distinguished background in athletics. Marshall was a starting quarterback on the football team and also started in basketball and lettered in track and field at Hoover. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., where one of Marshall’s coaches was Bill Parcells and his freshman basketball coach was Bobby Knight, both coaching legends. Marshall’s football roommate was Gary Steele, who became the first African-American letterman in football at Army. Steele is the father of ESPN anchor Sage Steele and Baltimore Ravens public relations executive Chad Steele.