Greener pastures

Santos Leon works on laying the new grass sod at the Gavilan

Football field re-sodded at Gavilan College; Players excited to
practice on campus
GILROY – When head football coach John Lango brought recruits on the Gavilan College campus, he used to tell them it doesn’t matter where the team practices if we have good players and good coaches.

But with the re-sodding of the practice field, Lango can now tell them Gavilan College not only has good players and good coaches, but also a brand new facility on campus.

“Our kids, they walk on campus and they see it, and they love every minute of it,” said Lango, who is in his seventh season as Rams head coach. “Nothing’s been done on that field in 30 years. We’re excited. I saw that stuff on Monday and I was going, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe that’s happening.”

For the past two seasons, Gavilan football practices have been held off campus at nearby Brownell Academy. The last time the team practiced at Gavilan was in November of 2001.

The practice field first fell victim to cows which grazed on it for two days during the wet season. Then in the spring of 2002, wild pigs ravaged the field, which also developed unsafe holes from gophers and other rodents.

“We’ve been waiting since November 2001,” Athletic Director Ron Hannon said. “It was a great day to see the first piece go down on Monday. What that field signifies is a new beginning of Gavilan football.”

Players had been forced to drive to the middle school for workouts, but it did not hinder their performance last season and there were never any complaints.

“Even with not having a facility on campus for two years, we were still able to win a conference championship. We never used that as an excuse. We never said since we don’t have a field we can’t win,” Hannon said. “Even the players are committed to the program. They’d go out and play in the parking lot of Wal Mart if we asked them to.”

Statewide budget cuts for community colleges “froze all capital projects” on the Gavilan campus until this summer. Hannon said the destruction of the practice field could not have come at a worse time.

“Fortunately, even during the bad times, the college has been very frugal and conserving funds. … waiting to get us through this period of time,” Hannon said. “Gavilan College has gotten through it. We’re on the back-side of it.”

The funds for the 110,000 square feet of sod – as well as the digging of foundations for brand new goal posts – came from the college’s general fund and not from bond money that has not been touched. Art Kerr has been heading up the maintenance on the field.

“You’ve got to take it one step at a time,” Lango said. “You have to take baby steps before you can take giants steps, but this is a huge step. If we can continue to have success in the program, it can lead to playing games on campus. That’s the next step. How long it will take, I don’t know.”

The next step is to build a fence around the field and do some rodent control, so there is not a repeat of what happened in the past. And although there is no time-line on playing conference games on campus, Hannon said it could come as soon as next season.

“Our hope in a very short period of time – maybe even next year – is we’ll be playing games here,” Hannon said. “That’s the direction we’re going in. We use this as a first step in the process and we’re excited about that.”

The practice field went up in the late 1960s, but no games have ever been played on campus. Games were first played at the old Gilroy High School – now South Valley Junior High – and then inside Mustang Stadium at the current high school.

“Ron takes care of all of that,” said Lango, who was the part-time athletic director before Hannon’s hiring in November 2001. “That’s why having him here is great for us. I don’t have to worry about that stuff, so it allows me to do what I was hired to do, teach and coach football.”

When the Rams gridmen arrive to the first day of practices on Aug. 12, they will not have to jump in their cars and drive to another facility. Instead, they will just walk over to the brand new facility, which will put up the goal posts shortly before the first day of practice.

“We’re real excited,” Lango said. “It speaks leaps and bounds as where we’re headed as an athletic department here and just as a school in general.”

“To be able to stay at home and practice here allows us to recruit,” Hannon added. “For two years, we’d bring recruits on campus and talk about the history of football at Gavilan and then point to a field marred by rodents and wild animals and even domestic animals. It’s a tough sell.”

Over the next year, Hannon said there will be even more improvements to the athletic fields at Gavilan College. He plans on putting up new scoreboards at the baseball and softball fields. Softball has never had a scoreboard and baseball got its first one in the mid ’90s

“These are improvements the college is making to show its commitment to our student-athletes,” Hannon said. “It’s a huge step in the right direction not only for the football program, but for the college as a whole. … This is a major stepping stone to improving the athletic program.”

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