No doubt you’ve heard about Davis High School’s dwindling enrollment, which has gone from about 3,000 students in 2005 to less than half that number today.
Naturally, that type of reduction in the student population would have an adverse affect on any school’s athletic programs — especially football, where positional depth is the first step toward a successful season.
It’s certainly been an issue at Davis, where the football team has gone just 8-31-1 in the past four years.
In an effort to revive the fortunes of the program, Davis High went back to the future Thursday when it announced that 1999 alumnus Tim Garcia has been named the school’s new football head coach.
Garcia replaces Chris Cloward, who stepped down after three seasons. The other head coaching vacancy in town — Steve Gleason stepped down at Modesto Christian after three full seasons — isn’t expected to be filled until mid-February, according to MC athletic director Greg Pearce.
“Obviously, the numbers are always going to be a difficult part of the job here,” said Garcia, who rejoined the Davis staff two years ago as offensive coordinator after a six-year coaching stint at Central Valley. “But once I got on campus, I found that the kids are the same … they have the same type of pride in their school.
“It’s an honor for me to be in the position I’m in.”
Garcia’s ties to school run deep — his mother is a former Spartan and Davis High is where he met his wife.
“In my family, when we say that we bleed green and gold, we really mean it,” he said.
Who’s to say if Garcia will fare any better than Cloward just because he wore the school’s colors. Cloward faced a monumental task, to say the least. He took over a 1-9 squad in 2011, and just couldn’t get any traction, compiling a 7-22-1 record. Garcia will no doubt find the sledding just as tough.
What Garcia brings to the table, however, is a connection to Davis High’s past.
He guided the Spartans to back-to-back trips to the Sac-Joaquin Section semifinals and is a walking, talking link to the glory days when Sac-Joaquin Section titles were the goal at Davis and not just a pipedream.
“We have one of the richest histories in town when you look at championships and long-running success,” said principal Mike Rich. “Tim was a part of that; he’s a product of that. As a result, he has an innate love for Davis and Davis football, and connection with past players and teammates he’ll be able to tap into.
“He’s certainly a great catch.”
One of the greatest catches in the history of Davis High football agrees with Rich.
“I wish Timmy nothing but the best,” said former Spartans coach Don Lanphear, one of the most successful coaches in the history of Modesto City Schools. “He has experience, he’s been in the program a year or two so he’s seen what he’s dealing with and he’s not walking into this thing cold.
“He had pretty good JC career and small-college career and now he’s back and he wants to get this program back to where it was. He just has to keep in perspective that this is going to be a four- or five- or six-year deal; not one or two.”
To be sure, it’s a reclamation project.
Lanphear pointed out that Garcia will need to rekindle interest in the lower levels of the program. (Davis hasn’t fielded a freshman squad in recent years.) That’ll be tougher to do than it was, say, five or 10 years ago. The number of high school students playing the sport in California has dropped every year since 2007, down from about 108,000 six years ago to under 103,000 this year.
But Garcia seems unfazed by the task ahead. And his players will no doubt pick up on that. The Spartans will see in their new coach who starred at Davis, traveled up Tully Road and had a nice run at Modesto JC, then parlayed that into a full ride at the University of Mary in Bismark, N.D.
He returned home to the valley, worked a season under the legendary Mike Glines at Central Catholic and at 24 was the first head coach in the history of Central Valley, where he went 19-38.
And being the head football coach at Grace Davis is exactly where Garcia wants to be.
“I’ll talk to kids in the hallway at school,” said Garcia. “They’ll ask me how it’s going and I tell them, ‘I’m just livin’ the dream.’ ”