A couple months back, following a Modesto Christian basketball game, I had a casual conversation outside the gym’s main entrance with athletic director Greg Pearce and Jan Taylor (who does everything at MC but coach the teams).
The conversation turned to the upcoming Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs, and then to section commissioner Pete Saco, who had just recently announced his retirement following the 2013-14 school year.
It was at this point Pearce told me Mike Garrison would be Saco’s replacement.
Always on the lookout for a scoop, I asked Pearce what he knew. He told me that he just had a hunch.
Well, here’s a little tip for Mr. Pearce: Purchase some lottery tickets because your notion was right on the money.
“He’s the only guy that came to mind,” said Pearce. “Not that I know him that well, but being around him, it made sense to me.”
Garrison, currently the assistant superintendent of Human Resources with the Rocklin Unified School District, was unanimously approved Wednesday by the section’s Board of Managers as Saco’s successor. The 50-year-old Southern California native is a member of the state and section executive committees, as well as the CIF’s Federated Council. He has served as section president (2010-12) and on the section’s budget and realignment committees, and is a past president of the Sierra Foothill League.
Pearce knows Garrison best from his work as the state and NorCal basketball tournament director.
“He’s very professional, very organized and easy to work with,” said Pearce. “Here’s a guy who started out as an athletic director, then was a principal, then moved to the district office. He’s worked closely with Pete and he’s always on a committee, always involved, at the state and section levels.”
Garrison becomes the section’s fourth commissioner in the section’s 72-year history, following Saco (1993-2014), Clark Coover (1968-1993) and James Cave (1942-68).
“I’m extremely excited,” Garrison said at the Board of Managers meeting at The Reserve at Spanos Park in Stockton. “I truly look forward to serving the schools of the Sac-Joaquin Section. This is my dream job.”
After receiving a master’s degree in educational management from the University of La Verne in 1997, Garrison became athletic director at Princeton High School in the Northern Section. He served as AD at Rocklin High from 1999-2005, became assistant principal in 2000 and then principal in 2005. In 2011, he moved into the district office.
Under Saco, the Sac-Joaquin Section membership has grown by 71 percent, from 115 schools in 1993 to 197 today. It oversees nearly a quarter of a million athletes and 27 conferences over 14,500 square miles (from Le Grand in the south, Grass Valley in the north, Napa to the west and the Nevada state line to the east). Also under Saco’s leadership, the section has developed corporate partnerships with Farmers Insurance, Crystal Creamery and Les Schwab Tires, to name a few, and has joined forces with the National Federation of State High School Associations to create the Sac-Joaquin Section Network, which broadcasts championship events live online.
In other words, under Saco, the job went from being an interpreter of rules to something more like a CEO; from a mom-and-pop operation to a 21st century corporation.
I’ve stated before my views on Saco’s tenure as commissioner. To be sure, there have been rough patches – none rougher in these parts than declaring Modesto Christian basketball players Richard Midgley and Marc Pratt ineligible for the 2001-02 season – but by and large Saco has done a remarkable job.
“I have some very large shoes to fill,” said Garrison.