A fresh start with a new face

By Daniel Torres / Interim Asst. Sports editor

By Daniel Torres / Interim Asst. Sports editor

After several seasons of disappointment and angst in the football program, Riverside City College Athletic Director, Barry Meier, has brought in former San Diego State University head coach Tom Craft. A very prominent figure in the junior college coaching system, Craft, 56, now takes over a team in dire need of a turnaround.

During the past eight seasons, RCC posted a humiliating 34-46 record, reaching only one post-season game in the process.

This was a team that looked more like the Aint’s instead of the Saints.

Fortunately for RCC, Craft has been put in a similar situation when he took over the head coaching position at Palomar College, a school, who before Craft, had won one game their previous three years.

In 1989, under Craft as its head coach, Palomar went on to win its first of five consecutive conference titles, along with five straight bowl wins, two state titles, and two national titles.

In 1994, Craft, a San Diego native, accepted a position with San Diego State University as its offensive coordinator.

In ‘95 and ‘96 SDSU’s offense ranked top 10 in the nation.

SDSU running back George Jones rushed for over 1,800 yards in ‘95 to break NFL star Marshall Faulk’s record he set at SDSU.

During Craft’s time as offensive coordinator, SDSU became the first school in the nation to ever have a 1,500 yard rusher, a 3,000 yard passer, and two 1,000 yard receivers all in the same season.

Craft returned to Palomar College where he once again worked his magic leading the team to four more consecutive conference titles, along with another state and national title.

During Craft’s run, Palomar produced seven All-American quarterbacks.

In 2002, Craft, then went on to become the head coach at SDSU.

In his first year as head coach, SDSU went on to break the school record for passing yards in a single season with over 4,300, going from 89th in the nation to 5th.

In ‘05, SDSU, under Craft, defeated, both the University of Utah and Brigham Young University in the same season; a feat that hasn’t been accomplished in over 19 years. SDSU’s game attendance also rose from an estimated 21,000 to approximately 38,000 per game.

Craft’s repeated success at SDSU was trivialized by a mediocre record with the team amid the time SDSU’s athletic program was in debt and the inner workings of the athletic department were greatly criticized after SDSU went through four athletic directors in five years.

“It was a very unstable athletic department. The leadership in the school is, to be diplomatic, in question,” Craft said.

While SDSU was firing AD’s faster than Donald Trump was firing interns, the nation was taking notice to Craft.

The Washington Redskins offered Craft a position as their quarterbacks coach. Craft respectfully declined the NFL job to stay close to home.

“The reason why I did that was because my kids were in their youth years where I wanted to share in their community activities; they were athletic and into sports,” Craft said. “That’s really the main reason, not moving my family around.”

One of the new AD’s that stepped onto campus, at that time a common custom for SDSU, decided to bring his own line of coaches and start fresh with the football program. Craft was let go by SDSU,

a move that proved costly being that the program has floundered heavily since.

In 2006 Craft headed to Mt. San Antonio College as an assistant coach where he helped the Mounties reach three consecutive championship games, last season even winning the state and national title.

Just a friendly reminder, Craft and the Mounties came into Wheelock Field and handed RCC a devastating loss 45-12 last season.

Craft now comes to RCC as an icon in the junior college sports realm.

He comes with a myriad of championships, as well as the honor of being the only coach in history to produce so many All-American quarterbacks.

One of those quarterbacks, his son Kevin Craft, who he coached at Mt. SAC, went on to be the starting quarterback for UCLA in the ’08 season.

Another one of those All-Americans is Tyler Lorenzen, now a tight end on the NFL Champions, New Orleans Saints.

So why would Craft choose a school like RCC?

“I think the thing that’s appealing to me about this (RCC Football) is that the college is surrounded by the community of Riverside,” Craft said. When Craft was offered the job, he researched it and found the job had a lot of potential.

RCC should thank Craft’s wife and children for being a deciding factor in his move to Riverside.

“One of the reasons why I picked this place (RCC), I ended up marrying the girl I grew up with in high school, we went to college together and got married, and I always wanted to be involved in a community setting,” Craft said.

So maybe Craft feels he has some civic duty to fulfill to the city of Riverside by way of football success. It could also be that he just wants to augment his legacy by reviving another withered program.

He goes on to say that one of his top priorities is implementing an academic program to get his athletes out into premier four year colleges.

“Education is top priority,” Craft said. “We want to give them the chance to transfer at the highest level and not have to settle.”

How does someone go about implementing such a program, especially so early in their start?

“We need to have a point person. Someone on the coaching staff to who is in charge of pointing the athletes in the right direction,” Craft said. “Someone who knows the inner- workings of the financial aid department, DSP&S, the admissions office, and of the transfer center.”

Whatever his reasons may be, this championship fiend of a coach appears very promising to a program that’s been one of the least successful in the Orange Empire Conference in recent years, but not for long we hope.