Selected as National Coach of the Year
Words by Nick Nenad
Whether it is the blue skies, great surfing or intriguing people of San Clemente, Mark McElroy enjoys them all. McElroy, currently the head coach of Saddleback College’s football team, has lived in San Clemente nearly his whole life and has stayed true to the city, calling it a “good ole’ old town.”
McElroy first made an impact in San Clemente when he graduated from San Clemente High School in 1978, having played three sports; golf, wrestling and football. From there he went on to play college football at Kansas State University, Saddleback and California State University, Chico, getting a Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education in the process.
However, even after coaching under legendary Brigham Young University football coach LaVell Edwards, McElroy came back to the city he loves and got a chance to be the head coach of his alma mater.
“I will always bleed red, white and black. I love San Clemente, I love Triton football,” McElroy said. “I coached there; I started my teaching career there, all of my kids graduated from there, my wife graduated from there. It is a very important school to us.”
McElroy got the Tritons coaching job in 1992, taking over a team that had only won 13 games the previous five seasons. He proceeded to turn the team around completely, getting them to the playoffs the next season and eventually making them league champions for the first time in 17 seasons in 1995. In seven seasons leading San Clemente football, McElroy compiled a 43-28-3 overall record.
McElroy did not just coach at San Clemente High, either. He also taught at the high school with his wife Deanne and he created the current “T” logo that goes on Tritons player’s helmets.
Steve Crapo, who has served as an assistant coach and defensive coordinator for nearly two decades under McElroy, both at San Clemente High and Saddleback, says that he is “an outstanding coach” with great leadership qualities. Crapo and McElroy go all the way back to playing little league baseball together and competing against each other in high school. Crapo played at Dana Hills High School, graduating in 1977, McElroy’s junior year.
“I’ve been an assistant for him for basically 23 years and the reason I have [been with him so long]is because I respect him as a person and as a coach,” Crapo said. “He is a man of character, a man of integrity … he has a strong faith and he loves his family.”
After San Clemente, McElroy took his coaching talents to Saddleback in 1999, where he still is coaching. In his 17 years as Saddleback’s head coach, McElroy has won four conference championships, has been to a bowl game every year but one and last season, got the Gauchos to the state championship game. He gives credit to his players and coaching staff, naming them as the reason for the successful 2015 campaign.
“I would just say it was a combination of a great coaching staff and outstanding players that came together as a team, an unselfish team, that allowed our team to play at a top level,” McElroy said. “Our kids loved playing ball together.”
For his efforts in 2015, McElroy was named the 2015 American Community College Football Coaches Association Coach of the Year in San Antonio, Texas on January 12. McElroy stated that the award “was a great honor, but it just was an honor that showed we had a really good group.” Saddleback President Todd A. Burnett gave praise to McElroy in a press release for his award.
“Coach McElroy epitomizes what it means to be a great coach. His commitment to his student-athletes and their academic performance is second to none, and his athletic coaching skills are evidenced by the performance of our football teams year after year,” Burnett said. “Congratulations to Coach McElroy for this well-deserved recognition.”
Beyond football, McElroy has other ventures at Saddleback that he has enjoyed success in, just like when he was at San Clemente High. McElroy wrote the curriculum for the surfing program at Saddleback in the early 2000s and he has been involved in teaching various classes in physical education.
“He does a lot of different things; he’s an outdoors guy, so he’s done surfing, he’s done surf camps,” said Saddleback Athletic Director Tony Lipold. “He’s a class guy. He’s a typical head coach, he has a very strong personality and if he decides he’s gonna do something, it’s gonna get done.”
McElroy still resides in San Clemente and it is as if he has never left. He says that he loves the “good weather, good surfing and good people” the city provides, something that many San Clemente residents would agree with.
“What makes San Clemente so great are the people. There is a bond between people who graduated from San Clemente High School, whether they graduated in the 1970’s or the mid 2000’s. The families know each other and feel a connection to a special place.”
Mark McElroy / Head Coach