By Tim Pickwell
Change is coming to the storied Torrey Pines High School Football Program, and the change involves a detailed head coaching search that will bear Principal David Jaffe’s personal stamp.
The process started in late January when long-time head coach (eight seasons) and assistant coach (15 seasons under Ed Burke) Scott Ashby retired from coaching. Ashby spoke with his players and sent a letter to the “Torrey Pines Football Family” announcing that he was stepping down as football coach (he still teaches on campus) in order to be able to watch his two sons, Jake (a freshman offensive lineman at Puget Sound) and Kyle (soon to be a freshman linebacker at College of Idaho) play football on Saturdays.
A few days later, Jaffe sent his own letter to the Torrey Pines football community describing the open head football coach position as “. . . one of the most coveted high school coaching jobs in California . . .” Upon reflection, he later upgraded that to “one of the best public high school coaching jobs in America,” citing the school’s academic reputation, athletic prowess, growing enrollment, existing infrastructure for football, along with the Proposition AA bond money, which will result in a new field house, locker rooms, weight room, and a redesigned stadium with separate visitor entrances, restrooms and improved facilities.
“A football program at a school goes a long way in defining the culture of the school,” said Jaffe. “A good program develops young men to have confidence, leadership skills and an understanding that they need to give back to the community they live in. Programs like that result in an exceptionally positive campus culture. So, it’s important to me as a principal who oversees 2,800 students and hundreds of programs on campus that all of the hires I make help develop students’ leadership skills, including and especially football.”
There is also a pecuniary aspect to it, noted Jaffe. “When a good football program generates the kind of money that it can generate, it has a huge impact on all of the other programs on campus.”
An avid Charger fan, Madden Football addict, and former Patrick Henry High School Varsity player (one season), Jaffe famously put on the pads for one practice last fall and went toe-to-toe with the Varsity players. Reluctantly, however, he ruled himself out for the Varsity Head Coach position.
Instead, Jaffe announced that he was convening a “committee of stakeholders to identify qualities we are looking for in a head coach.” Then, Jaffe, Assistant Principal for Athletics Garry Thornton, and Athletic Director Chas Doerrer met with the Varsity football players to get their thoughts on a potential new head coach. Said Jaffe, “They told me ‘We want a coach that cares about the players, and not just about winning. We want a coach that runs a disciplined program and has high expectations, and who is a great motivator.’” Jaffe said one player told him, “‘We want a coach who will fight for us, and have our back’ while another said, ‘We want a coach that understands the importance of developing character.’”
The trio of administrators also polled the existing assistant coaches, from Freshman to JV and Varsity. The legendary Ed Burke, who built the franchise and has his name on the Torrey Pines Stadium visited with Jaffe. “I wanted to get his perspective,” said Jaffe. “We didn’t talk X’s and O’s; he was more focused on the importance of building strong characters in young men, and in having them represent the school.”
About a dozen parents of former and current Torrey Pines football players met with Jaffe, Thornton and Doerrer and gave their input. The parents were focused on leadership qualities, mentoring ability, and sought a candidate with charisma who could interact with players, the community, and coaches. The parents suggested finding someone who had vision, attention to detail, an ability to delegate, yet also lead, and someone who could nurture the school’s relationship with Pop Warner. “Basically, a CEO,” said one parent.
The job posted by the school also requires at least three years of Varsity head coaching experience, or college or NFL experience. “The people that are applying have strong references and resumes,” said Jaffe.
The school plans to keep the job posted for one more week, and then narrow the pool to 8-10 applicants with follow-up phone calls and interviews by early March. This pool will be narrowed to a few finalists who will interview with Jaffe on campus. The school hopes to make an announcement by late March.
“I think that when we’re done we’ll have someone who fits the criteria outlined by the players and parents, we’ll have a leader. And, hopefully we’ll have him for a long time,” said Jaffe.