By Tim Pickwell
After what Torrey Pines High School Principal David Jaffe called “an exhaustive, months-long search process,” the Carmel Valley school has found its new head football coach — only the third at the campus since 1992. Retired CEO and former college All-American defensive end Ron Gladnick was introduced to the campus on Monday, March 17. The burly coach is expected to bring change to the program — a promised “five new faces” on the coaching staff. But, he also brings a healthy respect for tradition, and has invited Ed Burke, the winningest (182-60-5, four CIF Titles) coach in school history, back to assist.
Burke downplayed his future role during an afternoon visit to the campus, but seemed eager to begin working on footwork drills with the quarterbacks and running backs. “Ed is going to be around to help make our players better,” said Gladnick.
For Gladnick, the tradition that Ed Burke represents is all part of a 11-chapter business plan that he pitched to the eight-person hiring committee that ultimately selected him.
“It’s very important that the players understand the tradition,” he said. “It’s important that they understand when they put on the uniform that they represent every Torrey Pines player who went before them, and every Torrey Pines player who will come after them.”
Gladnick experienced the Falcon football tradition first-hand as an assistant coach from 2009-2011. “I fell in love with the campus when I first walked onto it,” he said. But, to become a head coach, he first had to leave, going to Clairemont High School for the 2012-2013 seasons, where he led the Chieftains to their first playoff win in nearly a decade.
When Torrey Pines Head Coach Scott Ashby announced his retirement in January, Gladnick applied. “I was up-front with Clairemont. I told them that Torrey Pines was my dream job, and if that position ever opened-up, I was applying.”
Born in the Bronx and raised on Long Island, Gladnick played defensive end and tight end for Smithtown High School East. His senior year, the 6’ 3”, 245-lb. star believes he was “the biggest tailback in America.” Gladnick then headed west to Hillsdale College in Michigan, where he became a consensus First Team All-American, a Kodak All-American, Team Captain, Team MVP, and All-League Defensive MVP.
Gladnick then went into sales and marketing for Proctor & Gamble (“I was a ‘Tide Guy’”), but found time to coach at Brecksville High School, in Brecksville, Ohio, where the team won a state championship. A 1990 convention brought him to sunny San Diego for four days during a dark Ohio winter. He promptly quit P &G and moved to San Diego without a job or prospects. With three other people, he ended up starting an aviation parts company that grew to more than 500 employees in seven facilities. He sold the company in stages from 2008-2011. The proceeds of the sale have allowed him “to do what I do now” — which is to devote full-time attention to football.
He is attacking his new job with a comprehensive business plan. “I’m meeting with the coaches of other sports on campus,” he says. “We need to recruit on our own campus first. There are five-seven boys in each grade who should be out here playing, but are not. We need to create a positive environment that makes lacrosse players want to play football as well.”
He is also meeting one-on-one with each athlete on the football roster, and setting out some goals and expectations. He is doing all this while assembling his staff. “We have several coaches already on campus that will be returning,” he said, “and there will be five new faces on the staff.”
“We have a very demanding schedule next year,” he notes. The school will play in Division I, but has three Open Division opponents on the horizon, along with a highly ranked team from Utah. “For us to win, we have to win every intangible in the game. We have to handle every blocking assignment, we have to work harder, we have to be in better condition. We are going to work on a lot of things above the shoulders. We are going to give the players a smaller universe of tasks to master, but we will expect them to do them to perfection. We have to be smarter and more disciplined than the other teams. Fortunately, with Torrey Pines athletes, we have a shot at being both.”
Gladnick is also passionate about his community outreach program. “I will speak to any group, anytime, anywhere — consistent with the CIF rules.”
Gladnick said believes that the football program needs to do a better job promoting and working with Pop Warner. “We need to do everything we can to support the program that provides our pipeline of players.”