Thursday, January 16, 2014

Saco Announces Retirement

Editor's Note: Congrats Pete, you've done a great job.

by Will DeBoard

After 21 years, CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Commissioner Pete Saco is riding off into the sunset.
Saco announced at the January 15 Board of Managers meeting that this will be his last year as commissioner of the second-largest Section in the state. His last month will be August, where his final act as commissioner will be overseeing the induction of the Section’s third Hall of Fame class. 
SJS Commissioner
Pete Saco
“I have been truly blessed to work for one of the finest athletic organizations in the country,” Saco said. “Our Board of Managers has been very supportive of the initiatives that I felt were important for the students within the Sac-Joaquin Section and the entire state. I have been very fortunate to have a great staff that was willing to carry out the vision that was adopted and supported by our Board of Managers and Executive Committee for high school athletics within our section.”
Saco is the third commissioner in the Sac-Joaquin Section’s 72-year history. He came aboard from the Lodi Unified School District in 1993. He was preceded by Clarke Coover (1968-1993) and James Cave (1942-1968).
During his time here, the Section underwent explosive growth. It grew from 115 schools to 195 schools. It went from three divisions to the current seven-division format. More schools than ever are earning Section championship banners, and they are contesting those finals in some of the best venues in the Central Valley.


He has instituted several programs that are now entrenched within the Section culture. They include:
   
The Dale Lacky Memorial Scholarship Program, which has given more than $400,000 in scholarships to deserving student-athletes over the years.
   
The Foundation Games in basketball and volleyball, which help fund the Lacky scholarships.
   
The Dick Nelson Community Service Award, which recognizes teams for contributing beyond athletics to their towns.
   
The Hall of Fame, which has honored many of the great athletes, coaches, administrators, officials and members of the media which have graced the Section boundaries.
   
   
The Women in Sports Conference, an every-other-year event that brings female athletes from across the Section together in Lodi for a time of education and fellowship.
   
Expansion of the Model Coach program at the same time the CIF State launched it.
“The direction Pete Saco has offered the Sac-Joaquin Section is unparalleled,” Section President and Lincoln-Stockton Principal Debbi Holmerud said. “He has been a voice for equity for all students and schools and been willing to make difficult decisions when that equity has been challenged. He has led by example, held high expectations of himself and those around him and made things happen. He will be missed!”
Saco has overseen the virtual rewriting of the Section constitution, which includes a stronger undue influence rule, a start/end date for practices and games in every sport, the dead and limited periods and the implementation of a fine system, which allows deserving students to play ball despite an administrator’s paperwork error.
The Section was in the national news in 2007, when Saco spearheaded an investigation into Franklin High School of Stockton and the illegal recruitment of football players from American Samoa. It remains one of the most noteworthy high school athletics scandals in state history.
Some of his proposals have gone on to become part of the state playoff system as well. He introduced the state football playoff system proposal, the state basketball open division concept and this Section was the first to introduce the “Sit-Out Period” for transfers, now a statewide rule.
The Section has returned over $1.4 million in profits to its member schools, and has also returned more than $1 million to schools in mileage costs. And in 2007, the Section built its new permanent home at 1368 E. Turner Road in Lodi – the geographic middle of the Section.
What’s next for Saco? A well-deserved rest at his Lincoln Hills home with his wife and best friend of 34 years, Barbara.

“Barbara and I will get to do some traveling, play some golf, spend some extra time with family and friends and take in a few more Giants games,” said Saco, a San Francisco native and big fan of his hometown teams. “It has been a great ride.”
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