Sometimes you ask a question and are surprised by the answer.
That happened today when I asked Mendocino College football coach Tom Gang about the number of out-of-state players on his team. A few minutes later, he was taking a shot at SRJC coach Keith Simons.
SRJC visits Mendocino at 1 p.m. Saturday.
The Eagles’ 76-man roster includes 17 players from Florida, eight from Oregon, five from Georgia, four from Washington, one from New Jersey and one from Oklahoma.
Gang, in his sixth year at Mendocino, laid out of some of the challenges he faces in recruiting.
SRJC, he said, has 21 high schools in its “recruiting district.” Mendocino has seven. He also said the stereotype of Ukiah as some desolate, redneck backwater has made recruiting around Sonoma County increasingly difficult.
Without many players around Mendocino County, and with little hope of attracting many from Sonoma County, Gang looks elsewhere. He responds to every e-mail from out-of-state players, teenagers eager to come to California. To them, Ukiah sounds glamorous. They might even picture palm trees.
At Modesto College, where he was the offensive coordinator for six years, Gang says he didn’t respond to such e-mails because the local talent pool supplied plenty of players.
At Mendocino, Gang said he gets about 100 of these inquiries daily and, obviously, some of these exchanges have led to a relationship.
To encourage these relationships, Mendocino’s football Web site is top notch, with up-to-date stats, news about its remodeled weight room and a list of former players who have signed with four-year colleges. Even Gang’s cell phone is available.
OK, you get the idea. So where does Simons fit into this?
Well, Gang said he knows not everyone likes the makeup of his roster. Some people think
Mendocino is cheating. And others believe junior college rosters should be filled with mostly local players.
It’s a nice idea, in theory, said Gang, who puts Simons in the latter group.
“That’s a good and swell philospohy,” Gang said. “But it’s easy to be in Santa Rosa all high and mighty and sit on your pedestal and say that.”
I asked Gang, somewhat jokingly, if he got along well with Simons. He said they had a working relationship. And it was nothing personal.
“I think Keith and (SRJC defensive coordinator) Lenny Wagner do an outstanding job with that program,” Gang said. “They take average kids and make them above-average players. I have the utmost respect for them.”
As for the out-of-state players Gang gets, he admitted that not many are extra motivated to play SRJC.
“It’s tough to say it’s a local rivalry,” Gang said. “Because half of my guys have no idea who Santa Rosa is.”