PAYTON JORDAN: OLYMPIC COACH STARTED AT REDLANDS JUNIOR HIGH

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, Wimbledon and the Olympics, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

It was May, 1984 – an Olympic year.

Jim Sloan, celebrity photographer from Redlands, really pushed the invitation on me.

There was a group of guys getting together for a reunion, of sorts. It was at the home of Robert Scholton, who was truly a pioneer of Redlands. Citrus groves and all. Scholton had married into the Walter Hentschke family – one more Redlands-area pioneer.

At this reunion, however, the guest of honor was a guy named Payton Jordan.

paytonjordan
Payton Jordan’s Hall of Fame coaching career began in Redlands in 1939 at Redlands Junior High School (photo by Occidental College).

One night earlier, it had been “Olympic Night” at Redlands Country Club. Naturally, Jordan was the featured speaker. He didn’t speak on golf. The “club” was directly across the street from Scholton’s home.

Scholton, Sloan and a bunch of buddies had invited Jordan to Redlands. He’d been around more than a few times. This visit, however, was special. Plenty of guys had been summoned for this reunion. It was an Olympic year, after all. Jordan had plenty of connections to the Olympic games.

Way back in 1939, before World War II, Jordan had coached at Redlands Junior High School. He’d just graduated from USC.

That junior high campus had been located right across Citrus Ave. from Redlands Senior High – that is, before the two campuses were merged into one full high school. After the war, Jordan returned.

Briefly.

Little did I know then that Jordan had been a high-achieving two-sports star at USC – part of an illustrious Trojans’ football team, later starring on their nationally prominent track team as a sprinter. He was from nearby Pasadena, the same city that produced the Robinson brothers, Jackie and Mack, who went to USC’s rival, UCLA.

Jordan had been coached in football by the illustrious Howard Jones (121-36-13, record), who’d been Trojans’ coach from 1925-1940.

Track coach Dean Cromwell, the U.S. Olympic coach in 1948, might’ve been even more prominent. The USC guys that he coached, including Jordan, were too numerous to highlight.

Jones and Cromwell are both Hall of Famers in multiple spots, not just USC.

JORDAN’S CONNECTION TO REDLANDS

It’s important to note the scintillating connection between Jordan, USC and Redlands.

It was easy to see why Jordan was so highly favored around Redlands. Scholton, Sloan & Co. were his boys. When Jordan showed up just before the war, his background must’ve seemed spectacular in this small-town haven.

A USC guy in Redlands?

Years later, Jordan had only added to his lengthy list of achievements.

Talk about a Redlands “connection.”

Once I’d arrived at this glorious Redlands Junior High reunion, held at Scholton’s old-century, country club-style residence, I was only aware that Jordan had been 1968 Olympic coach – nothing else.

If only I’d known his remarkable record.

Jordan, splendidly dressed and warmly received by about a dozen older men – now retired, some with money, nice careers – couldn’t have been more gracious.

Jordan personally knew 1936 Olympic hero Jesse Owens.

Athletically, he was remarkable.

  • In 1938 and 1939, Jordan shined on USC’s national championship track team.
  • He was part of a world record 4 x 110 (yards) relay, 40.3, in 1939.
  • Also in 1939, Jordan played on USC’s Rose Bowl-winning team, 7-3 winners over Duke.
  • In 1941, Jordan won the AAU 100-yard title.
  • By his senior years up to age 80, Jordan was an age-group champion and record holder – refusing to stop competing.

As an athlete, Jordan missed out on the 1940 and 1944 Olympics due to World War II.

This guy had history.

Sloan, Scholton & Co. wanted this reunion covered in the newspaper.

Jordan’s career had been phenomenal, to say the least.

His collegiate football exploits were spectacular. On the track, he’d been a whiz. After World War II, where he served in the U.S. Navy, it was time to get rolling in a career.

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS TOO NUMEROUS

After coaching those guys at Redlands Junior High, Jordan landed at venerable small-college Occidental, located in Eagle Rock, next to Pasadena. It was like a hometown job for him. After a decade (1946-57), after nine outright conference track titles and one tie, he’d been whisked away to take the track program at Stanford over next 23 years.

Imagine. It all started at Redlands Junior High.

Also imagine:

  • Billy Mills’ remarkable upset win at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic 10,000.
  • Bob Beamon’s world record long jump, 29-feet, 2 ½ inches at the Mexico City Olympics.
  • One of his Occidental athletes, Bob Gutowski, set a world pole vault record (15-9 ¾).
  • Discus superstar Al Oerter nailed down his third and fourth gold medals under Jordan’s watch.
  • When Jimmie Hines won the 1969 Olympic gold medal in a world record 9.9 seconds, Jordan was head coach.
  • Tommie Smith’s 200-meter gold medal in 19.8 seconds led to the “power salute” protest in those ’68 Games. It included third place finisher John Carlos.
  • Quarter-miler Lee Evans set a world record 43.8 seconds in winning the 1968 Olympic gold medal.
  • In 1960, at the Olympic Trials, Jordan ran the U.S. squad in a meet at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif. in which no fewer than seven world records were set.
  • During that 23-year career at Stanford, Jordan’s Indians (now Cardinal) had produced seven Olympians, six world record holders and six national champions.
John_Carlos,_Tommie_Smith,_Peter_Norman_1968cr
From the left, Australia’s Peter Norman, Tommie Smith and John Carlos in the Olympic medal ceremony at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics at which the two Americans were protesting the poor treatment of Blacks in the U.S. (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

This is just a small sampling of the exploits of the man I was sitting next to at Scholton’s home in spring 1984. At the time, I’d known none of all those achievements.

If I’d been paying attention to my TV set in 1968 – watching the track portion of the games more, perhaps – maybe I’d have noticed the interview with a certain ABC superstar broadcaster.

The media had treated Jordan favorably, except for one nasal-toned, often exasperating, yet highly entertaining sportscaster from New York.

“Howard Cosell,” said Jordan, “had his mike in my nose while my foot was in his fanny. He’s the only one I had trouble with. I had him escorted out of the stadium.”

Guess I’d better be careful in my interview.

Here’s some evidence on how Jordan and Scholton were close:

Scholton had once been offered by Jordan to help him coach at Stanford. The year, 1957. Scholton, a 1937 University of Redlands graduate – Pi Chi, track, cross country, biology major – was a teaching contemporary of Jordan’s at Redlands Junior High.

Scholton, according to the folklore, had served under NFL legend George “Papa Bear” Halas during his own U.S. Navy stint.

Back in Redlands, Scholton taught biology and coached the runners in both track and cross country.

More of the folklore came after Jordan took the job at Stanford, apparently offering Scholton an assistant coach’s role to his former contemporary. Scholton was a homegrown, however. He stuck around Redlands.

The association between Scholton and Jordan, however, lasted for years. Scholton retired in 1970. Jordan called it quits in 1979.

A curious note: As the Olympics were set to take place in Los Angeles, Jordan conceded he wouldn’t be attending. “I don’t have tickets.”

Scholton, however, had blocks of track & field tickets at the Coliseum. I bought a couple from him for me and my father-in-law, Dean Green – an assistant principal, of all places, in an office that was on the same side of the street where Redlands Junior High School once existed.

A portion of my 1984 interview:

“LET THE GAMES BEGIN”

Jordan says it might be a euphemism for “Troubled Times.”

“The Olympics,” he told me, “are always the focal point of politics, world unrest and controversy. All the problems of the world seem to be magnified during this period of time.”

PERFORMANCE ENHANCING DRUGS

“You can make it without steroids,” said Jordan, who knew plenty of athletes using even back in those days. “You don’t have to do it …

“If you’ve got the ability, work harder, eat better and dedicate yourself, you’ll get there.”

Footnote: Ben Johnson disproved that theory four years later in Seoul.

Jordan admitted, however, that drug-using athletes could reach their Olympic goals in maybe half the time — four years, for instance, instead of two.

AMATEUR VS. PROFESSIONAL

“There is no such thing,” he said, “as amateurism.”

All of the normal workings of the Olympic disagreements are simply the workings of non-athletes seeking to control the athletic world.

JESSE OWENS

History records that Hitler turned his back on the onetime Ohio State star at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Said Jordan: “Actually, it wasn’t Owens that Hitler had turned his back on. He’d shunned Cornelius Johnson after he won the high jump the day before.”

Germany long jumper Lutz Long, Jordan proclaimed, had given Owens a tip that helped lift him to win that fourth gold medal in Berlin.

Jesse_Owens_1936
Jesse Owens, the hero of the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, was a strong acquaintance of Payton Jordan, the onetime U.S. Olympic coach who began his coaching career in Redlands. Owens showed up to support Jordan during the black protest movement during the 1968 Mexico City Olympics (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

“Those types of incidents,” said Jordan, “were left under-publicized, in comparison to what activities existed between non-athletes.”

In 1968, Owens had been summoned to Mexico City for a bull session with the team.

“There’s nobody I know who’s less of a racist than you,” he told Jordan. “Anything I can do, just ask.”

BLACK POWER MOVEMENT

Smith and Carlos, it had long been rumored, were set to protest at an Olympics in which several black U.S. athletes had decided not to participate – perhaps in their own protests.

It’s one reason why Cosell was so blatantly in Jordan’s face.

“They would’ve come to me to discuss (the protest),” he said, “and I would’ve vetoed that idea. They did come in and asked, ‘What should we do?’ I said, ‘Let me and my staff handle it.’

“Thank God it worked out beautifully.”

Part of that was that Smith and Carlos were suspended from the Olympic team and sent home.

It was a team, Jordan said, that was very close. “I never experienced that kind of closeness in spite of all the distractions. It was a group of people … who didn’t get hysterical about it and lose sight of our mission.”

Jordan says he took no part in the protest movement.

“I was part of it, though. I was the coach.”

Evans, Carlos and Smith, he confided, “were probably more loyal to me.”

The U.S. came out of 1968 with more gold medals and Olympic records than any Olympic before or since, he said.

After several minutes of Olympic protest chatter, Jordan leaned back in his Scholton-home chair, frowned and said, “I think that’s enough talk about 1968.”

 

 

 

 

DARNOLD, DE ROO AND DAMON JUST PART OF “CONNECTIONS”

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

Mike Darnold was the latest “connection.”

Throw in football’s Jim Weatherwax and Brian DeRoo.

Villanova basketball coach Jay Wright showed up here, with his team, one Saturday morning in 2003.

“Black” Jack Gardner left here in 1928.

Jerry Tarkanian lifted off from here in 1961.

How many Redlands Connections can there be?

It’s the basis for the Blog site, www.redlandsconnection.com. Dedicated to the idea that there’s a connection from Redlands to almost every major sporting event.

The afore-mentioned have already been featured. There have been others. Plenty of others.

Golf. Track & field. Tennis. Baseball and basketball. Softball and soccer. The Olympic Games and the Kentucky Derby. The World Series and the Super Bowl. You name it.

For a city this size, the connections to all of those are remarkable.

Softball’s Savannah Jaquish left Redlands East Valley for Louisiana State.

Bob Karstens was just shooting a few baskets when I saw him at Redlands High. Turned out he was one of three white men ever to play for the usually all-black Harlem Globetrotters.

Brian Billick coached a Hall of Famer. Together, they won a Super Bowl.

09_Billick_PreviewPreseason_news
Brian Billick, a key Redlands Connection.

Speaking of Super Bowls, not only was a former Redlands High player involved in the first two NFL championship games, there was a head referee who stood behind QBs Bart Starr and Lenny Dawson.

That referee got his start in Redlands.

One of racing’s fastest Top Fuel dragsters is a Redlands gal, Leah Pritchett.

LEAH PRITCHETT (leahpritchett.com)
Leah Pritchett has punched her Top Fuel dragster over 330 mph many times.

Greg Horton forcefully blocked some of football’s greatest legends for a near-Super Bowl team.

At a high school playoff game at Redlands High in 1996, Alta Loma High showed up to play a quarterfinals match. It was Landon Donovan of Redlands taking on Carlos Bocanegra.

The two eventually played on the same Team USA in the World Cup and the Olympics.

Karol Damon’s high-jumping Olympic dreams weren’t even known to her mother. She wound up in Sydney. 2000.

In the coming days, weeks and months, there will be more connections.

  • A surfing legend.
  • Besides Landon Donovan, there’s another soccer dynamo.
  • When this year’s Indianapolis 500 rolls around, we’ll tell you about a guy named “Lucky Louie.”
  • Fifteen years before he won his first Masters, Tiger Woods played a 9-hole exhibition match at Redlands Country Club.
  • University of Arizona softball, one of the nation’s greatest programs, was home to a speedy outfielder.
  • As for DeRoo, he was present for one of the pro football’s darkest moments on the field.
  • In 1921, an Olympic gold medalist showed up and set five world records in Redlands.
  • The Redlands Bicycle Classic might have carved out of that sport’s most glorious locations – set in motion by a 1986 superstar squad.
  • Distance-running sensation Mary Decker was taken down by a onetime University of Redlands miler.
  • Collegiate volleyball probably never had a greater athlete from this area.

As for Darnold, consider that the one-time University of Redlands blocker is the father of Sam Darnold, the USC quarterback who might be this year’s No. 1 draft selection in pro football’s draft.

Jaquish became the first-ever 4-time All-American at talent-rich LSU.

Jacob Nottingham, drafted a few years ago by the Houston Astros, probably never knew he’d be part of two Moneyball deals.

Gardner, who coached against Bill Russell in the collegiate ranks, tried to recruit Wilt Chamberlain at Kansas State.

Wright, whose team went into the March 31-April 2 weekend hoping to win the NCAA championship for the third time, brought his team to play the Bulldogs as sort of a warm-up test for Hawaii.

Tarkanian? Few might’ve known that the legendary Tark the Shark started chewing on those towels while he was coaching at Redlands High.

Norm Schachter was head referee in three Super Bowls, including Green Bay’s inaugural championship win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Norm Schachter with Hank Stram
Norm Schacter, wearing No. 60 (not his normal official number), synchronizes with Kansas City Chiefs’ Hall of Fame coach Hank Stram during halftime of the inaugural Super Bowl in 1967.

Speaking of Tarkanian, Weatherwax played hoops for him at Redlands. Eight years later, Weatherwax wore jersey No. 73 for the Green Bay Packers. It makes him the only man to ever play for Tarkanian and Vince Lombardi.

There will be more Redlands connections.

 

NFL DRAFT: THERE WAS A DARNOLD AT REDLANDS A FEW YEARS BACK

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

Mike Darnold, as I remember, was a soft-spoken, seemed-to-recall type of player who blended right into his college football team.

An offensive lineman. I want to say he was a right tackle.

In those days, the mid-1980s, the head coach at the University of Redlands was Ken Miller, who has a nice Redlands Connection resume of his own – a Bulldog play-calling specialist when he returned to the Bulldogs as an assistant. That came before a brilliant career in the Canadian Football League in Toronto, Montreal and Saskatchewan.

As for Mike Darnold, a spot playing offensive line for a small college team in out-of-the-way Redlands was certainly not a pre-signal to raising a son that would turn heads in both college football and the 2018 NFL draft.

That son is Sam Darnold. USC. Heisman Trophy candidate. Possible No. 1 NFL draft choice. A legend, perhaps, in the making.

Mike, Sam Darnold (Photo courtesy of Triton Football).
Former University of Redlands player, Mike Darnold, left, stands next to his son, Sam Darnold, who is holding an award from the Triton Football Club. (Photo courtesy of the Triton Football Club.)

You can never tell. Quarterback John Fouch, a Redlands High School product who took off for Arizona State in 1976, transferred back to his small-town university. He played Bulldog football for two years. A few decades later, his shotgun-throwing son, Ronnie, turned up at Washington and, later, Indiana State.

I always thought John was one of the greatest local athletes I’d ever seen. Track/football’s Patrick Johnson (Super Bowl, Baltimore Ravens, soccer’s Landon Donovan (Olympics, World Cup, European and USA pro soccer) and Heather Aldama, football’s Kylie Fitts and Chris Polk, plus softball’s Savannah Jaquish, to name a few, were among some of the others.

Ronnie Fouch tried hard – got into a couple NFL pre-season camps – but he never found that desired roster spot.

Mike Darnold’s kid did, though.

Boy, Sam turned up the heat in playing QB from his Orange County prep spot – San Clemente High School.

Instead of a career playing small-college teams from Whittier, Claremont-Mudd, Azusa-Pacific and La Verne, which were the stops on Mike’s playing career schedule for Redlands, his son was playing the likes of UCLA, Penn State, Notre Dame and teams from Arizona, Washington, Colorado and Oregon.

“Some have asked about Mike,” said current Bulldog coach Mike Maynard, “but he was before my time.”

Which is fairly hard to believe since Maynard arrived in 1988 – that’s 30 years!

It was Miller who recruited Mike Darnold to Redlands.

Miller, who assisted Maynard until leaving Redlands in 2000 after a brilliant career as a Bulldog offensive and defensive play-caller, turned the Canadian Football League on its ear. He led the Saskatchewan Rough Riders to 2009 and 2010 Grey Cup championships. Miller distinguished himself in so many ways while also working for Toronto and Montreal.

Mike Darnold, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound blocker, came from Dana Hills High School, another high school from the O.C. These days, he’s a foreman for a gas company. He’s done plumbing.

After Redlands, he went off and got married to Chris, who played volleyball at Long Beach City.

 

Their older daughter, Franki, was good enough to play volleyball at University of Rhode Island.

It’s an athletic family.

A former Bulldog hero, Brian De Roo, who made it to the NFL, said he rented out his Redlands home on nearby Campus St. to Darnold, among others.

“They lived at my home,” he said, “the summer after they had all graduated. They were working on the grounds crew and needed a place to lay their heads.”

De Roo tried to contact Mike Darnold on his son’s good fortune, “and say congrats … he’s pretty private!”

Redlands, during Mike Darnold’s day, was scrambling to rebuild a football empire. Budgets had crumbled on campus. Women’s athletics were crawling into the scene. Instead of acquiring their own budgets – coaches, assistants, all the necessary expenses for various teams – athletic money was split instead of doubled.

Miller had no fulltime assistant coaches. Plus, he was asked to coach the baseball team. Recruiting two major sports? Please.

Miller did land a couple of major college transfers – lineman Tom Gianelli from UCLA and fullback Scott Napier from Nebraska, where he was teammates with future NFL great Roger Craig.

It wasn’t enough.

Mike Darnold played alongside some good players, but Occidental College wore down everyone during the 1980s. While he was never an all-conference player, it’s hard to land players onto those elite post-season teams when your own team finishes, say, 0-9.

Over a decade after Mike Darnold left Redlands, Sam Darnold was born.