Saguaro HS makes tough call, fires football coach Sanders

John Sanders, it turns out, wasn’t bullet-proof.

Some high school coaches become so successful, they begin to think they’re bullet-proof, that they can do pretty much what they want without worrying about repercussions.

Sanders, the head football coach at Scottsdale’s Saguaro High School, decided to test that theory in the final regular game of the season by holding out many of the key starting players and thereby throwing away the game.  He said he wanted to make sure his best players were healthy and rested for the playoffs. (See 11/01/11 Phxfan article)

The result was a humiliating 65-0 loss to in-town rival, Chaparral High School – on national television.

For awhile, it looked like he got away with the move.  But the school administration was apparently just waiting until he finished his coaching role in Tuesday’s Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl played in downtown Phoenix.

The axe fell the next day.  He didn’t dodge the bullet, after all.

Winning the Division III state championship didn’t save him.  Nor did winning four state titles in his five years as the Saguaro head coach.  Nor did his 62-7 record.

In the end, it came down to a high school coach who was too successful for his own good.  He tried to put his own ego and his own interests ahead of those of his players and his employer.

A report in the East Valley Tribune said that Sanders asked the school whether his decision to hold out his starters in a big game was the reason he was let go, and the school denied it.

In truth, that may be partly true because it might also have been the culmination of putting up with a man who many of those at the school found egotistical and hard to work with, going back more than a decade when he served as the team’s defensive coordinator before ascending to head coach.

But he said Saguaro didn’t give a reason.  The school is reportedly going to issue a statement sometime today, providing additional details to a statement issued yesterday that said, in part:

“After careful consideration, the administration of Saguaro High School, with the support of the Scottsdale Unified School District, has determined that the Saguaro football program will move into 2012 and beyond under new leadership.

“Coach John Sanders will no longer be the head football coach, effective January 5, 2012.  We thank Coach Sanders for his dedication and commitment to the Saguaro Football Program and appreciate his years of service and contributions.”

Those ‘contributions’ (ie: state championships) will make Sanders a tempting hire for some other high school program.

But it would have to be a school that puts winning above all else.

(Photo: Army National Guard)