Mater Dei won everything it could win in high school football this season.
The Monarchs started the season in Texas with a one-sided win over one of that state’s top teams. They won another Trinity League championship, won a ninth CIF Southern Section championship and on Saturday won the CIF State Open Division championship with a 44-7 victory over Serra of San Mateo to finish 12-0.
The groups that select high school football national championships will give the crown to Mater Dei.
Saturday was such a good day for Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson that one of his former players, Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, won the Heisman Trophy.
But was Saturday night also Rollinson’s final game as Mater Dei’s coach?
It’s a perfect scenario for Bruce Rollinson, 72, to conclude a career that has brought him CIF championships, national championships, all sorts of coach of the year awards and even an Emmy in his 33 years as the head coach at Mater Dei, his alma mater.
Rollinson is the best postgame interview in Orange County high school sports.
Saturday’s postgame interview with Rollinson, with a Samoan Ula Fala and a flowered lei around his neck, went like this …
“You got a minute, Bruce?”
“I’m sorry Steve, I can’t.”
That could be school leadership placing Rollinson in a cone of silence. Maybe it’s legal advice. Yes, Rollinson is getting legal advice lately.
The football program and the school have received plenty of negative feedback from the media and the public the past two weeks about alleged violent incidents that involved Monarchs football players this year and in 2019. Even KLAA/830’s Roger Lodge, the most positive host on Southern California sports talk radio, roasted Rollinson and Mater Dei principal Frances Clare on Lodge’s show Wednesday.
Mater Dei for the next six months will be taking an inward look at its athletic programs. While the coed Catholic school in Santa Ana and the Diocese of Orange, to which Mater Dei belongs, have expressed support for Rollinson and Monarchs football, all of the bad publicity just might make this a “we have to do something” situation.
There is tension within Mater Dei leadership. Mater Dei athletic director Kevin Kiernan seems unhappy with how the school has handled the controversy. The Register’s Scott Reid, who has led the reporting on Mater Dei issues the past three weeks, on Twitter reported the results of his Saturday night conversation with Mater Dei president Father Walter Jenkins.
“It looked like you and Clare were having a heated conversation,” Reid tweeted.
Jenkins, who is said to be interested in making personnel changes at Mater Dei, replied, “We’ve had a lot of those these days.”
Clare and Rollinson had pregame and postgame embraces. Alliances are becoming evident.
A suggestion to Rollinson from someone somewhere that perhaps this is an optimal time for him to retire might not be acceptable to Rollinson. He has a legal representative communicating with Mater Dei on his behalf.
St. John Bosco coach Jason Negro expects to be game-planning against the Rollinson-coached Monarchs for at least a couple of more years.
“In all of the private or discreet conversations I’ve had with Bruce,” Negro said, “which have happened far more than people know of, never, never, never has he given any indication he would resign anytime soon. We just talked a week ago about schedules, and we weren’t talking about just next year but also about 2023 and 2024.”
What would Mater Dei football be like if Rollinson’s coaching days are over?
“I would like to think that the legacy he’s created would continue,” Negro said. “Mater Dei football is just an extension of their entire campus and community. I think Mater Dei football would still be a household name.”
Saturday night, it was difficult to be sure if Saturday’s game was Rollinson’s last game or if he continues.
Retaining a lawyer means Rollinson is going to fight somebody, for something.
The somebody could be the school administration. That something could be his job.
The above comes from a Dec. 12 story in the Orange County Register.