“T he only source of knowledge is experience.” (Albert Einstein)
If Einstein’s quote was as accurate as his theory of relativity turned out to be, then Coast Union Athletic Director Bill Clough has to be among the most knowledgeable professionals on campus.
Indeed, in Clough’s 28th year of teaching, coaching, and (more recently) administering the 11 Bronco sports programs, just one person on the CUHS staff has been in place longer.
On a breezy, blue-sky Monday afternoon in Clough’s office, the venerable AD leaned back in his chair and candidly chatted at length with a reporter.
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Clough graduated from Mater Dei High School in Los Angeles in 1972 and briefly attended Orange Coast College—where he played quarterback on the football team. After working for a few years, Clough transferred to Cal Poly in 1976 and graduated in 1979.
A few years later, fulfilling his long-held desire to become a school teacher, Clough returned to Poly and earned his credential. He was hired at Coast Union in 1985 as coach of the Broncos 8-man football team and as a teacher at both the junior high and CUHS. He taught English, some math, and science.
“I was lucky. They created a teaching position for me to be able to coach. Coaching was always something I wanted to do. If I was going to be teaching, I was going to be coaching, too.”
Twenty-eight years after being hired by Coast Union as a teacher and specifically to head the 8- man football program, Clough has come full circle. Through the years he witnessed the enrollment grow and as a result the Broncos transitioned into the more traditional 11- man game, which CUHS used for many years.
But wait. The school’s enrollment has dwindled to around 220 students, and hence insufficient numbers of boys are available to play the 11-man game, so Coast Union has returned this season to the 8-man format.
Coaching and Clough go together like movies and popcorn. He coached football for 10 years, coached varsity basketball for about the same time. Talk about having one’s hands full of adolescent energy, Clough coached varsity football and varsity basketball in the same year twice (1986- 87).
“As athletic director, I’ve jumped in and coached JV basketball a couple times when I couldn’t come up with a JV coach.” He has also coached softball and JV baseball as well. More recently he coached golf for a dozen years.
He is actually in his second stint as athletic director, taking the reins in 2008.
“It’s a tough job but it’s gratifying and a lot fun. To be honest with you,” Clough continues as he leans forward, removes his CU cap, smiles, and puts it back on, “it’s a lot more gratifying and fun than it is exasperating.”
No doubt there are moments in Clough’s job when he has to deal with controversy and tension. For example, last football season, when only two upper classmen showed up for football practice and a junior varsity squad was to become the “A” team for Coast Union, Clough had two huge challenges on his experienced hands.
First, he had to apologetically notify the eight teams scheduled to play the Broncos that Coast Union would not be honoring its previously agreed upon varsity dates and hence those teams would lose not only games but also the revenue their home games with CUHS would have produced.
“At the same time I had to try and create a JV schedule,” Clough continued. “I think I did a pretty darn good job,” he explained, uncharacteristically allowing a self-congratulatory moment, albeit a well-deserved kudo in the opinion of observers familiar with the complicated conundrums he faced.
Clough seems to thrive not only on his longevity but he also on long hours. He enjoys a work schedule that entails very long days.
He would have to. For a guy who drives the five-day- a-week, 25-mile, 35- minute trek from his home in Los Osos — arriving at work around 7:30 a.m. and not leaving campus many nights until 8:30 or 9 p.m. after a basketball or volleyball game—he doesn’t hesitate for a split second to answer a reporter’s question about the most joyous aspect of his AD position.
“It’s all fun,” he replies, flashing a familiar Clough smile. “I get to go to most of the games. I’m at most every game and I enjoy doing that. I enjoy working with the coaches and I enjoy the camaraderie with the kids, even though I’m not coaching, I’m close to many of the kids.”
At that moment in the interview Clough’s iPhone rings and rings; he ignores it and continues. “Obviously at this stage of my career if I weren’t enjoying something I guess I wouldn’t be doing it. It’s really a lot of work, but I enjoy it.”
Clough, who teaches four physical education classes, does have his sticky moments, when a parent is upset with a coach for example. “I try to get the coach and the parent together; that’s not always a pleasant situation but it usually works out in the end.”
The AD says he could technically retire in three years. And yet he has no plans along those lines. “I don’t know when I’m going to go. I’m enjoying my job so as long as they don’t ask me to leave, I’ll stick around for awhile.”
Another quote from Einstein seems appropriate vis-à-vis Clough’s thoughts of eventual retirement. “I never think of the future. It comes soon enough.”