Arroyo Grande High School has been home to one of the most successful prep sports programs on the Central Coast for a long time. The plaques in the hallways of the of the school’s administration building and the banners hanging in the gym back that up.
But the athletic program that draws on the largest student enrollment in San Luis Obispo County (eight students more than Paso Robles High School) built in large part on consistency, will see some major changes June 10, one day after the 2016-17 school year ends. The school hired Stephen Field, an Arroyo Grande and Cal Poly graduate, to take the place of current athletic director Dwight MacDonald, who has worked with the Lucia Mar School District for 33 years.
The winds of change started to blow in late November when Field, 30, was named MacDonald’s successor. MacDonald has served as Arroyo Grande’s athletic director off and on since 1990, stopping briefly to take the same position at Nipomo High School when it opened in 2001, and has been back in charge at Arroyo Grande since 2008. Longtime Arroyo Grande water polo coach Steven Allen and Nipomo athletic director Russ Edwards were rumored among those to be considered by the district for the highly coveted position before the school settled on Field.
Then, longtime football coach Tom Goossen announced his retirement in December. Goossen spent 30 years as a member of the football staff and 10 years as head coach. Longtime assistant athletic director and assistant football coach Mike McAustin is also retiring after the school year.
The hiring of Field was the first step in beginning a new chapter in the school’s sports program with the goal of a smooth transition of power and success. And the process has already begun. With MacDonald at home recovering from hip surgery, Field started filling in as interim athletic director when students returned from winter break Monday.
“It was great opportunity to take over for this program, which has been very successful and does things the right way,” Field said Monday.
Field is no stranger to the campus. He graduated from Arroyo Grande in 2004 as an accomplished football player and thrower in track and field. He earned a full football scholarship to Cal Poly and was a two-time All-American as a member of the Mustangs’ offensive line. As soon as he graduated, he started coaching the Arroyo Grande football team’s offensive line.
“It’s kind of like I never left,” said Field, who is in his fourth year of teaching special education at the school.
Field was recommended for the job and applied just to see what would happen. Once the hiring process started, he felt like he was up for the challenge.
“This program, this school and this community has allowed me great opportunities and was such a big part of my upbringing,” Field said. “The fact that I am now able to provide that is a great responsibility that I don’t take lightly.”
Field will likely be involved in the next big move for the school’s athletic program — hiring a head football coach to replace Goossen. MacDonald said Tuesday the school is accepting applications.
McAustin, known around school as “The Mayor,” will be replaced by Arroyo Grande’s
29-year-old head athletic trainer Matt Quijano. Field called McAustin “the glue” of the sports program and said his departure will impact the school as much as the loss of Goossen and MacDonald.
While the school still has longtime coaches on staff like Allen and girls golf coach Claudia Souder, the recent trend shows two things: The push to hire young and from within. Only time will tell if the next Arroyo Grande head football coach hire follows that trend.
Field has taken up residency in MacDonald’s office this week and said he still has a lot to learn about what it means to head up a program with
19 varsity teams. He hopes to use his time as interim to learn from MacDonald.
“Dwight is extremely organized,” Field said. “He does a great job of supporting all sports and all coaches and has showed me the importance of being there for games.”
He’s already got MacDonald’s seal of approval.
“He’s sharp. He’s a great role model, and he works hard and flies under the radar,” MacDonald said. “I’m sure he will be a great AD.”