Only days into his new job, Fred Martinez has been hard at work trying to turn around the sports programs at Bellarmine-Jefferson High.
Martinez has been hired as the new athletic director and head football coach at Bell-Jeff.
Martinez, 50, is the fourth athletic director and fourth football coach at the school in the past four years.
With student enrollment numbers down, a football program in flux after the Guards had to cancel a portion of their season in 2013 and a baseball program that didn’t field a team last season, Martinez has no illusions about the hard work it is going to take to revive the school’s sports programs.
“I don’t come into this job blinded to the situation that is in front of me,” said Martinez, a 1981 Bell-Jeff graduate. “I am just excited about coming back home and helping a school that I attended. I’m home and I don’t plan on going anywhere. I have taken on this job because I want to see my school succeed and I’m tired of what I saw in the past.
“Coming from a small school, I understand the small-school mentality. I have no illusions of grandeur; I just want to work to make Bell-Jeff what it once was.”
As a student at Bell-Jeff, Martinez competed in football, basketball, baseball and track and field. He was the 1981 Tom Brown Award winner — the highest honor given to an athlete who played three or more sports at Bell-Jeff.
Martinez’ most recent position was as athletic director at St. James the Less School and Holy Redeemer Middle School in La Crescenta. He has previously coached at the high school level at Burbank, Temple City, Hoover and South Pasadena, as well as working with the Glendale Community College program.
“Coach Martinez has come home to his alma mater,” Bell-Jeff Principal Michael Stumpf said. “He has great enthusiasm for the position as athletic director and head football coach.
“Fred has started making connections with our coaches, faculty and staff; he already had a football parent meeting and scheduled our football summer workouts. We are very excited to have him here at Bell-Jeff.”
Martinez has been busy in his first week on the job. Among other things, he is in the midst of interviewing candidates for the open girls’ basketball position and has been trying to put together a junior varsity football schedule.
Martinez takes over for Lance Fauria, whose contract wasn’t renewed following a year as the school’s football coach and athletic director. The football program experienced its share of problems during the 2013 season. After being plagued by low numbers and injuries that severely depleted the Guards in all of their games, Bell-Jeff canceled its season in mid-October, forfeiting its remaining three games.
The Guards finished the year at 0-7 with four forfeit losses and three on the field. In the three games Bell-Jeff did play, the Guards suffered injuries that dwindled an already slim squad. All three games were played with a running clock in the second half.
In light of the struggles last season, Bell-Jeff decided to play on the junior varsity level for the 2014 football season. Martinez said he has four games scheduled so far: Santa Fe League games against St. Anthony and St. Monica, as well as nonleague contests against Flintridge Prep and St. Margaret’s. He is looking to add more games.
“I have talked with people here at Bell-Jeff and also to opposing coaches and administrators and I tell them that we’re restarting the football program,” Martinez said. “We’re not rebuilding, we’re restarting the program. We want to have a fundamental foundation so we can have sustainability for the future. If we are going to grow this program, we have to do it the right way. This is the way it really needs to be done.
“We know about the past and what happened with this program last year. We have to learn from those experiences from the past so we can move forward. We have to evolve with the present to build for the future. Football is very important at Bell-Jeff because it feeds the rest of the sports in the school and it sets the tone for what the school year is going to be.”
Along with football, Martinez said he also intends to restart the Guards baseball program and field a team for the 2015 season.
“I have been lucky to have worked with a lot of great people, administrators and coaches, at the schools that I have been over the years,” Martinez said. “I am hoping that I can use that knowledge to help the sports programs get back on track and thrive at Bell-Jeff.”
Follow Jeff Tully on Twitter: @jefftsports.