CCSF wasn’t always a powerhouse

As usual, the City College of San Francisco opened the season as one of the top-ranked junior college football teams in the nation and the Rams did nothing to discredit those lofty expectations with 63-13 and 48-17 wins over Solano Community College and Cabrillo College, respectively.

Such thrashings have become commonplace since coach George Rush’s arrival at CCSF in 1977. Under his watch, the Rams have put up some staggering numbers — 15 conference championships, five state crowns and five national titles.

However, despite their recent history of football excellence, the Rams weren’t always among the junior college elite. Although they were a perennial power in the loose classifications of JC football in the program’s infancy (the Rams won national championships in 1946 and 1948 and the 1965 O.J. Simpson-led team went unbeaten), CCSF fell on tough times in the late ’60s and early ’70s, winning just 10 games from 1971 to ’75. Rush, who played for CCSF in the ’60s and was an assistant coach during the lean years of the early ’70s, attributed the program’s dropoff to the general lack of stability in the country during that time period.

“There was a lot of turmoil going on back then,” Rush said. “The country was really in a state of upheaval because of the war. College athletics were in a decline and I think you especially saw that in the community college ranks. There just wasn’t the presence of athletes in this area who were playing community college football.”

The road back to relevancy for CCSF began with a series of events in junior college football that eased some of the recruiting restrictions. One breakthrough was the creation of first-contact rules, which stipulated that as long as a player introduced contact with an institution, then the coaching staff could continue to recruit that player, no matter if he lived outside the designated, county-only recruiting zones. Another vital innovation was the advent of contiguous recruiting rules that allowed players to be recruited by CCSF in any county that touched San Francisco County.

However, the most significant factor in CCSF’s resurgence was the hiring of Rush in 1977 as the coach.

“When I got here, we really focused on turning things around,” said Rush, who has racked up a 248-79-4 record during his 31 years coaching the Rams. “And with the introduction of first-contact rules and other recruiting developments that allowed us to reach a broader group of players, we’ve been able to build this program to where it is today.”

As a consistent winner in the junior college ranks, and, just as importantly, a school with a storied tradition of sending players on to Division I programs, CCSF fields inquiries from players all over the country. Their current roster features athletes from places as far-reaching as Alaska and Florida.

“The presence of the Internet has created more exposure for this program than ever before,” Rush said. “Every day, we’re getting phone calls from kids across the country. They do their research on us, sometimes these kids know more about our program than we do. They see our success on the field and in sending players on to Division I schools and they really want to be a part of the program.”

About CCSF

» Football program: Began in 1936

» Coach: George Rush, 31st year

» Notable former coaches: Dutch Elston, Grover Klemmer

» Notable former players: O.J. Simpson, Burl Toler, Ollie Matson

» Current NFL players: New York Giants safety Gibril Wilson, Green Bay Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop

» On the Web: www.ccsframs.com

Proving ground

Junior colleges such as CCSF and CSM offer a path to better opportunities for football players.

» TODAY: The history behind CCSF and CSM

» TUESDAY: Junior college provides second chances

» WEDNESDAY: Plethora of teams means state stands alone

» THURSDAY: How do the big boys use jucos?

» FRIDAY: Making it all the way to the NFL

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