Eligibility issues, lack of players at heart of problems
A lack of eligible players has put the Marshall varsity football season in serious jeopardy and a decision on the program’s status would likely be made today, first-year Phoenix coach Mitch Oster said Tuesday.
Marshall has already canceled two games this season, including Friday’s contest against Monterey, and now might be unable to play its Academic Athletic Association schedule.
Oster said it is highly unlikely the Phoenix will be able to field a team for the first few AAA gamesand planned on talking with league commissioner Don Collins this morning to see whether arranging an abbreviated schedule would be possible. If not, the Phoenix will progress with only a frosh-soph team.
“[The question is] whether or not we can salvage the rest of the season,” Oster said. “At this point, we have been unable to submit a roster with enough eligible players and, with that in mind, at this late stage, there’s a question of whether it will happen.”
Oster cited eligibility issues, low turnout and the lack of returning players as the three biggest obstacles facing the program this season. Marshall did not field a frosh-soph team a year ago and has seen enrollment decline in recent years.
According to the San Francisco Union High School District Web site, Marshall had 760 students (402 of whom were male) last school year. That number represents the fewest students of any AAA school with a football program. Collins speculated the overall student population has now dropped below 700.
“Coach Oster is attempting to build a program from the ground up,” Collins said. “He has the support of the entire local football community and the results of what he’s doing may not be seen for three or four years.”
But the prospect of losing his senior season has hit Marshall lineman Tony Toy hard.
“I’ve walked around the hallways asking [people to play], but they aren’t dedicated,” Toy said. “No one has school spirit. People say the team is weak, but they could make it better. It’s really frustrating … and I can’t really do anything about it. I can’t force people to come out and play.”
Marshall will still compete in a full frosh-soph schedule as Oster, a teacher’s aide at the school who works in special education, continues to build for the future. He plans on setting up a tutoring program to help athletes keep their grades up and hopes the 20- to 25-man frosh-soph team will developinto a pipeline for new varsity talent.
“I believe in the kids at Thurgood Marshall. I believe in their ability to perform. I believe in their ability to learn,” Oster said. “There will be a time, not too far from now, when Thurgood Marshall will be a vibrant, healthy program. Today is not that day. But it will happen soon.”