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Wolfpack AD leaves job(s) he loved for 40 years

Since his planned retirement went public last month, Claremont High School Athletic Director Rick Dutton has heard the same comment over and over from well-meaning acquaintances: “I bet you won’t miss the parents.”

But Mr. Dutton, 63, says that nothing could be further from the truth. “One highlight of working in Claremont is that we have fantastic parents. How lucky am I to have worked here for so long where people are education- and kid-oriented,” he asked rhetorically recently from his modest office at the school.

When Mr. Dutton left Azusa Pacific University in 1977, he only wanted to do one thing with his life: coach football. That year, when CHS head coach Esper Keiser offered him a position, no one could have predicted that 39 years later Mr. Dutton would still be in Claremont.

Mr. Keiser left in 1978 and another coach, Fred Workman, lasted only a year before CHS hired Bob Baiz. Under Mr. Baiz, the football program had great success including back-to-back CIF titles in 1984 and 1985.

Mr. Dutton was the school’s offensive coordinator from 1978 to 1997, when the Pack took seven league championships, including the CIF title years when quarterback Dan McGwire led the Pack’s offense. Mr. McGwire, whose brother is baseball star Mark McGwire, would go on to play five seasons in the NFL.

“It’s hard to do that [back-to-back victories], but we had some unbelievable players, so it was a personal highlight,” he said.

At first Mr. Dutton did odd jobs, including substitute teaching to make ends meet. In 1984, he became a full-time health and physical education teacher. It was a busy time for the young educator as he married his fiancée, Mary, in 1985.

The couple settled in Chino Hills where they raised a daughter, Mackenzie, who played softball at the University of La Verne. Mr. and Ms. Dutton now reside in Upland.

Mr. Dutton became Claremont’s athletic director in 1995, adding those duties to his teaching schedule until 2007 when the director job went full-time. He also continued to be the offensive coordinator through 1997.

Looking back at his tenure, Mr. Dutton takes pride in the improvements to sports facilities, including the construction of the stadium and the upgrades that will be paid for with money from Measure G. He takes no personal credit, praising the efforts of CUSD officials and Claremont voters.

“Thanks to the good people of Claremont, we now have a stadium on campus,” he said. The additional upgrades to the pool and the gym will happen over the next few months and will solve some headaches for Claremont coaches.

“I think we have a fantastic group of head coaches, but one thing that has been frustrating has been facilities,” he said, noting that things were breaking down left and right and the coaches had to find ways to fix them. Sometimes repairs cannot be made in time, as was the case with the CHS pool, which was closed for several months with a malfunctioning heater.

“It’s not just here, every high school has problems with facilities, but I’m really happy we have done so much,” he added.

An athletic director’s day can be busy. It entails scheduling events, hiring coaches, making sure the facilities are safe, doing eligibility checks and helping coaches and boosters with fundraising. He describes the main job duty as being a problem-solver. When hiring a new coach, he focuses on the quality of the human being above coaching experience. “You can always learn to be a better coach, but not necessarily learn to be a better person,” he said.

He also had high praise about working with CHS Principal Brett O’Connor. “It has been a pleasure to serve under Brett. We have had some great principals, but he is by far the best. I feel so fortunate I got to work with him for 10 years.”

Mike Collins, who was hired as head football coach in 1995, the same year Mr. Dutton became athletic director, praised his former boss as someone who made the sports program something everyone could view with pride.

“He was a huge supporter of Claremont football in my 20 years as head coach,” said Mr. Collins. “But I think a lot people don’t know that Rick is also an incredible football coach. He put together one of the best passing offenses ever in our area, winning two CIF titles with Dan McGwire as quarterback.”

“But he’s not only a great coach, he cares about people more than just the job. He is not someone telling you what to do, but led Claremont athletics in a classy way and that’s something I’ve always been excited to be a part of,” Mr. Collins said.

Mr. Dutton will remain at CHS for the school year and said not to expect any long goodbyes. He hopes to be on campus regularly as a spectator at sporting events. He also plans to offer guidance for the new athletic director if school officials want his assistance.

However, his big plan for retirement is to buy an RV and see the United States with his wife. A fan of history, he wants to see a game at Boston’s Fenway Park as well as visit cities and national parks across the nation. “I am a big fan of America and I haven’t seen all of the places I want to see.”

There is no doubt that Mr. Dutton will be missed at CHS.

“His dedication is second to none,” said Mr. O’Connor. “The amount of hours he puts in, people have no idea. He will sweep the gym floors if it needs to be done.”

“I don’t think you will hear anyone in Southern California [high school sports] say a bad word about Rick.”

—Steven Felschundneff

steven@claremont-courier.com

Softball

The girls lost their Palomares League game to the visiting South Hills Huskies, 3-1, last Friday in Claremont. South Hills was first on the board with two runs in the third inning but the Pack made it a one-run game in the fifth. The Huskies came right back to add their last run in the sixth. The Wolfpack is now 5-5 overall and 3-3 in league. They have an away league game against Bonita on Wednesday.

Boys volleyball

Claremont lost a very close conference game to Los Altos last Thursday in Claremont. Los Altos won the first set, 25-22, but Claremont came back, taking the next two 25-17 and 25-8. In the fourth set the Conquerors outlasted the Pack 28-26 and then won the tiebreaker 15-9. With the loss the boys are now 8-11 overall and 1-2 in league. They have a home league match against Diamond Ranch on Tuesday.

Baseball

Claremont High School baseball lost a home non-conference game to Wilson, 5-2, on Monday at CHS. Both teams scored two runs in the first inning but Wilson broke the tie in the fourth inning with two runs, and one more in the fifth was icing on the cake.

Senior Kyle Scalmanini was hot at the plate with two doubles and two RBIs, and junior Jake Holcroft had two singles. Wilson’s Matt Orozco pitched six innings, earning the win.

With the loss, the Pack is now 7-8 overall and 3-2 in league. The boys have a non-league game against Chino on Monday in Chino.