The name Moropoulos might be a mouthful to pronounce in a lot of places. But in Santa Barbara, the Greek surname is quite easy to say if you put the word coach in front it.
In this area, the Moropoulos name is synonymous with football coach.
Craig Moropoulos learned long ago that coaching was in his blood. His father, the legendary Mike Moropoulos, was an outstanding football coach at Santa Barbara High. So, it was his destiny to follow his father in the profession.
Craig is the head football coach at Santa Barbara City College, and his Vaqueros are off to their best start in 38 years (5-0).
Presidio Sports is pleased to honor Craig as the Sports Figure of the Month.
Sports has always been an important part of Moropoulos’ life, and he sought to make a career in it. But not in football. His goal was to become a professional golfer, teaching and playing the game.
“I did that for about two years and realized that wasn’t it,” he said.
It was destiny whispering in his ear. He got into coaching football and has been at it for 29 years now, the last seven as the head coach at SBCC.
SPORTS FIGURE OF THE MONTH
Each Month, Presidio Sports recognizes a local sports figure for their extraordinary contribution to the Santa Barbara athletic community. It is our way to recognize those who are making a lasting impact in our sports community, whether it is an inspirational athletic performance, a lifetime achievement award, or perhaps a great example of leadership.
When your father is one of the greatest influences in your life, a career in coaching and educating were definitely in the cards for the younger Moropoulos.
“He’s my idol, and when you can say your idol is your father, that’s a very special person,” said Craig. “He was a great leader for me. I learned a lot and I’m still learning a lot from him.”
Dad is at La Playa Stadium every Saturday when the Vaqueros are home.
“I couldn’t ask for anything more,” said Craig.
Among the many things he learned from his father is how a coach has the chance to influence a young person’s life through football.
“Using the game of football to affect a young person’s life, it’s something that’s stuck with me for a long time,” he said.
He’s also learned from some legendary coaches he’s worked under during his career. Guys like Larry Smith and Dick Tomey at Arizona, Jackie Sherrill at Texas A&M and Houston Nutt at Boise State.
“I watched and learned a lot from those people. You combine that with a person like my father … I’m blessed to learn from some great people,” he said.
The satisfaction of seeing a young person understand a lesson and watching a team develop and become united are what make coaching so special for Moropoulos.
“I like the struggles you go through when you try to teach a young person to know what to do,” he explained. “And, it’s the smile on their face when they get it. That’s what gets you. It’s (also) the camaraderie and the family atmosphere and that kind of thing. That’s what drives me in coaching.”
He said the family atmosphere this year’s team has formed has been a key to its success.
“The No. 1 thing is the character of this team and the character of the players,” he noted. “This team has heart. I’m also blessed with a good staff that is energetic and passionate about teaching. The players see that and respond to that. The commitment level has exceeded expectations.”
Moropoulos will wear his emotions on his sleeve. A Presidio Sports photograph showed those emotions after his team beat L.A. Valley on a last-second field goal two weeks ago.
“The most beautiful thing for me is when the defense struggled, the offense picked it up; when the offense struggled, the defense picked it up, and here we won a game with special teams play in the last seconds. The team aspect, family aspect is what’s really important to me,” he said.
Before returning to Santa Barbara, Moropoulos had visions of coaching football at the four-year level.
“But as I went longer and trying to climb the ladder, I saw the insecurity and unsettledness at that level,” he said. “It’s a great level and I had a lot of good experiences and learned from a lot of good people. But Santa Barbara is a great place and I had an opportunity to come back and coach at Santa Barbara High, my alma mater, and that was a great experience. And then come here, where I played and went to school.”
Coming home also meant being in a familiar and comforting place to raise his three children, son, Trevor (17) and daughters Peyton (15) and Elyse (11).
“My kids are fantastic, and I’m very, very lucky,” he said. “My son is pitching for Santa Barbara High, the middle daughter is playing JV volleyball there and the youngest is playing soccer and volleyball. I’m excited they’re involved in athletics, but the most important thing is they’re great citizens. All three, they’re great, great people, and I love that.”
Developing a family-like support system and showing good character are qualities Moropoulos instills in his players, which can be challenging to maintain because of the revolving-door nature of the two-year community college.
“We’re going go hit bumps in the road. That’s when you lean on your buddy,” he said. “When one side struggles, the other side has to pick it up.”
He’s proud how this year’s team has bonded.
“We have a lineman from Monroe County, Georgia. He doesn’t have family here, but he does now. He has his Vaquero family.”
And Moropoulos is at the head of it.