With high school athletic budgets getting leaner and coaches scrambling to raise money for their programs, Santa Barbara High is fortunate to have a dedicated guy like Andrew Butcher on its staff.
Butcher is the longtime girls basketball coach at Santa Barbara. In his 30-plus years at the helm, he’s sent numerous players off to college, including 21 to NCAA Division 1 schools. Year in and year out, his teams are title contenders in the Channel League and make the CIF playoffs.
Friend Aaron Solis of San Marcos calls him “The Godfather” of local girls basketball.
Butcher is smart, innovative, witty, resourceful and, most of all, giving. He gives hours of his time throughout the year helping players to become better on and off the basketball court.
Those qualities also have been a blessing to the Santa Barbara High Athletic Department. Through Butcher’s vision, creativity, teaching and labor, the athletic department has collected much-needed funds, worn facilities have received a makeover and students have acquired vocational and life skills.
Presidio Sports is pleased to honor Butcher as the Sports Figure of the Month.
“Andrew Butcher is like gold, everything he touches turns to gold,” said an appreciative Santa Barbara High Principal John Becchio. “He is just a real great spirit around here. He gets his mind on something and goes after it, and it’s always going to benefit the kids, no doubt about it.”
A major fundraiser for athletics at the school is the Saturday flea market at the Anapamu Street parking lot on campus. Butcher has been coordinator of the event for the past 16 years.
“It’s done real well for different teams,” he said. “I’m a volunteer. I’ve never gotten paid, although they do allow me to buy lunch.”
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.
The market is not exclusive to athletic fundraising. The library and the school band have run it to make money for activities.
“It goes to whoever runs it,” he said.
Butcher is a basketball junkie and a Don, and he cares deeply about his alma mater.
He’ll see something on campus that needs upgrading, devises a plan and executes it. And he gets good results, just like he does with his basketball team.
He had the idea of a concession stand for the visitors at Peabody Stadium and made it happen. He bought a used food truck, had it cleaned, painted and inspected and parked it at the north end of the stadium for football games. His basketball players worked the stand and the money collected went to the athletic department.
“It helped the visitors, helped the people at that end (of the stadium) and it made the athletic department a lot of money,” Butcher said. “I know one game we grossed $1800 just out of the food truck. It was a big thing.
“There are benefits,” he added about having the extra concession stand. “It makes the athletic department money if you have a better event. And, even if we don’t make money, it’s a better event.”
The venerable stadium also got a facelift, thanks to a project taken on by Butcher. He saw the need to organize the seating at the stadium, so he had large vinyl signs made to divide the student section from the reserved seating section. Signs also were made to show the location of the restrooms.
“The signs at the stadium were so rusted you couldn’t even read what they said,” he recalled.
His motivation was to make the stadium more inviting for fans.
“Since I went to school here, I want to keep things up,” he said. “We want people to have something to look forward to again. When I was in grade school, it was a big deal to go to a Dons game.”
He said he wants his 11-year-old son to enjoy that same experience.
“We’ve tried to make it so it would be a better event for people when they come to a game,” he said of the changes at the stadium. “I’m a basketball guy but football starts the year off and it can get momentum going for all the sports, so we’re trying to make it better.”
Butcher also made huge improvements below the stadium. He brought in a crew to gut and sterilize rooms under the concrete stands. There is now a usable weight room and a couple of silk screening workrooms, where the athletes make T-shirts for their teams and special events.
“My JV coach, Lucia Serrano, we both went here and we’re always finding flaws,” he said of their motivation behind all the work. “The stadium is 90-something years old. We did a lot of cleanup on the graffiti, got rid of poles that had been there for decades for no reason. We refurbished the weight room under the stadium because it was full of, I’d would say, ‘Big mice.’ We didn’t have the kids involved in any of that removal. We got the place really usable and nice.”
Butcher also is good at finding bargains.
He found a deal on Craig’s List for a couple silkscreen machines. The students learned how to operate them and make designed T-shirts for school teams and events like the Tournament of Champions Basketball Tournament and Think Pink Week.
Butcher said they were losing money on the shirts they gave out at the Tournament of Champions. “The cost of the shirts killed us. You can get a blank T-Shirt for $1.50 and the ink is a nickel.”
His basketball players made the shirts for the “Think Pink” breast cancer awareness sporting events on campus last season.
“We made a lot of money for the Cancer Society,” he said. “It’s always fun trying new things and doing projects. We don’t do anything dangerous, we don’t do anything where the kids aren’t trained. We try to do it right.”
And the students have a good time doing it.
“They get a lot of different things besides basketball, so it’s kind of fun,” said Butcher.
Becchio is impressed.
“Andrew’s one of those guys who’s larger than life but quiet and reserved about it, humble as all could be,” said the principal. “He puts good people around him. He takes some kind of project that no one else would see as anything good and he has a vision it would be great and he turns it into great. And he does that with the kids. He takes kids that have never played basketball and in four years they’re great.”
A lot of the development of those players starts on the outside courts at the school, below Anapamu Street. Butcher and his team tackled the project of upgrading the entire area. He found a deal on a used “Sport Court” surface for one court, had another court resurfaced, put in new baskets, built benches and a wooden ball rack.
“It’s self interest,” he admitted. “We needed a better facility outside. When we first went out there, I had the kids make a list of all the things they want. We’ve done just about all of them.
“We used to be in the gym one day in the fall and in the spring, so we’ve been working really hard on our outside courts,” he added. “We have two full courts out there.”
When the work was being done, Butcher realized the previous courts were not of regulation width.
“We were training the players to run narrow,” he said, shaking his head. “I could never understand when we got in the gym and I couldn’t get them to run wide. For nine months, we were running too narrow.”
The outdoor court improvements have been a benefit to the Dons basketball program and the entire community, as well. Every weekend there are pick-up games being played on the courts.
“I played out there on my 55th birthday a few months ago,” Butcher said. “(My group) always play on the short courts and thank goodness because you don’t want to run that extra 10 to 20 feet, especially when we’re shooting about 20 percent in those games. You don’t want to run that extra 15 to 20 feet, but it makes a big difference for the kids in training.”
Butcher often shares the funds his program raises through the flea market.
“We’ve done a lot of good things with that money,” he said. “We bought a floor-polishing machine that was over $3,000 for the gym. The head custodian had us buy it because the old one was wearing the gym floor out. We bought the head gardener a high-quality leaf blower and weed whacker. We bought them one of the garden carts a few years back. We’ve done a lot of things for them.
“We’ve put a lot of money into different things. We bought a van for $8,000. It had only 32,000 miles when we bought it. We bought two hot dog makers from 7-11 for $500, and they cost about $2200 each.”
And there’s basketball. Butcher may not have the tallest players but the players who suit up for the Dons are fundamentally sound, prepared, passionate and play hard.
“We do the basketball thing, too,” he said. “We work really hard and we got good kids.”
On all the projects, Butcher said it’s about making money for the school, the curiosity of it and loyalty to his alma mater.
“The fundraising projects that no one wants to touch, Andrew Butcher will take it and turn it into something marvelous,” said Becchio. “He has great vision of turning something mediocre into something great.”