Arnold back home as SAISD interim athletic director

With apologies to Yogi Berra, Monday was like déjà vu all over again for former Judson ISD athletic director Frank Arnold.

Retired for the past nine years, Arnold stepped back into the world of high school athletics last Friday when he accepted the San Antonio ISD's offer to be its interim athletic director.

SAISD superintendent Sylvester Perez contacted Arnold, 73, about the job after Gil Garza resigned last week to become athletic director of the Dallas ISD. Perez was on Arnold's coaching staff at Judson when the Rockets won their first football state championship in 1983.

Arnold started his new gig Monday by meeting his staff at the Alamo Convocation Center, where the SAISD athletic department has its offices. The Convocation Center is adjacent to Alamo Stadium, which is in the final stages of a major renovation.

"They say it's like riding a bike, I guess, but it's going to take me a few days to get back in the swing of things," Arnold said Monday night, chuckling as he finished his thought. "It's an awesome deal and it's pretty humbling. To go back to the place where you played football, basketball and ran track is quite a trip down memory lane. I got my start here."

Arnold attended SAISD schools and graduated from Burbank High School in 1959. A 1963 Texas Lutheran College graduate, he spent the first 10 years of his coaching career in the SAISD and was head football coach at Sam Houston and Jefferson in the early 1970s.

"This is a challenge," Arnold said. "Going from one high school and three junior highs at Judson to nine high schools and 16 middle schools in the SAISD is a big change. There's a whole more going on. But we have a good staff and good workers."

Arnold succeeded Roy Wallace, his football coach at Burbank, as Judson's athletic director early in 1984 and held the job for 21 years. He coached the Rockets for three seasons before going into administration. Arnold retired in June 2005, a few months before the district opened its second high school (Wagner).

"I had given no thought to doing something like this," Arnold said. "But they have a situation where some people in the department have applied for the AD's job, and the district didn't think it would be fair for one of them to be the interim because it would give that person an advantage over the others when it comes time for the selection.

"I think the feeling was that, hey, we've got to have an interim from the outside who can come in and oversee the program until the job's filled. Of course, this time of year you don't know when that could be."

Arnold said Perez told him a new athletic director could be hired in a month, "or it could be after Christmas."

"They don't really know what to expect," Arnold said. "It all depends on the pool of applicants they get. I'm not involved in any of that. I'm just going to fill in and try to maintain some stability for the staff and see that we continue going forward."

Alamo Stadium, which opened in 1940, is on schedule to be ready for the start of the football season late next month. SAISD schools haven't played at the "Rockpile," as it is affectionately called by older San Antonio high school football fans, since the 2012 season. A ceremony rededicating Alamo Stadium is scheduled for Aug. 16.

The Convocation Center also was renovated and reopened in January. The major improvements to both facilities are part of a $515 million bond package SAISD voters approved in November 2010.

Arnold toured Alamo Stadium on Monday and came away impressed with what he saw.

"It is beautiful," he said. "It's an outstanding facility. Gil, Dr. Perez and all the people responsible with the planning have done a great job. It's really something to go back and be in the role I'm in and to get to see that happening, to see that renovation. There's a lot of great history here.

"That was always my favorite stadium to play in when we were looking for neutral site at Judson. I remember the times we put 23,000 fans in there. Fantastic memories. Alamo Stadium is just a first-class facility, just like the Convocation Center. It's good to see that SAISD student-athletes are going to have the opportunity to enjoy competing in such fine facilities. It's something they can take a lot of pride in."

Arnold became synonymous with Judson during his 24-year tenure with the district, and his contributions to high school athletics have been recognized locally and throughout the state. A member of the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame, Arnold is also in the Texas High School Coaches Association Hall of Honor and Texas High School Athletic Directors Association Hall of Honor.

Arnold has meetings scheduled next week with SAISD athletic coordinators and coaches. Still a coach at heart, Arnold said he's looking forward to bonding with coaches again.

"If you've still got a little of that fighting spirit in you, I think it's always great to get in front of coaches and share any information you have with them," Arnold said. "I've always said that being a coach is a passion. It's not a job. If it's a job, you're in it for the wrong reasons.

"You've got to have that feeling in your belly that you're going to help kids become better people and better athletes. It's always great to have the opportunity to remind these men and women of the influence they can have on young people. It's our role as an athletic department to help them realize the impact they can have on a kid's life."

Considering the eloquence with which Arnold expressed his thoughts, especially on the role of coaches, it's as though he never retired. Maybe being an athletic director is like riding a bike.

Welcome back, Frank.


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