Gil Garza, who brought a culture of accountability to the SAISD athletic department with his high standards of professionalism in more than 12 years as the inner-city district's athletic director, has resigned to become athletic director of the Dallas ISD.
Garza said Tuesday night his resignation is effective Aug. 8, and that he starts his new job on Aug. 11.
"I leave with very mixed emotions," Garza said. "I have a lot of friends that I've made in San Antonio over the past 12 years. But at the same time, I'm excited about starting over and trying to make a difference somewhere else. It was just an opportunity that presented itself to me, and I just couldn't turn it down."
Garza, 62, said he was offered the job last Thursday and accepted it Monday afternoon.
Garza took the reins of the San Antonio Independent School District's athletic department on March 25, 2002 after stints as a head football coach and athletic director at Edcouch-Elsa and Pharr-San Juan-Alamo in the Rio Grande Valley. He has been a full-time athletic director since 1991.
"Working in the SAISD was a wonderful experience for me," Garza said. "I learned so much in my role as an athletic administrator in this district. I will forever be indebted for the opportunity they gave me, and I hopefully made a difference in the lives of these kids."
Born and raised in Edinburg, Garza was the first Hispanic athletic director of the SAISD.
The Dallas Independent School District has 22 high schools and 31 middle schools, compared to nine high schools and 16 middle schools in the SAISD.
"There's no doubt that it's a big job," Garza said. "It's going to be a big challenge, but I feel that I'm up to it. It's just something I feel I can do, and I want to do it at this time in my life. I want to see if I can be in charge of a large district like that."
Garza will succeed Jeff Johnson, who was among three DISD athletic department employees fired last month as a result of a recruiting investigation.
Garza will be remembered for overseeing major renovations to venerable Alamo Stadium and adjacent Alamo Convocation Center the past 18 months. Work on the Convocation Center was completed late last year, and Alamo Stadium is on schedule to be ready for the start of the high school football season next month.
"Getting Alamo Stadium and the Convocation Center was a big accomplishment for SAISD," Garza said. "I know how revered that stadium is and what the history behind it means to San Antonio. It's going to be a proud day for SAISD when it's rededicated in August.
"We – and I say we because there were a lot of people involved – made the best improvements we could with the money we had. It's going to be beautiful. It's going to be gorgeous. It will have a big scoreboard, a nice turf field, a new track, nice locker rooms."
While Garza said it's been gratifying to see the upgrading of the district's athletic facilities during his watch, he expressed more satisfaction in changes that helped the department function more professionally and efficiently.
"What I'm most proud of, the accomplishments I feel the best about, is that I think we brought a sense of accountability to our department," he said. "We always strived to be the best. We tried to hire the best coaches and be organized and structured. We spent a lot of time developing leadership in our coaches.
"Because in a district this big, you can't do it just from the athletic office. It has to be done at the campus level. I think the leadership we helped bring to our (athletic) coordinators and our coaches and the accountability we put in place, and all the small, new innovative ideas that we put in, just made us a lot better. It made us be a little more respected in San Antonio."
Garza was highly visible in the SAISD community and worked well with other administrators in the community.
"I'm really proud of the relationship the athletic department built with our principals," he said. "Before, it seemed like everybody was on an island in their own silo. It was just a bunch of individuals wanting to do their own thing. We now have a great rapport with the principals. They call us more now than they ever have. They're more involved in all aspects in the hiring of the coaches.
"I think our coaches feel really good saying they're SAISD coaches. The level of respect and the level of professionalism just grew in the last 12 years. That's not to say we didn't have that before I got here. I found a lot of good things in place when I took over the department. The (SAISD) Sports Complex is a great facility. We just tried to raise the bar a little bit in every aspect of what we do."
Garza graduated from Edinburg High School in 1970 and played baseball at Ranger Junior College and Pan American University. He earned his degree from Pan Am, now Texas-Pan American, in 1975 and began his coaching career at a junior high in San Manuel, about 20 miles north of Edinburg, that year.
Garza was inducted into the Texas High School Athletic Directors Association's Hall of Honor in 2012, and served as the group's president during the 2010-11 school year. He is also a member of the University Interscholastic League's State Executive Committee, and was inducted into the Rio Grande Valley Hall of Fame in 1996.
Garza and his wife, Marissa, have three grown children and four grandchildren.
"We'll always love San Antonio," Garza said. "It's a tough place to leave."