The brand-new Sherbeck Field at Fullerton College in Fullerton, Calif. (Courtesy of Fullerton College)
More than a century after establishing what developed into an ultra-successful football program, Fullerton College is set to host the first on-campus game in school history on Sept. 2.
As difficult as it might seem to believe, considering Fullerton has been playing football since 1916, the season-opening matchup against Santa Barbara City College at brand-new Sherbeck Field will be the first-ever home game not held at a site elsewhere in Orange County.
As will be the case with each season’s home opener, the game is being billed as the Sherbeck Football Classic, in honor of former longtime Coach Hal Sherbeck.
Sherbeck, who died in 2014, coached the Hornets from 1961 to 1991, led Fullerton to national championships in 1965, 1967, and 1983, and retired as the then-winningest coach in community college history with a 241–70 record.
For much of Sherbeck’s tenure, before televised college football had really become a thing, Fullerton played its home games at what was then called Anaheim Stadium, often before crowds approaching 20,000. The Hornets have also played “home” games over the years at Glover Stadium in Anaheim, Cal State Fullerton, and in more recent times, at Fullerton High School and Yorba Linda High School.
“We have five national titles and I think 27 conference titles, but as an institution, as a program, we’ve never had a place that we could truly call our own, and we have that now,” Fullerton Coach Garrett Campbell told The Epoch Times. “It’s pretty special knowing that we’ll walk out of the locker room right onto the field.”
A statue of Fullerton College's former longtime Coach Hal Sherbeck on campus in Fullerton, Calif. (Courtesy of Fullerton College)
The proximity of Fullerton High, which is literally across the street, as well as the availability of other sites relatively nearby, primarily explains why Fullerton College never previously had its own football venue, Athletic Director Scott Giles told The Epoch Times.
“Being on campus now, our students can be more engaged,” Mr. Giles said. “We can have more activities, more special events, and have alumni come back to campus. There is tremendous excitement from our student-athletes, our coaches, our staff, and our athletic trainers.”
The logistical advantages alone will be huge compared to utilizing another facility.
“It’s no fun being a renter,” Mr. Giles said. “You don’t have keys to anything. You’re always waiting for someone to come and open the gates. You’re always worried that the game attendant won’t show up on time. Trust me, we’ve had all these issues. It’s nice to have ownership, where you have control.”
The process of getting approval for the project from the North Orange County Community College District Board of Trustees was lengthy, primarily because of opposition from some segments of the community. Paring down original plans for a 4,400-seat facility to 2,200 helped assuage concerns about increased traffic, while modern technology all but eliminates residual light outside the field itself.
Plans call for the facility to also be used by soccer, track, and perhaps lacrosse teams from Fullerton College, Rosary High, and local clubs, but there will not be high school football games or rock concerts, Mr. Giles said.
The new venue is on the same site as a former practice field that bore Sherbeck’s name following his retirement. The addition of artificial turf and a new fieldhouse resulted in a ceremony honoring the former coach in 2010. Attendees included two of Sherbeck’s prize pupils, former NFL quarterback Steve DeBerg, and longtime Coach Jim Fassel, who led the New York Giants to the Super Bowl that capped the 2000 NFL season.
Fullerton College's former longtime Coach Hal Sherbeck (front) poses for a group photo at a 2010 ceremony at the college in Fullerton, Calif. He is surrounded by (L-R) former San Jose State and NFL quarterback Steve DeBerg, who played for Sherbeck at Fullerton College; the late John Pease, who played and was an assistant coach at Fullerton College and later was a longtime NFL assistant coach; and Jim Fassel, who played and was an assistant coach at Fullerton College and went on to coach the New York Giants to a Super Bowl berth following the 2000 season. (Courtesy of Fullerton College)
Now, with the addition of lights, stands, a press box, and a playing surface featuring alternating shades of gray artificial turf, Sherbeck Field is game-ready. Fittingly, the first contest will be against Santa Barbara, the same school that provided the opposition for Sherbeck’s final game, a 45–13 Fullerton victory in the 1991 Potato Bowl in Bakersfield.
It all represents something of a storybook moment for Mr. Campbell, a former Fullerton player who had served as a Hornets ball boy when his father, Dick Campbell, was an assistant coach under Sherbeck. Mr. Campbell’s older brother, Greg, was on Sherbeck’s final team, while his younger brother, Gavin, also later played for Fullerton.
“It’s really special,” Mr. Campbell said. “There is a lot of buzz on campus and in the community. This week has been a little hectic. A lot of people want to be involved. All of a sudden, I’m getting calls saying ‘Hey, we’re having this event and we’d like you to be there.’ We haven’t had this kind of excitement before.”
Festivities are scheduled to begin with an alumni and VIP reception at 4 p.m., followed by the game at 6. Fullerton College students with current IDs will be admitted free.
(L-R) Fullerton College's former coaches Hal Sherbeck, Gene Murphy, and Tim Byrnes, as well as the current coach, Garrett Campbell. (Courtesy of Fullerton College)