Last Friday morning, Channel 3 went to Cesar Chavez High School out in Laveen to air bits of an indoor pep rally for the school's fine football team.
The on-air talent handed her microphone to head Coach Jim Rattay, who tried his best (keep your day job as long as they let you, coach) to describe a mock play run by his offense (who were wearing their game jerseys and shorts).
That night, Chavez beat Ironwood High, running its record to 6-2, good enough for 4th place in the state's all-important 5A-Division One power rankings.
But on Monday, the Arizona Interscholastic Association announced it had placed Cesar Chavez (the school, not the iconic, late union leader in the photo) on probation, meaning the squad will not get to compete in the upcoming playoffs.
The Cliff Notes reason: Jim Rattay violated rules against trying to recruit players from other schools.
No doubt, the guy's a good coach, having won seven state championships in Arizona and Ohio over his long career, But what an awful jacket he also has earned along the way.
In a 1999 quarterfinal playoff game against Mesa Red Mountain, Rattay called timeout with just seconds left in the game and his Tempe Desert Vista team ahead 17-0. His son John then threw a touchdown pass. After the game (and a near fight between the opposing coaches), Red Mountain Coach Jim Jones said about Desert Ridge to Arizona Republic prep writer Richard Obert, "They're a good football team. They had a great recruiting year, and you can put that in print."
Over the years, Rattay has found himself suspended without pay for 10n days from heading the physical education department at Desert Vista High for making nasty remarks to students (he filed a lawsuit against the Tempe Union High School District and temporarily won his job back).
Eventually, the district fired him, despite a continually sterling record. More controversy dogged him at his next gig as Phoenix Christian's coach -- but he won there, too, before moving over to Cesar Chavez before last season.
Rattay is reviled by most of his coaching peers, and not because he usually wins more than them:
To many, he represents everything that is bad about high-sports sports -- especially the emphasis on winning at any cost and the holier-than-thou attitude that Rattay projects as a self-proclaimed devout Christian who is doing the Lord's work.
For sure, Coach Rattay and his Cesar Chavez program is the antithesis of what's happening over at Phoenix Carl Hayden High, a down-in-the-dumps program that New Times readers can read about in our upcoming edition. The story is called "Friday Night Frights."
The Falcons and their coach, Cleveland Dansby, may lose time and again, but they are in the game for all the right reasons, and they certainly don't cheat.
That said, it's a shame that Cesar Chavez's seniors now won't have the opportunity to try to attain their goal, which was to get to the Arizona high school football playoffs and win the whole darned thing.
It's a classic case of hubris.
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