FAIRFIELD — In many ways the Sac-Joaquin Section bears little resemblance to what it looked like when Pete Saco took over as its commissioner in 1993.
After 21 years of growth and unprecedented changes, Saco is retiring. He made the announcement at an SJS Board of Managers meeting, Wednesday, though the news wasn’t made official until Thursday.
His final month will be August, when he will oversee the induction of the Section’s third Hall of Fame class.
“I have been truly blessed to work for one of the finest athletic organizations in the country,” Saco said in a release. “Our Board of Managers has been very supportive of the initiatives that I felt were important for the students within the Sac-Joaquin Section and the entire state. I have been very fortunate to have a great staff that was willing to carry out the vision that was adopted and supported by our Board of Managers and Executive Committee for high school athletes within our section.”
Saco is the Sac-Joaquin Section’s third commissioner, following James Cave (1942-1968) and Clark Coover (1968-1993).
“The direction Pete Saco has offered the Sac-Joaquin Section is unparalleled,” said Debbi Holmerud, SJS president and Lincoln of Stockton principal. “He has been a voice for equality for all students and schools and been willing to make difficult decisions when that equity has been challenged. He has led by example, held high expectations of himself and those around him and made things happen. He will be missed.”
During Saco’s time on the job, the section grew from 115 to 195 schools and expanded from three divisions to its current seven division format. Part of that growth was the formation of the Solano County Athletic Conference in 2003.
Other changes and programs brought about during Saco’s tenure include:
n The establishment of a Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame, which has inducted two classes.
n The establishment of the Dale Lacky Scholarship Program, which has given more than $400,000 in scholarships.
n The introduction of Foundation Games in volleyball and basketball, which help fund the Lacky scholarships.
n Some of his proposals, such as the state football playoffs and the open division in basketball playoffs, have become state fixtures.
n The Section was the first to introduce the “sit-out period” for transfers, which is now a statewide rule.
“I think he’s done a great job,” said Ron Thompson, former Fairfield High athletic director and boys basketball coach. “He’s got the Section right where it should be, in the heart of things. I think he’s done a good job to selling our Section at the state level. He’s always been very active at the state level. He’s been very good for our section as a PR guys. I think sells our section very well.”
Saco said that he and his wife of 34 years, Barbara, have big plans for his free time.
“Barbara and I will get to do some traveling, play some golf, spend some extra time with family and friends and take in a few more Giants games. It has been a great ride.”
Reach Paul Farmer at 425-4646, ext. 264, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pfarmerdr.