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Mike Navarro Stadium honors Sandburg coach


Sandburg High School’s football stadium is being named Mike Navarro Stadium, in honor of a record-holding alumnus who went on to become Sandburg’s winningest football coach during his 31-year career at the high school.

“If anyone exemplifies what it means to be an Eagle, it is Mike Navarro,” said Patrick O’Sullivan, a member of the District 230 school board that unanimously voted last Thursday to name the stadium for Coach Navarro.

He holds the all-time best career winning percentage as head football coach in Sandburg’s history.  He earned the Coach of the Year Award in 2001 and was inducted into the Illinois Football Coaches Hall of Fame in 2007, his last year as coach.

An official naming ceremony is being planned for the fall, at the start of the football season.

O’Sullivan, who graduated from Sandburg in 1988, recalled having Navarro as a gym teacher as well as a football coach. Navarro is a 1969 graduate of the school at 13300 S. LaGrange Road, where he went on to teach and coach for 31 years.

“Mike Navarro always pushed to get the best out of me as a student and player, even though I didn’t know I had it in me. He was a terrific teacher and coach and someone very influential in my life,” said O’Sullivan, who was a member of the committee that was put together to consider naming the stadium before bringing it to the board.

Another former student, Thornwood High School English teacher and assistant football coach Josh Folsom offered similar thoughts about Navarro in a statement. “Coach Navarro pushed me to become a successful, confident, competent member of society. He gave me confidence when I had none, he taught me strength when all I knew was weakness …Coach taught me that anything I wanted in life was there for the taking, if I was willing to work for it.”

Among his many accomplishments as a Sandburg Eagle, Navarro set a record on the football field his senior year that still stands today, scoring 22 touchdowns in a single season. He is also the second all-time rushing yard leader for the Eagles, with 1,163.yards.

He compiled a record of 34-0-1 during his four-year high school football career, with the tie coming in his junior year. On top of his football accomplishments, Navarro took second place in state in wrestling and was a member of the National Honor Society.

At the University of lllinois, which he attended on a football scholarship, Navarro was ranked the 10th all-time rusher and earned the Bruce Copel Award for Outstanding Courage and Perseverance. He is currently ranked 32ndin all-time yardage for the University of Illinois. His collegiate football career was cut short by a knee injury after playing only two full seasons.

Navarro’s first job after college was a teaching and coaching position at Lincoln-Way Central High School, where his freshman football team recorded an 18-0 record over two seasons.

In 1976, Navarro returned to his alma mater as a physical education teacher.  His 31-year career at Sandburg included two years as assistant sophomore football coach with a record of 8-8-2. He then was head sophomore football coach for 14 years with a record of 101-21-4. And then he was named head varsity football coach, posting a record of 73-28 over nine years.

Retired Sandburg High School teacher and athletic trainer John Wator submitted the request to name the stadium, saying Navarro is “an Eagle who came back to the nest to lead by example and give back to the school which helped mold him into the man he has become.”

“Naming facilities like this not a common practice with us,” said Supt. James Gay at the meeting last week, noting this is the just the second time it has happened in District 230. The first was in 2013, when naming of Andrew High School’s baseball field after Frank Ganser, a coach whose teams at Andrew won 684 games during his 29-year career.

. “We didn’t take this lightly,” said board President Richard Nogal.

In addition to O’Sullivan, the stadium-naming committee members were Assistant Superintendent John Lavelle and Deb Baker, principal of Sandburg.

“He has truly made an impact on the student athletes he coached,” said Baker.

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