TUCSON, Arizona — When Pima College discontinued football, dozens of Tucson area student-athletes were left without a place to play.
"When Pima shut down, I had over 200 emails from kids saying how much they love me and I’m a father-figure to them," said Christian Vitale, who was Pima's special teams coordinator.
"I never thought of myself as a head coach," added Vitale.
The Hohokam Junior College Athletic conference thought of him.
It’s a non-profit football league made up of college students who otherwise would be playing for the Aztecs, or the Maricopa County schools.
"We’re pushing education first," said Vitale. "And as for the football, we’ll take care of that as coaches on the field."
Assuming they can play during the ongoing pandemic, it will the Hohokam’s league’s second year, and Vitale’s first season with the Sidewinders.
"I think it’s fantastic," said Jim Monaco, Pima College's acting athletic director.
Monaco was the Aztecs football coach when the program was discontinued. And Vitale worked under Monaco at Pima.
"He never ever lets a kid just flounder away," said Monaco. "He loves them. He cares for them. And, he works very hard to make sure those kids succeed."
Vitale, who once played at Sabino High, says he’ll have nine assistant coaches and accredited trainers. Players do have to spend two thousand dollars a season to participate.
"We’re really focused on getting the community to buy into this," said Vitale. "Junior College is back."