Lipold changes lives with athletics

Tony Lipold was named Athletic Director of the Year by his peers (Shannon Patrick)

John Franz

In the hallways, a person may overhear that community college sports are not important. But try telling that to Saddleback College’s Athletic Director, Tony Lipold. Through athletics, we change lives, and Tony also changes lives. This year, Lipold was the recipient of the highest honor by his peers: he was named Athletic Director of the Year.

But let’s start where it all began. Lipold ran track and played basketball in high school and also played basketball in college. He then got his teaching credential at California State Fullerton.

Lipold came from a broken home. In fourth grade his coaches and teachers saw something special in him. His past coaches are a big part of his life, he still keeps in contact with some of his high school coaches today. He was the youngest varsity coach at the time in 1979, when at age 25 he held the head coach position at Bolsa Grande High School in Garden Grove.

The demographics were different back then. The top three teams in each conference used to advance whereas today it seems like every one advances. Lipold led his team to a 20-7 record good enough for third place. He coached for 12 years, and then became a high school administrator at Edison High School in Huntington Beach. His ultimate goal was to be a high school principal.

But it was not what he thought it would be. Long Beach City College came calling in 1989, and he became their basketball coach for 11 years. After that, he ended up here at Saddleback. Lipold was a big part of the name Commission on Athletics transforming to the California Community College Athletic Association.

“A commission sounds bad, they investigate the Kennedy assassination,” Lipold said. “Community college does not get the respect that it should. We do so much for the athletes, we get the ones that need some help, and we do that for them so they can go on to transfer. It’s all about the support from me, the coaches and the athletes.”

Community college sports are self regulated. There is no NCAA supervising what is going on out there. Lipold’s responsibility is to make sure the athletes go to class and get good grades. The support the whole athletic department has for its players is huge and that is what a good program is about. Winning is always nice but it is not the most important thing.

“Integrity: it’s my job. I report what is going on and do the job the right way,” Lipold said. “Unfortunately, not everyone does that. I coach the coaches, and I supervise. I do what is best for the programs and the coaches are my friends. I make the harsh decisions but we all have the support of one another.”

Perhaps the biggest legacy Lipold left was six years ago, the theory of the nontraditional season where sports meet all year round. Lipold believed you need the constant contact with your players. The rule took him six years to be a reality, but it became a reality in the end.

Lipold has a new rule in the works as of now: that the entire United States be open for recruitment, except California. This would mean that Saddleback cannot recruit within the state. So new legislation was offered so that schools can recruit in state. As of last spring, Lipold was the only affirmative vote on the law, but he says he will not stop trying and will bring it up again.

“It only makes sense that we can recruit in California if we can recruit anywhere else,” Lipold said. “With the Internet now it’s already here.”

We change lives in athletics. Through being a part of a team, we teach students how to be accountable, handle adversity, be a team player, and sacrifice. We also teach having commitment to studies and commitment for the common good of the team.

“I am thrilled my son T.J. Lipold can experience this here at Saddleback. He wants a career in the field of athletics as well. I tell my son every day to make sure you love what you do for the rest of your life. Then the rest is just icing on the cake,” Lipold said. “There is not a day I wake up and dread going to work. I love my job. Sometimes I am here at 7 a.m. till 10 at night but I just love being a part of this. I never dread it, I enjoy it.”

Lipold has met a lot of people and knows a coach at every community college in the state. He has earned the respect and admiration of his peers, which is shown in full light now that he has won the honor of Athletic Director of the Year.

Lipold’s enthusiasm is shown in his smile, and how nice he is to everybody he meets. He truly bleeds cardinal and gold. We are lucky to have someone at the head of the athletic department who truly cares and handles his job with such grace and enjoyment.