Doug Brooks 1928-2015

Douglas Vernon “Buddy” Brooks, who as Ontario High School’s first football and wrestling coach prompted the Jaguars to a series of championships from the first year the campus opened, has died.
On the Ontario High campus, Brooks was an instantaneous icon, creating an identity for the high school that emulated his own personal ethos of intense preparation, physical vigor and quiet and determined effort toward reaching goals.
Born in Minnesota in 1928, Brooks was the son of Richard and Ruth Brooks. He was a standout on the Anoka High Football Team, playing as a running back on offense and linebacker on defense. Brooks was also an accomplished wrestler and 100 yard dash state champion sprinter. He attended the University of Minnesota his freshman year of college and transferred to the University of Nevada at Reno his sophomore year, where he majored in history and physical education and competed on both the football and wrestling teams. While at the University of Reno, he worked for casino developer Bill Harrah on his ranch.
Brooks enlisted in the Marines after his sophomore year, serving during the Korean War, then returned to the University of Nevada to complete his education while competing for the Wolfpack. While yet in the Marines, he started a family with his wife, Ruth, eventually raising eight children.
Having relocated to Southern California in 1956 in the city of Rialto, he taught school and acquired an orange grove. Brooks taught initially at Colton High, then moved onto Pacific High, later to Norte Vista, Upland, and finally Ontario. As Ontario High School was nearing completion in 1967, he landed a job with the Chaffey Union High School District and was hired as a physical education instructor as well as the football coach and wrestling coach at the campus upon its inauguration.
In the fall of 1967, the Jaguars had a disappointing 2-7 record. Brooks redoubled his effort over the next year. In 1968, the team’s first year in the Hacienda League, which consisted of schools with student bodies of 2,000 students or less, Ontario High became a gridiron powerhouse. Led by quarterback Jackie McWilliams and running back Claudie Watson, the team captured the Hacienda League championship that year. The team repeated the feat in 1969, 1970 and 1971.
The school’s wrestling program was even more impressive, as the Jaguars, coached by Brooks, were league wrestling champions each of the first ten years of Ontario High’s existence. So dominating were the wrestling teams Brooks coached that after four years, the California Interscholastic Federation increased the number of wrestlers from the Hacienda League admitted into the state wrestling championship series from one to two wrestlers per weight class. Brooks coached two individual CIF champions during his tenure as wrestling coach, Steve Gardner and Bill Hasselrig.
As a football coach, Brooks sought out powerful, agile, quick and speedy athletes, subjecting them to brutal and exhausting drills such as Burma Road, bull-in-the-ring, extensive sessions on the seven-man blocking sled and exercises in blocking technique carried out in a wooden frame blocking chute he had constructed of two-by-fours which inculcated in offensive linemen the necessity of staying low to the ground. But as intensive as was his emphasis on the physical element of the sport, Brooks was equally insistent on the teamwork aspect of performance on the gridiron, requiring that his offensive players learn a comprehensive but simple formation and execution scheme for plays based upon two basic configurations with interchangeable alignments left and right, which he drilled into his players until they had mastered it by rote. He was equally insistent that his defensive squads orient themselves to two basic defensive schemes, one with six down lineman and two linebackers and the other with five down lineman and two linebackers, both of which were oriented against running offenses. This approach worked splendidly early on but proved less successful in later years when other teams in the Hacienda League became more pass-oriented.
Clyde Francisco was the first athletic director at Ontario High. He said, “I hired Doug in 1967 to be both the football coach and wrestling coach, as he was an expert in both subjects. The first year we were in the Arrowhead League with such teams as Big Bear and Webb. The football team did alright that first year, considering everything was just getting started. The second year we were placed into the Hacienda League and we won the championship, which surprised everybody. That was spectacular progress. The year we were put into the Hacienda League, we played Sierra Vista. They shut our offense down in the first quarter and scored 26 points. With the score 26-0 in the fist quarter, it made everybody think the game was shot. But Doug regrouped and we scored 52 unanswered points in the second, third and fourth quarters and won 52-26. The irony was that Sierra Vista had for its coach one of the players Doug had coached three or four years before that.“
Francisco said of Brooks, “He was a tremendous wrestling coach. From the start his teams were league champions. In 1969 we sponsored a wrestling tournament at Ontario High and put on a real show that Saturday. Several of the coaches whose teams participated told me personally it was the best run tournament they had ever gone to.“
Francisco said, “I left Ontario High in 1972 to go to Chaffey, but Doug stayed at Ontario for several more years. My recollection was every year he was there the wrestling team was league champion. Doug was one of the finest men I ever knew and an outstanding coach. When I heard of his passing, it saddened me greatly. It was a privilege to know him and work with him.”
Upon moving to Ontario from Rialto, Brooks and his wife invested in a candy store located on Euclid Avenue roughly a half mile from the high school, which his wife operated and which became something of an attraction among locals.
Despite his quiet-spoken demeanor, Brooks had moments of animation, such as the aforementioned instructional sessions with his football players and wrestlers or in the heat of competition. Some of the students or student athletes who knew him primarily as a physical education teacher or coach were astounded to witness a marked personality change in him on those rare occasions he was utilized by the Ontario High administration as a substitute teacher during the absence of history department faculty members. In the context of the history classroom, he engaged in oftentimes deep and expansive lectures and dialogue on the subjects of both world and American history.
A remarkable athlete in his own right with an impressive degree of general muscularity to begin with, one summer he set about excavating for a foundation of his home in Virginia City, Nevada, using nothing more than a shovel to do the digging. By the end of the summer, the foundation was completed and he had taken on the physique of Hercules.
In 1979, after all eight of his children had graduated from Ontario High, Brooks departed from Ontario High School, the city of Ontario and Southern California altogether, selling the orange grove he owned and moving to Carson City, Nevada, where he became a football and wrestling coach at Carson City High School. There he built an extremely successful wrestling program, with Carson City High winning the Division 4A championships for nine straight years, from 1984 to 1992.
He retired in 1993, having had a profound lifelong impact on hundreds of athletes he had guided, an influence that permeated beyond the field of sports to the principles of discipline and the application of methodology in the world of business and other arenas of life. In Lovelock, Nevada, he had purchased a 600-acre ranch on which he grew alfalfa and raised cattle. It was there that he died on August 16, 2015, at the age of 87, with his wife of 64 years, Ruth, by his side. He is survived by Ruth; his sister, Gen; 8 children: Peggy, Tom, Heidi, Holly, Doug, Dan, John Henry and Jane; 27 grandchildren: and 33 great grandchildren. -M.G.

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