Thursday April 20, 2017
The Vermont Principals’ Association (VPA) will induct Paul Jordan into the 2017 VPA Hall of Fame next month.
A retired coach, teacher and advocate of youth, Jordan’s impact on South Burlington High School (SBHS) students and athletes is legendary. One former player referred to him as the Lombardi of high school football, and who could argue with the results? The 82-year-old South Burlington resident led the Rebels to five state championships, the first of which was an undefeated 1970 team in just his second year as head coach. He finished his football coaching career with a 117-41-1 record over 19 seasons, and also led the Vermont Shrine team in 1977 and 1985. His statistical success is undeniable and is no doubt the reason for his inevitable induction into the VPA Hall of Fame, but his influence as a coach, teacher, and mentor goes far beyond wins and losses and even state championship banners. Winning was a consequence of coaching the right way. To his players, he wasn’t just a football coach; he was THE coach.
Jordan was a three sport high school athlete in Bar Harbor, Maine, before attending Springfield College where he played both football and baseball. Having been positively influenced by coaches in his life, he knew he wanted to have that same impact on others. Soon after college, he became an OCS Naval Officer stationed in Norfolk, Virginia and served on a destroyer in the Pacific. He returned to Springfield College to attain his Master’s degree and then got a job working in the Catskill Mountains where he taught and coached at a regional high school. Initially he was the head basketball coach, line coach for football, and JV baseball coach, but over time he became the athletic director (AD) and head football coach, leading an undefeated championship team in 1964. A budget issue in 1968 forced him to look elsewhere and a University of Vermont (UVM) connection brought him to the Green Mountain State where he would eventually be hired by South Burlington to teach physical education and coach football.
Jordan’s first SBHS season was in 1969. Former UVM AD Rick Farnham was his first coaching hire. Pat O’Reilly came soon after. The 1969 team finished 4-4, doubling the win total from the previous two seasons combined. The highlight of the first year was a 26-6 victory over St. Johnsbury; only a year earlier SBHS had been defeated by the Hilltoppers, 65-0.
After a full season under Jordan’s leadership, the younger Rebel players were ready to step up and the fall of 1970 ended with an undefeated season and a state championship. Two years later, the Rebels locked up another title. Coaches like Don Picard, Don Maddox and Gary Iverson played crucial roles in turning around the football program, as did players like former SBHS AD Mike O’Day and Jake and Ray Leggett. “The community took a great deal of pride, so we were trying to ride on that,” Jordan said.
The success kept coming for the Rebels with another state championship in 1974 and after a move to Division 1 in 1975, South Burlington continued to pile up wins. Though it would be 1979 before the Rebels won their first Division 1 (D1) title, they earned a pair of runner-up finishes and fielded highly competitive D1 teams. Jordan’s final title came in 1982. At its peak, the SBHS football program had grown to 135 players, six coaches, and three levels of teams.
Jordan retired from South Burlington in 1990, but left coaching after the ’88 season so he could watch his son play college football at the University of New Hampshire. He also spent time coaching softball at South Burlington, coached his sons in youth baseball, and served on the city’s recreation committee. Upon retiring from coaching high school football, he was brought in to be an assistant at Middlebury College where he would coach for five years.
Upon his induction, Jordan will join an elite group of coaches, athletes, and administrators in the VPA Hall of Fame. “I’m very grateful, and honored. Jordan said about the upcoming induction, adding, “It makes me realize how many people I owe that helped make that happen, including players, coaches, and the community.”
Inductees have distinguished themselves through service and achievement in programs or activities sponsored by the VPA, in addition to exemplifying the highest standards of sportsmanship, ethical conduct, and character. Jordan said about the upcoming induction, adding, “It makes me realize how many people I owe that helped make that happen, including players, coaches, and the community.”
Jordan states that coaching was never about winning, but instead about educating young men to be good people and productive members of society. “We taught our kids to play hard, act right, and handle themselves well in victory and defeat.” Building strong relationships with his players was also an important element of his coaching style. Jordan reports he loves seeing people he taught and coached. He still receives letters from former players thanking him for all of the lessons they learned from him.
Though he hasn’t been coaching in any official capacity for over 20 years, his influence is still highly visible. Joe Arcovitch, a 1974 SBHS graduate, remembers the impact Coach Jordan had on his players. “He was like a father figure to me,” says Arcovitch. “He was my teacher, coach, and mentor. He was a man you wanted to work hard for and leave everything you had on the field. Tough but fair.”
Coach Jordan coached his players how to treat people with respect, the power of teamwork, and the life lessons of football. The short term effects of his coaching resulted in state championships, but the long term success of the program he built in South Burlington is evident by the type of people his former players have become.
Coach Jordan left his mark on countless numbers of high school students. One thing he liked to say to his players was to “pass it on.” He wanted players to pass on the lessons they learned to others and, as a result, was able to maximize and enhance his program’s influence on players and the community. Now, his former players are reaching their 40s, 50s, and even 60s, but they have not forgotten about their Coach or his lessons. In fact, they are passing on those same lessons to their children and grandchildren; lessons they learned many years ago while playing football for the South Burlington Rebels. One of his most important lessons was “It’s not worth doing it if you don’t put everything into it,” Arcovitch remembered.
Congratulations Coach Jordan, and on behalf of the thousands of student-athletes you worked with, thanks for putting everything you had into it. Pass it on.
The VPA Hall of Fame Class of 2017 Induction Ceremony is Friday, May 5, at the Capital Plaza Hotel and Conference Center in Montpelier. A reception begins at 5 p.m. with a banquet and the ceremony following. Contact Mallori LaPointe at the VPA office for reservations at 802-229-0547. For more information, visit www.vpaonline.org.
SOURCE: Drew Gordon, Correspondent