Records can always be broken, but no one will ever take away the milestone achievement when longtime head football coach Herb Meyer won the 300th game of his career while coaching at El Camino High in Oceanside in the early 2000s. He became the first football coach in state history to reach 300 career wins and it doesn’t matter who else has done it since then. He’ll always be the first.
Meyer, who also will always go down as the first coach in state history to win 100 games at two different schools, died this week at age 87 while on vacation in Washington. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, he was still going to Friday night games at El Camino as recently as last season.
“The news of Herb’s death is a shocker,” El Camino Athletic Director Blake Moorman said Tuesday to the Union-Tribune. “Late last season, he was in the coaches’ office, drawing Xs and Os on the board, helping the guys get ready for a playoff game. He was a treasure.”
Meyer began his career at Oceanside High (where he also went, Class of 1953) in 1959. His teams there won two CIF San Diego Section titles and went 133-44-6 through 1975 when he switched to open the new school in town at El Camino. He built the Wildcats into a section perennial contender until retiring after the 2003 season. At El Camino, his teams compiled a 226-104-9 record with eight section titles.
When we were first getting into compiling state coaching records in the 1980s, Carson’s Gene Vollnogle (also now deceased) was the winningest coach in state history in football. He retired in 1990 with 289 wins. Meyer moved past Vollnogle into the No. 1 position a few years later and stayed in the No. 1 spot with his final total of 338 wins until it was surpassed in 2005 by Marijon Ancich (then coaching at St. Paul of Santa Fe Springs).
When Ancich retired for the first time after the 2005 season (he came back to coach the Swordsmen again for the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons), he held the record until the first game of the 2009 season when it was broken by Bob Ladouceur of Concord De La Salle. Lad went on to coach through the 2012 season and retired with the record sitting at 399 wins. Ancich is still No. 2 at 360.
We were fortunate one day at one of our early Student Sports/Cal-Hi Sports events in the late 1990s to speak with both Meyer and Vollnogle about their coaching careers. As they stood under a canopy, they both felt very fortunate to have had the careers they did, but spent most of their time talking about De La Salle. “That guy is going to leave all of us in the dust,” Meyer said of Ladouceur.
On another day when Meyer brought a talented team to a summer 7-on-7 event at University of the Pacific in Stockton, he couldn’t stop raving about the talented twosome he had of Bryant Westbrook and Michael Booker. He was right. Westbrook and Booker later became both first round picks in the same NFL Draft. How many coaches can say they ever coached two guys like that on the same team?
Since he retired, Meyer has received multiple honors and awards. He was the first football coach from California inducted into the National High School Sports Hall of Fame in 1995 and he’s in the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He’ll also be in the new California High School Football Hall of Fame (coming soon to the Rose Bowl) and in 2010 the Southern California Football Coaches Association renamed its Distinguished Service Award in Herb’s name.
We at Cal-Hi Sports also would like to extend our condolences and best wishes to Herb’s family and to all of those in San Diego and around the nation who knew him well.