HAYWARD -- When Brian Schott played wide receiver for the Moreau High Mariners in the 1970s, the football field, which flooded in the rain, was riddled with gopher holes, and he says things haven't improved in the decades since.
"On our away games, the fields weren't any better than ours," he said. But many of those other schools, such as De La Salle in Concord, have replaced their fields. And now Moreau is raising money to upgrade its athletic field, which will cost $5million. It is calling its fundraising effort Campaign for Champions.
The heavily used grass field has bare patches; the dirt track is uneven. And the bleachers have seen better days, said Tom Hyland, Moreau's director of institutional advancement.
"The old wooden bleachers are deteriorating. They're safe, but need to be replaced," he said.
The school has raised slightly more than half of the money it needs, with $1.5million of that coming from what Hyland called "a large regional foundation."
"If we raise all the money we need in donations and pledges by end of June, we plan to be open for the 2014-15 season," Hyland said.
In addition to more seating, the upgraded field will have artificial all-weather sports turf, with better drainage; energy-efficient lighting; and a new scoreboard. The field will be used by both the football and soccer teams.
"The new field will cut down on maintenance. We now have to manually line the field and the dirt track. It's very labor-intensive," Hyland said.
The old field was built in 1965, with the sod being laid by the brothers who founded the school, along with students and parents. "The brothers relied very heavily on parental involvement to keep cost of tuition down," Schott said.
Because of the poor drainage, the current field, which is at the base of a hill, is prone to flooding. "From a football's player standpoint, that was great. Football players love to play in the mud; it makes you tough," Schott said. "But it also can cause injuries; you don't have good footing."
Upgrading the field is part of the school's master plan to renovate its facilities. In 2007, the entrance was rebuilt and the library expanded. Classrooms and laboratories were also upgraded, Hyland said.
New seating and carpeting was added to the school's Teves Theatre in 2010, and the Ivaldi Student Center was renovated last summer.
Schott, who graduated in 1977, and other alumni who played football under Coach Al Vermeil are trying to raise $500,000 to get naming rights to the new field in honor of their coach.
The field that Schott played on may not have been the best, but the Mariners were a powerhouse under Vermeil, who coached the football team from 1973 through 1979.
Vermeil is the only strength coach to have world championship rings from both the NFL and the NBA: He was hired by the San Francisco 49ers after coaching at Moreau, and then later joined the Chicago Bulls basketball team.
Vermeil started coaching at Moreau when Schott was a freshman. "He came in as an old-school teacher, and made everybody on the team cut their hair, which was not popular in the '70s. His first year, all but 21 players quit the varsity team. He brought in discipline; students had to say 'Yes, sir, no sir.'"
A few freshmen players, including Schott, were moved up to junior varsity. "We would suit up with varsity so it looked like there was more of us on the team," he said.
But Vermeil turned out a winning team, one that handily beat De La Salle.
Although Vermeil could coach boys, he wasn't as successful when he had to take over the girls' P.E. class so that instructor could teach drivers education, Schott said.
"It was football for three weeks, and volleyball for three weeks. In volleyball, the girls would scream, and he'd go nuts," he said.
The coach tried to teach the girls how to play football, which didn't go over well, Schott said. "They could never really figure out a post pattern vs. a flag pattern even if he made them run laps until they did."
Contact Rebecca Parr at 510-293-2473.
For more details about Moreau's fundraising campaign or to donate, go to http://campaignforchampions.com.
Donations may also be sent to the school at 27170 Mission Blvd., Hayward, CA, 94544, or made on a smartphone by texting Moreau at 56512. Contributions are tax-deductible.