“When I interviewed for the athletic director position at the end of July, I shared a vision of bringing a football program back to Crispus Attucks. After my hiring, Principal Lauren Franklin and the alumni expressed their support of football making a return to our historic school,” said Josh Varno, Athletic Director, Crispus Attucks Medical Magnet School.
The excitement is building…in the popular lyrics of Hank Williams Jr. – which we love hearing on Monday nights throughout the fall – “are you ready for some football?!” In a recent interview with Coach Josh Varno, who was appointed Athletics Director at Crispus Attucks for the 2016-2017 school year, he shared his vision for bolstering the Attucks athletics program – including spearheading the long anticipated return of America’s favorite sport, football.
Principal Lauren Franklin, a former school leader in the district, took the helm at Crispus Attucks in the summer of 2015 with a vast familiarity of the school – she has a family legacy at the once all African-American high school in Indianapolis. Franklin soon added Coach Varno to her administration.
Joining an environment with such historical relevance, school pride and alumni engagement can be an exciting, yet daunting endeavor, but Varno had a plan in mind. When asked about his overall vision for Attucks athletics, he shared that he wanted “to build a strong and competitive program, not just field a team.” Varno stressed the importance of improving the high school experience for Attucks students, “The goal of the Crispus Attucks Administration is to improve the overall high school experience of every student enrolled in our building. The creation of the football program is a major building block in accomplishing that goal.” Varno added that the ideal high school experience would be complete with “Friday night games under the lights, homecoming/homecoming court, and [lots of] school spirit.”
Interestingly, Attucks has not run a high school football team since 1985, so the new administration definitely had a lot of work to do. After a 30-year program hiatus, the school was naturally lacking football equipment. After having confirmed school community-wide interest in re-establishing the football program at the school, Varno, a skillful networker, aggressively sought out to generate strategic partnerships and cultivate donor relationships to support the effort. Early projects included, “’Geared for Health’ and Nike donated 500 shirts that read “Crispus Attucks Football…Undefeated Since 1985,” said Varno. He then converted the proceeds from the shirts into an equipment fund. Signaling their active support, the Crispus Attucks Alumni Lettermen Club hosted the Harlem Wizards to raise money for the entire athletics program.
As other donations and in-kind contributions continued to come in, Varno focused his sights on tackling other impediments to re-launching the program. The student population at Crispus Attucks has overtime become dominantly female. One could reasonably wonder if three decades of a dormant football program may have contributed to current environmental factors at the school. Moreover, one might wonder, how a football program could become competitive with a finite number of boys to play the game. Varno began implementing player recruitment strategies within the school by first holding call outs during lunch periods. Among his early successes, he proudly reports that “Middle School Football, which will start this March, had 82 student-athletes sign up. High School Football, beginning next fall will be a JV team the first year, and had 51 student-athletes sign up.”
Students are looking forward to the new wave of Attucks Athletics with football being an anchor sport. Sophomore Hunter B. expressed his anticipation of the returning program, “When I found out football was coming back to Attucks I was filled with pure excitement. I attended Crispus Attucks because I was interested in sports medicine and my school offers a lot through the IUPUI SPAN program. I was extremely disappointed when I first showed up here and found out the school didn’t have football. Bryant added. “Football will give the school another thing to support and will build more school spirit. I’ve been missing football from my high school experience.”
Increased enrollment in Crispus Attucks’s high-interest medical magnet academic programming has brought about significant gains and has also pushed to the forefront some important challenges. David Rosenberg, IPS Operations Officer noted that over time “the school has nearly doubled in size and [students are sometimes having] to practice at other schools due to the lack of space.” Immediate next steps for Coach Varno include acquiring additional equipment to outfit all eligible students and ensuring playing fields are adequate. While building the program step-by-step, he and Principal Franklin are collaborating with district administrators, alumni and community leaders to determine viable options to strategically address critical facilities needs.
There’s certainly more to come for the highly-anticipated resurgence of Crispus Attucks Medical Magnet High School football! We’re excited to continue following and sharing the latest developments, as we look forward to rooting the Tigers on!