George A. Schutte was born in Galvaston, Texas in 1924. Two months later he followed his Dad and older brother Bill, (SDSU football coach in the late 40’s and early 50’s), to San Diego. After matriculating at Alice Berney Elementary School, he was transferred to the “brand new” Florence Elementary School in 1930. At Florence he participated in interscholastic softball with his team going against name schools like Hamilton, Garfield, and the toughest of them all, Adams Elementary. Along with the likes of such stud players as Ray Boone and couple of the Stephenson brothers, plus the fact that some of the Adams players wore cleats, made Adams the most formidable elementary school softball team in the city.
In 1936, George entered Horace Mann Junior High School which was then located at the current site of San Diego City School’s Education Center on Park Blvd. George expanded his athletic prowess by now playing for the Horace Mann touch football team, the “Bulldogs”. The Bulldogs, described as “tough, but not very good”, played the other city junior highs; Roosevelt, Wilson and the meanest of them all, Memorial. The Horace Mann Bulldogs never came close to beating Memorial.
At San Diego High School, George played football, ran “a little track”, and played “some basketball”. The 6’2 ½”, 190 pound ninth grader immediately impressed head football coach Joe Berekle so much so that George was a starting lineman for all three years at San Diego High. It was then George became aware of officiating as Coach Berekle was also an active football and basketball official. San Diego was then a member of the Coast Prep League which also included Hoover, Long Beach Poly, Long Beach Wilson, Pasadena, Glendale and Alhambra. The newer San Diego area high schools; Sweetwater, Coronado, Grossmont and Point Loma were so small that they could never possibly compete with San Diego and Hoover. The World War II years brought a halt to travel and San Diego and Hoover were forced to split their teams into two equal teams and compete with the other San Diego high school and formed the now famous San Diego Victory League. Coach Berekle required his players to participate in track as off-season conditioning. Under head track coach Ed Ruffa, George “participated’ in the shot put, discus and ran the 180 low hurdles. (No mention was made of ever winning anything.) George’s basketball participation included mostly of hanging around Balboa Park’s municipal gym and the downtown “Y”.
1943, saw George graduating from San Diego High. The ceremony was over at 10:00 pm, and at midnight he was on a Greyhound bus on his way to Los Angeles with a USC football scholarship in hand. The war was now in high gear and USC’s spring football drills were tenuous at best. The end of spring football was highlighted by a game between USC and the US Army’s Fort MacArthur. The final score was 19 to 12, and both teams claimed victory. When George returned to San Diego for the summer, “greetings”, were waiting from the local draft board and he was immediately transformed from USC football player to US Army Air Corps B-24 navigator. Toward the end of the war, he moved up to B-29’s, and after the war ended he had to choose retuning to school or participating in the Bikini Atoll atom bomb testing project. Civilization survived as George decided to return to USC.
Back at USC, head football coach Jeff Cravath was waiting to reassemble his varsity football team. George, now at 6’3″, 215 pounds, the average sized college lineman in the immediate post-war years, was ready to play. During the seasons of ’47 and ’48, he started in “about half of the games”, and made “honorable something” at the end of his senior year.
George graduated from USC with a BS in physical education and a minor in social science in June of 1949. He found his first job at Hoover High School as an assistant football coach to the legendary Bob Kirchhoff. It was then when he began to officiate football. Luminaries of the San Diego County Football Officials Association then included Don Clarkson, (the CIF San Diego Section’s first commissioner), W.W. Wilson, Biff Gardner, Jack Mashin, Paul Mannen, (uncle of current SDCFOA member Frank Mannen), Jim Fournier and Frank Rustich. Discouraged with the low game fees of $3 for JV and $5 for varsity and the fact he only was assigned one or two games, George was ready to abandon officiating. Fortunately, a long and persuasive discussion with then Coronado’s head football coach Hal Nedermeyer, convinced him to stay in football officiating.
In 1951, a challenge then beseeched George to join the FBI. After tours in Washington DC, Denver and Detroit, he decided the life of a FBI agent was not for him and he returned to San Diego in the fall of 1953, to resume his coaching and teaching career. As luck had it, the head football coaching job was available at San Diego Junior College, (now San Diego City College), after the resignation of Coach Bill Bailey. The football program at JC was in somewhat of a state of disarray. The college was located on the campus of San Diego High School with students sharing facilities including the football field at Balboa Stadium. George met the challenge along with the promise of a new campus to be opened in the fall of 1956. He soon named his two assistants; Joe Galindo and a fresh upstart former all league quarterback from St Augustine and San Diego State, Jesse Thompson. In later years, George’s old friend Bobby Downs would be one of his assistants along with John Kovacs. The Schutte-SDJC football dynasty remained until the season of 1960. To list all of the outstanding players who succeeded under George’s tutorage would be an insurmountable task here, however, a small sampling of notable stars would include: Lance Morton, Frank Matarrocci, Hal Kreupens, Manny Ventura, Tom Lohman, Joe Duke, Dennis Magee, Bob Coogan, Leroy Dotson, Bill Tellous, Kent Berry, Dick Morris, Cleveland Jones, David Grayson, Hal Tobin, John Shacklett, Pat Shea, Neal Petties, Kern Carson and many others who went on to play at the major college and professional ranks. Many continued on and became successful coaches incorporating the skills and coaching ethics they learned from George in their playing days.
When George returned to his coaching career in 1953, he also resumed his officiating avocation. His coaching assistants Thompson, Galindo and Downs joined George and also began officiating football. High school varsity game fees had now shot up to $10, and George, as a JC head football coach, was now getting the attention he previously lacked. However, his coaching position also consumed an appreciable amount of time during football season, and he decided to attempt to officiate basketball. Don Clarkson, Don Smith, Joe Frivaldsky and Jim Freeman were all top basketball refs at the time, and they welcomed both George and Jesse Thompson to their ranks. George worked basketball from 1953 to 1966, including the local community colleges and San Diego State freshmen games.
After George’s basketball officiating ebbed in 1966, he looked to track officiating as his off-season avocation. He joined the San Diego Track Starters Association in 1966, and remained an active member until 1998, starting mostly local high school and community college meets.
In 1960, with his illustrious football coaching career coming to conclusion, his football officiating accelerated. SDCFOA Board members Clarkson and Mannen asked George to become the association’s instructional chairman. He readily accepted and remained in that position, with unanimous annual Board approval, until his retirement after the 1991 season. Through George’s efforts of quality and discipline, the association’s educational program has become nationally known and respected. As any football official who has transferred in from another association would attest, didactic preparation, coupled with on-field presence and awareness is an essential requisite of any SDCFOA member. Several transfer members from other associations were not accustom to this requirement and decided to retire or admit that officiating was not currently in their best interest
Along with 9 years of coaching, 13 years of officiating basketball, and 32 years of officiating track, George’s football officiating experience spanned 42 years. In 1960, he became an official with the Far West Football Conference, then known as the CCAA, and then the PCAA. From 1975 to 1980, he also worked with the Western Athletic Conference with a split schedule with the PCAA. After the season of 1985, George retired from the PCAA and did his last local community college game in 1987. In his remaining years in the SDCFOA, he continued to work high school football and further refine and perfect the instructional program of the association until he retired in 1991.
Currently, several NFL and college Division I officials, along with many community college and hundreds of high school officials, readily admit that George significantly contributed to their success as a football official. Always the innovator, George continued to use different classroom and on-field formats to allow the San Diego County Football Officials Association to remain one of the top rated officials associations in the country today. After his retirement he was still readily available as a valuable resource by the association’s instructional chairmen that followed him and to anyone else needing advice. For ten years after his retirement, George was occasionally seen on the sidelines on Friday night to give the officials of the field a hearty thumbs-up. On September 14, 2002, George passed away leaving a legacy of officiating commitment, excellence and experience that will probably never be matched.
George A. Schutte ’49, MEd ’53, of San Diego, Calif.; Sept. 14, 2002, at the age of 78. He served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. While at USC, he played varsity football for four years and was also a member of Kappa Alpha Fraternity. After graduating, he became an assistant football coach at Hoover High School in San Diego. He then spent time working for the FBI, with tours in Washington, D.C., Denver and Detroit, before he returned to San Diego to resume his coaching career. He coached the football team at San Diego City College from 1953 to 1960 and began his teaching career simultaneously. He began officiating in 1953, playing large roles in the San Diego County Football Officials Association and the San Diego Track Starters Association. He is survived by daughters Patty and Debbie, grandson Jack and sister Dorothy. Memorial contributions may be made to the George Schutte Memorial Scholarship Fund, c/o the San Diego City College, 1313 12th Ave., San Diego, CA 92101.