Group wants to rename Edmonds Stadium to honor legendary coach
Bruce Evans might be biased. Just a little.
But he calls the late Rich Rowe the single most important coach in the history of Edmonds School District 15. That’s a chunk of time, as the district dates to more than 100 years ago.
Now, Evans is part of a group of dedicated citizens – from Edmonds and beyond – who want to see Rowe properly recognized.
Their goal? To change the workmanlike but bland moniker of Edmonds Stadium to incorporate, somehow, Rich Rowe’s name.
Evans and several others made a pitch for the new stadium name Aug. 9 at an Edmonds School District board meeting. The group’s spokesman is Geoff Bennett, vice principal at Edmonds-Woodway High School, where the stadium is located.
Also among those speaking on Rowe’s behalf on Aug. 9 were Fred Shull, Tom Campbell, Tim Mead, Gary Jones, Warren Lashua, Don Gorman, Ted Neff, Bill Hull, Gordy Lindstrom, Jerry Karnofski, Cam Wilson, Jennifer Eckman and Art Snowy.
The district’s board of directors will discuss the Edmonds Stadium naming request at its next regularly scheduled meeting Oct. 11.
Bennett told how the renaming idea developed among a group of people at the meeting, who shared personal stories with board members. They included Shull, a former Edmonds High School student, athlete and coach who first made a pitch to honor Rowe a year ago during Edmonds-Woodway’s inaugural Athletic Hall of Fame banquet, where Rowe was inducted.
Shull himself was also inducted. He is the former baseball coach at Edmonds Community College, whose 1980 team won the NWAACC championship. He said his group is willing to raise funds to facilitate the request.
“He had many students and many players who played for him,” said Shull, who played on Rowe’s football team for three years. “Many of us got degrees and became teachers in the Edmonds School District. He had a tremendous influence throughout the whole community – what he stood for and what he taught us.”
During one of Rowe’s final years at EHS, an incident involving several members of the football team forced Rowe to cancel the remainder of the season after a 5-0 start. Twelve players were suspended. Shull said players took part in activities the school’s code said they could not do.
“The way he handled it stuck with me,” said Shull, who graduated from EHS in 1960. “A lot of people today turn their backs on the tough stuff. They rationalize things away.
“Coach had been teaching his players about responsibility and accountability. He stuck with the players, but made it a teaching experience for those who caused the season to be lost, and for those others who lost their seasons.”
Shull said Rowe told his players that when he looked out on his team, he saw 50 guys who would someday have their own families. What kind of husband, role model and father would they be?
“His footprint and teaching will last an eternity,” Shull said.
Rich Rowe grew up in Ballard, graduated from Ballard High School and earned a degree in education and coaching from University of Puget Sound. He moved to Edmonds in 1943 with his wife, Carol, who would go on to create one of the city’s earliest food banks. The current food bank at Edmonds United Methodist Church is named after her: The Carol Rowe Memorial Food Bank.
When Rowe started his coaching career in Edmonds, the high school was located on Fourth Avenue North at the current site of the Edmonds Center for the Arts. An adjacent football field, now known as Civic Field, was constructed six years before with Works Project Administration funds.
In 1957, a new Edmonds High School was built at 76th Avenue West and 212th Street Southwest. It was torn down and replaced by the new Edmonds-Woodway High School in 1998, incorporating students from Edmonds and Woodway high schools.
At EHS, home of the Tigers, Rowe coached football, baseball and track, in addition to teaching a variety of subjects, before retiring in 1973. His coaching highlight came in 1949 when his undefeated football team won the Northwest League championship for the first time.
That team featured Ted Neff, who also spoke Aug. 9.
Ten of Rowe’s assistant coaches moved on to become head coaches.
Rowe moved to Hawaii in 1981 after his wife died. He died in January 2008 at age 96.
“The legendary success of his football and baseball teams in the ’40s and ’50s brought pride to the entire community,” said Evans, who himself was named to E-W’s Athletic Hall of Fame last year. He graduated from Edmonds High in 1957 and taught English at both Woodway and Edmonds-Woodway high schools.
At Woodway, his girls basketball team won a 3A state title in 1984 with a 25-2 record, beating Kitsap High School 54-52 in the final. His softball team won a title in 1985, beating West Valley of Spokane 4-3.
“Even more significant was the character of the man,” Evans said. “A paragon of virtue himself, he taught his players both to play and to live with discipline, courage and modesty. It is most fitting and proper that Edmonds Stadium be renamed in his honor.”
Evans didn’t play football, but was on Rowe’s baseball teams in 1955 and 1956.
“He was also my PE and health teacher, and I was on the teaching staff with him at Edmonds High in the ’60s.”
After Rowe’s death, Evans republished a story he wrote about Rowe for the old Edmonds Tribune Review newspaper on the Edmonds High School class of 1957 website at www.edmonds57.org.
Rowe’s influence lingers still.
“I got my total foundation from him and my parents,” Shull said. “He taught us responsibility, accountability, commitment. That they aren’t sometimes things. They are all-the-time things.”