As the Pacific League football season gets underway, the whispers and gossip also begin to ratchet up.
Though every school in the eight-team league has a natural archrival, one particular squad appears to be Public Enemy No. 1.
The official colors of Arcadia High and its football team are cardinal and goal. However, to quite a few area coaches and administrators, the squad’s proper pigmentation is gray, due to swirling transfer speculation.
Arcadia, under the direction of alumnus Andrew Policky, is a title contender in a deep league that includes championship aspirants Burbank, Crescenta Valley and Muir.
“It’s always tough every year and I have a lot of respect for all the programs,” Policky said. “Going into it and with our reputation, we know we’re going to have a big target on our back. We’re going to get everyone’s best shot and we accept that challenge.”
The former Hoover High coach is entering his sixth year and has guided Arcadia to a 30-27 record (2-2 postseason mark) heading into Friday.
Arcadia turned in its best league effort under Policky last season when it finished runner-up to Burbank. In the last two years, the squad has combined for a 17-7 record and has beaten everyone in league minus Burbank.
Ask area coaches and administrators the reason behind the recent success and one word, one damning phrase, is always mentioned: transfers.
This year alone, nine of the school’s 12 fall transfers are football-related, with six being approved, two placed on hold and one denied.
One area coach told me not long ago that “Policky sold his soul,” while another administrator insisted, “He’s put winning above the well-being of Arcadia’s real kids.”
When asked about this season’s transfer influx, the Arcadia coach offered a more nuanced rationale.
“The situation this year was a weird, perfect storm,” Policky said. “The La Salle coach resigned, the Cathedral coach resigned and the Maranatha coach resigned. There was a bunch of local private-school coaches who resigned and that left a lot of kids wondering where they were going to go and a lot of kids, I suppose, chose to come here.”
Over the last four years, Arcadia has enjoyed the fruits of transfer with 25 student-athletes attempting to join the program and 22 doing so.
Some of those kids have earned All-Pacific League accolades at quarterback, offensive line and receiver positions, to name a few.
“You can look at all the transfers on the CIF website and I don’t think our raw numbers are way outside the norm,” Policky said. “Coaches complain because some of the players that have arrived are a little more high-profile, a little more talented, but guess what? This is also an outstanding school, a school that people want to attend.”
Arcadia is certainly sensational.
The teachers are well-compensated (better than Glendale Unified or Burbank) and the high school not only celebrated a 100% graduation rate this spring, but instructors, students and staff enjoy facilities second to none among league schools.
“I laugh at a lot of these [negative] comments because they come from ignorance,” Policky said. “How can I take advantage of these kids? They’re coming to a wonderful school and joining a fantastic community.”
On Monday, the CIF Southern Section released a poll in which 544 of the 570 members responded and overwhelming said, 71.5% to 28.5%, the section’s transfer rules need to be tweaked.
Policky, whose team will take on host Burroughs Friday in the Pacific League opener for both teams, agreed and added he hopes a resolution will end the hearsay.