Coach Bruce Rollinson’s long goodbye begins with playoff rout of JSerra

Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson speaks to quarterback Elijah Brown before Friday's playoff game against JSerra.
(Luca Evans / Los Angeles Times)

The red-and-white juggernaut, normally pulsing with uniform energy and shouting war cries, was quiet.

When Mater Dei took the field for practice Thursday, senior linebacker Leviticus Su’a said, the group was awkward. Caught off guard. Not long earlier, Su’a said, longtime head coach Bruce Rollinson — manning the sidelines at Mater Dei for 47 years — had told the team he was retiring. And the group was shocked.

“All of us were really surprised,” junior quarterback Elijah Brown said. “We thought he had a couple more years in him.”


Suddenly, the possibility was there, for the first time in decades, that Rollinson wouldn’t be wearing a headset by this time next week. On Thursday night, the public bombshell dropped at 5 p.m., a tweet from Mater Dei: Rollinson had “recently decided,” the statement read, that he’d be retiring after the season.

Friday night, the Monarchs ran away with a 54-14 win over JSerra in a Division 1 quarterfinal playoff. After sophomore five-star running back Jordon Davidson burst through the right side for a 66-yard touchdown in the second quarter, his third of the half, the game was all but over.

As they broke their postgame huddle, the Monarchs cried, “For Rollo!”

Longtime Mater Dei football coach Bruce Rollinson, whose program was embroiled by hazing allegations last year, is retiring at the end of the season.

Nov. 10, 2022

“We’re just really trying to send him off right for his last year,” Su’a said.

Regardless of the admiration and respect Rollinson commands from the Mater Dei football community, it won’t be a smooth ride into the sunset for the 34-year Monarchs head coach. Last fall, he came under fire when a former player filed a lawsuit against Mater Dei alleging a culture of hazing that led to a brain injury. A safety assessment was launched by the school 12 months ago, which remains in progress according to the Diocese of Orange.

School president Michael Brennan told The Times that the school didn’t put any pressure on Rollinson to retire.

“Purely his decision,” Brennan said, standing on the sideline Friday night. “We’re really grateful for everything he did.”


A month earlier, Rollinson had told the Orange County Register he didn’t plan on retiring. When asked what changed postgame on Friday, he responded, “We’ll have time when the season ends to talk about the whole retirement thing.”

“Right now what I want to do is keep the focus on the performance of the kids … I made a vow that I was going to keep the focus on them,” he said. “It’s not about Bruce Rollinson.”

When asked when he told the players, Rollinson replied, “I told them I’m not going to focus on me. I’m not going to give any details.”

Brennan said Mater Dei is not in a hurry to commence its search for a new coach, and will likely wait until the end of the year.