Former Football Coach Returns to GCC Campus

Roderick Daniels
El Vaquero Staff Writer

John Rome thought that with the third most wins in the school’s history, a 32-29 record, and playing in two bowl games, he had a clear shot at becoming full-time head football coach at Citrus College.
But apparently, Citrus College does things a bit differently.

Rome, the new offensive coordinator for the GCC football team, was the head coach for the last six seasons for the Citrus College football team, but only as a part-time instructor. His contract was not renewed shortly after he criticized college administrators in the San Gabriel Tribune. He told the paper that as a part-time instructor, he had to resort to taking a job as a janitor to support his family, that his children didn’t have any benefits, and that the long hours and stress eventually led to his divorce.

He was replaced by a newcomer to Citrus, Kevin Emerson, who was on staff at Azusa Pacific’s National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) championship team in 1998.

Rome is also not full time at GCC, but he is the first full-time assistant that coach John Cicuto has hired, which allows Cicuto to spend a lot more time with the players in other areas, mainly academics.

“I think that’s been one of the problems the last several years is that I didn’t have a full time guy on staff,” said Cicuto.

“When I was able to get John to come back to us from Citrus that was a big plus.”

With Rome on the staff, Cicuto thinks that the team will be a lot more successful than in years past.

“I’ve been a head coach for six years,” said Rome. “Because of my experience, I know what things need to be done, I know where an assistant has to be.”

At Citrus, there was only an adjunct position for football, and not a teaching position available for Rome, who got his master’s degree in health science, and has taught as an adjunct professor at GCC.

“I can certainly teach,” said Rome. “I have 13 years of teaching experience, and for whatever reason it was in the eyes of the administrators at Citrus College that there was no full-time position to be allowed even tough there were two full time positions that had been vacated.”

Since he felt he was being slighted, he fought it, and lobbied for the position. In doing so, he upset the administration, mainly the college president Dr. Louis Zellers, and ultimately what he said in the San Gabriel Tribune led to suspension of his contract.

Rome was an assistant coach at GCC from 1982 and 1983, and returned to Glendale from 1990 to 1994 before taking the head-coaching job at Citrus College.

In 1995 he led Citrus to the Potato Bowl, the top bowl game in the state of California, against Bakersfield. And he also took the team to the inaugural Santa Monica Beach Bowl last season.

He worked at UCLA from 1984 to 1986 under Terry Donahue, who coached the Bruins for 20 years. Donahue is the winningest coach in PAC-10 history, having led the team to four bowl games. He is now general manager of the San Francisco 49ers.

“Working for a man like Terry was a great benefit to me,” said Rome. “Just to see how intelligent, and how organized he was, I saw a different side of football.”

After coaching at UCLA, he went on to the University of New Mexico as the wide receivers coach. There, he coached with Marvin Lewis, who is the defensive coordinator for the defending Super Bowl champions, Baltimore Ravens, whose defensive gave up 165 points last season, an all time low, and to some, is considered the beat defense of all time.

He also coached with Gary Zauner, the special teams coach for the Minnesota Vikings. Mike Sheppard, the head coach for University of New Mexico at that time, is now the offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills, and Steve Fairchild, the offensive coordinator for that team, is the running backs coach for the Bills.

“We had a lot of good coaches,” Rome said of his time at New Mexico State. “We just didn’t do things very well together. I was there from `87 to `89, and we didn’t win, and when you don’t win, you get the ax.”

Though he feels he got a raw deal at Citrus, Rome bears no ill will toward the college.

“I couldn’t be happier to be back at Glendale,” said Rome. “Glendale is my home. I’m from Burbank, and my dearest friends are Cicuto, and Jim Sartoris, and I believe in the philosophy of Glendale College.”

Though he says there is no ill will against his former school, Rome emphasizes that he does have the calendar marked for Sept. 22, when Glendale visits Citrus College.