Coach Moropoulos wants the best for his players, on and off the field


Gerardo Zavala

Vaqueros head football coach Craig Moropoulos on the sideline during a game on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017 at La Playa Stadium in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Max Mullins, Staff Writer

His father coached football for 35 years, he was a star quarterback at City College and Santa Barbara High School, and he is entering his 35th year of coaching, but there are more important things to Craig Moropolous than winning football games.

As the head coach of Santa Barbara City College’s football program, Moropoulos spends countless hours preparing his team to play.

“He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever come across,” said Athletic Director Rocco Constantino. “He really puts in the time to benefit the students.”

Quarterback Bradley Kleven also praised his coach’s preparation, calling him “very organized” and describing the time Moropolous takes to ensure that all his players understand their job on every play.

However, the part of his job that Moropoulos does best is preparing his players for their future after City College.

“He really tries to mentor his players to go on to greater things in life,” Constantino said. “We want to win, but really what we want to do is set up our students for their future, and nobody does it better than Coach Moropoulos.”

Moropolous also talked about his commitment to the post City College success of his players.

“My mission is to get them more prepared to be successful at the next level, in a lot of different facets,” he said.

He explained that it is valuable for the players to learn how to balance academics with athletics.

Moropolous said, “Something that is really important in this game is how do you handle a negative? How do you handle a bad grade in a class? Do you tank and just stop going to class, or do you fight and scramble and get back into the game so to speak? That’s the way football is.”

The most important athletic trait Moropolous looks for when recruiting players is their passion for fighting and scrambling.

“If you don’t have the passion then you won’t realize that you have to go to class, if you don’t have the commitment you won’t do what it takes to be a successful student, and that’s what we look for,” he said.

Moropoulos’ approach has yielded success, with former Vaqueros athletes transferring to play for a variety of NCAA Division One schools including Auburn University, the University of Washington, Colorado State University, UCLA, and the University of Cincinnati.

The most notable alumnus who played for Moropoulos is San Francisco 49ers Punter Mitch Wishnowsky. He played for City College before transferring to the University of Utah where he was named the nation’s best punter in 2016. The 49ers picked him in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

The alumnus who’s story might best exemplify Moropoulos’ commitment to his players is running back Manny Nwosu.

Nwosu came to SBCC from Santa Barbara High School, and nearly set the school rushing record despite playing with a badly injured shoulder. He delayed his shoulder surgery so that he could finish the season, but he received limited interest from four-year schools because he was still recovering throughout the off-season.

Moropoulos invited him back for the next season even though he was no longer eligible to play, and helped him rehab to ensure that he had a football future beyond City College. Nwosu ended up transferring to Fort Lewis College in Colorado.

Earlier in Moropoulos’ coaching career, he worked as an offensive coach at a number of NCAA schools, including Texas A&M, Kent State, Cal Poly, Boise State, Arizona, and San Jose State.

He said that he enjoyed coaching at four-year schools and had some great experiences, including coaching former 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia at San Jose State, but he prefers City College because of the stability.

“I like living in Santa Barbara, it’s a quality place and I enjoy it,” he said.

Moropoulos has become a staple in the community, attending a Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table meeting every week where he gets to know local coaches, athletic directors, and athletes. He and the Vaqueros football players also engage in community service in Santa Barbara, participating in local school activities.

Running back Deyland Cardwell, an Ohio native, described how he was drawn to SBCC by Craig Moropoulos the person as much as Craig Moropoulos the coach.

“Coach Moropolous made me feel at home instantly,” he said about his first visit to the school. “I feel like I could go to him for advice about anything.”

Rocco Constantino echoed the praise of Moropoulos’character.

“He’s got a great reputation with alumni, with people who live in the city, and with the whole Santa Barbara athletics community,” he said.