Robert Taylor, who coached Santa Monica College to some of the greatest moments in its football history, has died at 64
Taylor, who was replaced this season after 15 years as the Corsairs’ head coach, was on medical leave in recent months.
His death was revealed by his brother Ed. No cause of death has been announced and funeral arrangements are pending.
Taylor became SMC’s head coach in 1994 and guided the Corsairs to three bowl games. In one year he had Chad Johnson and Steve Smith as receivers. Johnson, who recently changed his name, then played one year at Oregon State and has excelled in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals. Smith stars for the Carolina Panthers and kept in close contact with Taylor in recent years. In fact, Smith’s latest contract with the Panthers includes some gear for the Corsairs.
Taylor was admired for mentoring youngsters who had troubled backgrounds.
“Robert Taylor is part of the reason why I’m here today,” said Johnson upon learning of the coach’s death.
USC Coach Pete Carroll said “I’m very sorry to hear the sad news of Robert Taylor’s death.”
Friends and former players are focusing on Taylor’s many accomplishments instead of recent developments that have left the Corsairs’ football program far removed from its glory years.
Taylor’s team won the Western State Conference championship five years ago but has struggled since then, posting only a few wins in any season. This one is no exception with losses mounting.
Taylor was replaced two weeks before the first game due to an enrollment scandal involving out-of-state players. Then his highest profile recruit for this season, running back Christian Ross from Santa Monica High, left the team and said he will play next season for College Of The Desert.
In the glory years the stadium was filled for games and crowds gathered merely to watch SMC teams practice. Now the turnouts are tiny and SMC is outdrawn by a wide margin on weekends by Santa Monica High’s games.
It remains to be seen if the administration will make an effort to significantly upgrade the program or allow it to continue wallowing.
Taylor was one of a few full-time employees in the athletic department. Will SMC hire a high profile football coach full-time? Or will it regard the program as being not important enough for that?
The Corsairs lost basketball coach Jesse Teplitzky a year ago to Cerritos College. Teplitzky, coming off a winning season and playoff appearance, was part-time at SMC but became full-time at Cerritos with health benefits. He said he was sorry to leave but felt it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
The argument can be made that difficult decisions are necessary in tough economic times but El Camino and Harbor are examples of community colleges fielding successful football teams this season.