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S.F. Section commissioner Don Collins to oversee one last football championship game

Deadline approached this week for the 97th Turkey Day/San Francisco Section championship football program and Don Collins was crossing every t and dotting all the i’s. Literally. Just like he has done for 20 years.

The first African American hired as a California Interscholastic Federation commissioner will retire Dec. 31, leaving a legacy of rabid attention to detail for the section.

Right down to the approximate 10,000-word history of the football championships and a four-page look at 2021 Turkey Day Game honoree Gwen Chan, a former SFUSD Superintendent who as a 1963 Lowell graduate witnessed one of the great finishes in title-game history — a 35-yard interception return by Tim McAteer to give the Cardinals a 7-0 win over St. Ignatius in 1961.

“I’m sure other commissioners oversee their programs, but I’m guessing few write and research every word of it,” said SFS assistant commissioner John Zlatunich. “But that’s Don. Type A. Detailed in every regard. Twenty-four/seven.”

Reporting and writing is a family trait — his grandfather Enoch Waters was considered a pioneering African American journalist, a writer and eventual executive editor for the Chicago Defender — and with a Yale Law School education, no task or assignment has ever gone overlooked by Collins.

Teams: Lincoln (8-3) vs. Balboa (7-4)

When: 11 a.m. Thursday

Where: Kezar Stadium

Section titles: Lincoln 12 (last: 2019), Balboa nine (last: 1984)

Age 61

San Francisco Section commissioner

First African American CIF commissioner

Started Dec. 2001, scheduled retirement Dec. 31

Yale Law School graduate 1986


“I can tell you that no one works harder and dedicates more time to ensuring a job well done,” said Zlatunich, who was hired shortly after Collins and will retire in June. “He cares deeply for the success of not only the athletic program, but also the people involved, from our office staff to the coaches, the athletic directors, and especially the student-athletes.”

It’s that care for the people, his honoring and dedication to others, that has ingratiated him so deeply in a community he wasn’t raised in.

“Aside from being among the most intelligent, hardworking, loyal and dedicated people I know, Don Collins has always been about what is best for the student-athletes,” said CIF Executive Director Ron Nocetti. “No matter if the (SFS) had a team or only one individual at a regional or state championship event, Don was there to support his school and their students.”

Nocetti said Collins has always had a wide lens, far beyond the athletic field.

“I personally witnessed him visiting schools to encourage student-athletes to apply for college scholarships and assisting them through the process,” Nocetti said. “He volunteers at our state track and field championships every year. The encouragement that he provides, especially our para-athletes, is unmatched.”

Lincoln football coach Phil Ferrigno had a list of six traits and remembrances of Collins he’s most thankful for. Among them were aligning coaches and students with proper COVID-19 protocols, his listening and communication skills and a work ethic that is “second to none.”

“He created a professional experience for all who come to the games and all who worked with the section,” Ferrigno said. “Our teams were transported (to state title events) with the best of the best transportation. … His tenacious attitude towards helping our youth has been amazing.

“I could go on forever about how Don and John took our section to levels we never have seen before. I’m really going to miss him because he cared for the kids of the city.”

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Travis Burnett

A pioneer in the flag football community, Travis helped co-found the Flag Football World Championship Tour, FlagSpin and USA Flag. Featuring 15+ years of content creation for the sport of flag football, creating and managing the largest flag football tournaments on the planet, coaching experience at the youth and adult level as well as an active player with National and World Championship level experience.

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