Nate Harris has never seen anything like it.
During the second day of fall practice in early August, the new West Campus football coach suddenly found himself without two scheduled games for the upcoming season.
Because of an-unbeknownst-to-him coaching change at Fresno Christian, Harris discovered that the verbal commitment he had made with the former coach/athletic director to play that private school team in Fresno wasn't going to be honored.
Then, 15 minutes later, he got a call from an assistant coach at Woodland Poly, a second-year charter school, and Harris said he was told that the Buffaloes would not be fielding a football team this season as planned. So Woodland Poly would be unable to play the Warriors on Sept. 8 at Burbank High School. (Woodland Poly is playing a five-game season starting Sept. 22, according to coach Steve Marks, Jr.)
"I was as mad as a pit-bull with no teeth," said Harris, who also has coached at Highlands, Sacramento and Kennedy. "I remember driving out to Woodland in the spring - it was raining like the dickens - to get that contract signed. They could have saved me a lot of rope-a-dope if they had let me know earlier that they weren't going to have a team."
Harris was able to scramble and schedule Skyline of Oakland for a home game on Sept. 29, though Harris now has his fingers crossed that his young but eager squad of mostly juniors and sophomores will get to play the Titans.
Skyline forfeited its first game of the season Aug. 31 to Acalanes of Lafayette because it had only 13 eligible varsity players.
A new more stringent eligibility policy in the Oakland Athletic League is taking a toll - and not just at Skyline.
Castlemont cancelled its varsity and JV games Friday against Vista del Lago at Folsom High School for the same reason, a hit that Vista coach Chris Jones says will cost his program $7,000 in gate revenue.
The Oakland league's policy, which was adopted in April, does not grant appeals or waivers to students who do not meet the minimum 2.0 grade-point average requirement. Students who fail to continuously maintain that C average now must sit out the entire school year.
Harris is hopeful that Skyline will be able to maintain its commitment. He plans to drive to Oakland Friday to scout Skyline, who is scheduled to play Granada of Livermore.
If not, West Campus might wind up with an eight-game season.
The Warriors are 1-1, having snapped a 28-game losing streak, second longest in the state, with a 21-14 win over Cristo Rey on Aug. 24. After losing 32-0 to Encina Aug. 31, West Campus will go three weeks before playing its next game against Elliot Christian of Lodi Sept. 22.
"I thought returning to coach was going to be smooth sailing," said Harris, who last coached at Highlands in 2009. "I thought it would be about teaching football fundamentals and building kids' character, not worrying about whether we're going to have enough games to play. Stuff like this shouldn't happen."