LAS VEGAS – One of Arizona Interscholastic Association historian Barry Sollenberger’s favorite subjects was coaching legend Ed Doherty.
Doherty was the only man in history to lead the programs at Arizona State and Arizona, then developed Phoenix St. Mary’s into a power before winding up his career at Tucson Salpointe Catholic as coach and athletic director.
Doherty, who passed away in 2000, and Sollenberger, who died in 2005, are linked this weekend with the playing of Saturday night’s (Aug. 24) second game of the Sollenberger Classic at Fertitta Field on the campus of Bishop Gorman High School.
A man who remembers Sollenberger and who knew Doherty even better is Salpointe coach Dennis Bene.
Bene actually played quarterback for Doherty at Salpointe and led the Lancers to Arizona’s big-school championship game against Phoenix Trevor Browne in 1981.
Adorning Bene’s office in Tucson are photos of the people who mean the most to Bene – his family and Doherty. The photo of the coach shows him talking to Bene during his playing days.
“He always carried a megaphone and would watch us from a tower they built for him on the practice field,’’ Bene recalled. “He would talk to us through the megaphone even though he essentially was right above us.
“We had a great tailback that (championship) year, Joe Rowley, and Ed was always yelling at him, but didn’t yell at me very much. Still, I feared the man. If I was coming down the hallway and walked past him, I was scared to death. He was a coaching legend. On the field, he was a great leader, he would coach the game to the very last minute.’’
When freshman players enroll at Salpointe, Bene makes it a point to take them out to the field, named after Doherty, and stress the importance of his legacy.
“All our players here this weekend know about that,’’ Bene said.
What would Doherty have thought about all the hype surrounding this game, in the glamour and glitz capital?
“I think he would have come up here and enjoyed it. It’s still football, and that’s what he was about. He would be here to support us. We still feel his presence.’’