Following a period of paid administrative leave from Bloomfield schools last week, Bloomfield High athletic director Phil Sategña decided to retire on Wednesday.
“I am retiring from my position as athletic director; boys track coach, and cross country coach at Bloomfield High School,” Sategña said in a prepared statement. “My job has been filled with a lot of stress. Much of it I caused myself. I have been thinking about retiring for a long time.”
Sategña, who grew up in Bloomfield, spent 34 years with the school and was the athletic director for the past nine years. He also held the position from 1988-91.
In all those years with Bloomfield, Sategña coached five state championship teams and many more second-place teams, most recently the 2012 state runner-up Bobcats boys track and field team.
“The second place trophy that we won this year in 4A meant as much to me as any of the five first place trophies we won over the past years, if not more,” Sategña said. “The three individual state champions we had at state became the 59th, 60th and 61st boys state champions for Bloomfield. It is time for someone else to add to that number.”
Sategña said he contemplated retirement the day after the state track meet while discussing the matter with his two oldest grandchildren.
“There are some important factors as to why I came to this decision. My goals have been fulfilled with the sports complexes at Bloomfield High School,” Sategña said. “I have had a small part in the improvement of our softball field, the new weight room, the new cheer and aerobics gymnasium, the turf football field, the new baseball stadium, redoing the entire area around the track including seating and fencing, the new parking lot by the softball field, the new stadium building, the new football field house, the complete remodel of the Bobcat gym, and the beautification of the inside of Bloomfield High School.
“I also worked tirelessly to have the NMAA be fair with us when it came to alignment and classification, witnessed by the fact that we were in 3A for eight years prior to being moved up into 4A two years ago. I think I had a little to do with that. Bloomfield is moving back down to 3A next year, and I think it would be the right time for someone else to take over. There is nothing left for me to accomplish as a coach or as an athletic director.”
Following Sategña's announcement, his peers in the San Juan County sports community began pouring in their support for Sategña.
“I have seen changes in the school system, our buildings and facilities while Sategña was here. It is something for everyone in this district and community to have and enjoy,” said Patrick Montoya, a former Bloomfield School Board member. “Sategña really changed around the athletic department and the continuity that he instilled in the athletic department was big.
“At Bloomfield we now have some of the finest facilities in the state and probably beyond that. It was Sategña that put all the pieces to the puzzle together.”
Sategña was unique as an athletic director, uniting his varsity coaches to help at sporting events, whether it was running concessions or helping pick up trash. Sategña led by example.
“You don't find athletic directors going around and picking up trash. That is special,” Montoya said. “He saved the district a lot of money in just getting the coaches to do the little things that people don't see. We won't know what we had until he is gone. He is one in a million.”
Farmington athletic director Don Lorett said Sategña was a role model for athletes at Bloomfield as well as athletic directors across the state.
But what people said most about Sategña was that he lived for Bloomfield athletics.
“If you met coach Sategña for the first time you would know within the first few words that he was a Bobcat as his pride in the school was always evident,” Lorett said. “I would like to publicly congratulate him on an outstanding career and thank him for his commitment and impact on the youth in our area. Job well done.”
Randy Jackson, who worked with Sategña as a track coach at Bloomfield before coaching against him with Farmington for several years, called Sategña a legend.
“Any NCAA Division I school would be blessed to have Sategña as their athletic director,” Jackson said. “He is Mr. Bloomfield, whether people like him or dislike him it doesn't matter. He was always there for Bloomfield schools. He is a sports fanatic, but more than anything he is a Bloomfield sports fanatic.
“There are people like me with simple minds, but Sategña has an envisioned mind to see beyond the X's and O's of a sport. There isn't a sport out there that Sategña doesn't know the rules of and he is passionate about having his athletes and coaches uphold those rules. I could have seen Phil die on the side of a track at 110 years old. I know I could brag on him until I am dead in the ground.”
A few people in Aztec, Bloomfield's rival, said they wish Sategña would fill the Tigers' vacant athletic director position.
“I wish Sategña would come here. He is great,” said Aztec quarterback Adam Lucero. “I don't think he ever would though because he bleeds Bloomfield blue.”
Sategña will be the first to admit that not everything in his career went without hiccups, but he said the positive relationships he has built with students and members of the community outweigh any negative moments.
“Not everything in my teaching, coaching or administrative career has been smooth sailing. There have been bumps in the road along that way,” he said. “The bumps in the road pale in comparison to the positive things that have happened to me. The athletes and students I taught and coached over that period of time will always be special to me. I hope a few of them feel the same way.
“I can tell you one thing you will never see me do ever again: jump up and start cleaning the bleachers after a sporting event to save the school money.”
Though Sategña will always receive credit for the award-winning sports complexes at Bloomfield, he hopes to be remembered for something more meaningful.
“The only thing I want to be remembered for is the Fallen Solider Statue in front of our high school. The statue is about honoring the only two heroes Bloomfield High School has ever had,” Sategña said. “There is a lifelong reminder on the campus of Bloomfield High School, one in the Bobcat Gym lobby and the other out in front of the school.
“I want people to remember two heroes honored by the Fallen Soldier Statue. Alex Munoz and Chris Keffalos, the only true heroes that ever need to be remembered for anything accomplished from Bloomfield High. They both gave their lives in defense of our country. Now that is something to be remembered for.”
Bloomfield superintendent Joe Rasor did not reply to a request for comment at press time Thursday.