Two years ago, the Terra Nova football field was going to be named in honor of former Terra Nova varsity football coach Bob Lotti. COVID-19 canceled that dedication ceremony. But on Friday night nothing could stop the legendary Hall of Fame coach from finally getting his well-deserved recognition.
More than 40 family members and former Terra Nova players joined Lotti on the field prior to the start of the Terra Nova-Lincoln High School of San Francisco game for the special presentation. Terra Nova went on to win the game, 41-7.
In 1974, Lotti transferred from Westmoor High School to Terra Nova. His commitment to the Terra Nova football program spanned 24 years, until his retirement in 1998. During his eight years as head coach, Terra Nova won five North Peninsula League titles and its first-ever Central Coast Section championship. He was also named the North Peninsula Coach of the Year four times, and 10 of his student-athletes received college football scholarships. He was also an assistant track coach and athletic director for 13 years. In 1992 he was named to the Pacifica Sports Hall of Fame.
In 2018, the football stadium was named the Coach Bill Gray Stadium in honor of the Terra Nova coach who is credited with leading the stadium renovation in 2008. At that time, it was suggested that the field itself be named “Bob Lotti Field.” The suggestion fell on deaf ears until a couple of years ago when a group of Lotti’s former players got the attention of the Jefferson Union High School District Board of Trustees with the request for the renaming.
Terra Nova Principal Megan Carey introduced Lotti to the fans, saying, “For his positive impact on so many students, it is with great pleasure that, tonight, we formally announce the changing of the name of the Terra Nova High School athletic field to Bob Lotti Field.”
It was the first time Carey had met Lotti.
“I’ve heard so much about Coach Lotti through his children and grandchildren,” she said. “That’s what is wonderful about Terra Nova, you don’t have to be necessarily directly connected to know how interconnected everybody is. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing many of the family members. I am happy they get to honor their grandpa and dad in a special way.”
“This is a real honor,” said Lotti, reflecting back on his early days as Terra Nova coach. “We put a lot of effort into making the program work — myself, the community and the players. I couldn’t have done it without all the help. I had many supporters. We got everybody going in the same direction to develop a winning program.
“It was great to see many of my players here tonight,” added Lotti. “I was fortunate. I had wonderful players, which you have to have if you are going to win. They were dedicated. Most of the athletes were born and raised Pacificans; they grew up together, played together, hurrahed together, cried together, had fun together. That’s why we won, it was a wonderful experience. Tonight, this honor is icing on the cake.”
Today, Lotti, 84, lives in Reno, Nev., where he remains active, playing a lot of golf, walking three miles a day, and spending an hour in the gym every day. He returns to Pacifica monthly to spend a week with his children and grandchildren.
“I’m trying to stay alive to see my great-great-grandchildren,” he said, smiling.
“How great is tonight!” said Vince Lotti, one of Lotti’s six children. “It’s terrific! It’s nice to have former players coming around to talk to him; it’s well earned. Not just saying that being a family member, but as one of his players.”
Russ Stanley, one of those Terra Nova alumni who crowded into the JUHSD board room two years ago to encourage the renaming, said, “COVID-19 couldn’t even stop this from happening. Honoring Coach is fantastic. We talked about this two year ago. It’s been a long time in coming. Coach is a great man. It’s a great family. The players loved him.”
“He helped me get my start in sports. He let me be the football team manager and from that it grew into a 30-year career with the San Francisco Giants,” added Stanley, senior vice president of ticket sales and services.
Mike Mooney played two years for Lotti. He didn’t hear about the ceremony until late Friday afternoon, but he felt it necessary to drive from his home in Dublin to attend.
“I cherish what Lotti did for me. I still talk about him to kids today. He could motivate you to be better,” said Mooney, a 1978 graduate.
“One day in practice I was dropping balls. He called me over, grabbed me by the hand. Those days he was chewing tobacco. He spit in his hand, grabbed my hand, rubbed our hands together and said, ‘Now catch the ball’,” said Mooney. “His halftime speeches were very motivational. I was a wimp. I didn’t like getting hit. I was a baseball player acting like a football player. But coming onto the field for the second half of a game, your adrenaline was going and you were ready to play. He taught us to be better.”
Horace Hinshaw is the sports editor emeritus of the Tribune.