Former West Hills College Coalinga head coach and current associate dean of student services Mark "Grit" Gritton was inducted in the California Community College Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame at the 30th annual luncheon on March 10 at the Visalia Elks Lodge.
(PHOTO, From Left to Right: Former WHCCD athletic director Bob Clement; Mark Gritton; WHCCD chancellor Dr. Stu Van Horn; former WHCCD chancellor Dr. Frank Gornick; Harntell College superintendent/president Dr. Willard Lewallen)
Gritton was honored in the "Contrubutor" category, and joins a prestigious list of former coaches and players in the California two-year college system.
"It's incredibly humbling to be including with those in the CCCFCA Hall of Fame," Gritton said.
"I was fortunate enough to be a community college coach, which allowed me a platform to provide opportunities for my players beyond the sport of football."
Gritton joins other CCCFCA Hall of Fame members from WHCC: assistant coach Dick Womack (2005) and former 1956 player and future NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame member Willie Wood (1993).
In 1996, Gritton became the head football coach at WHCC. He holds school records the longest tenure of any WHCC head football coach, most wins, most post-season bowl appearances and most post-season bowl victories. In 1999, the Falcons won the Central Valley Conference championship and Gritton was named CVC Coach of the Year.
Perhaps what Gritton is most proud of is during an 11-year run, 13 of his student athletes were named to the Academic All-American Team. Gritton started a tradition 23 years ago that provides a Thanksgiving meal for students who cannot go home for the holiday, and for less fortunate families in Coalinga. Additionally, his teams would often visit the local nursing facilities, read to elementary school children, and assist the local fire department to raise money for Children’s Hospital. In 2008 and 2013, the Coalinga Chamber of Commerce recognized Gritton as the “Educator of the Year” and “Citizen of the Year," respectively.
Gritton has served on the CCCFCA executive board for 20 years. During that time, he has served as the president of the association, the Academic All-State chair and now serves as the chair of the Hall of Fame committee. He has also served as the Management Council representative for football for six years.
He has been involved in the management of the state championship football game for 13 years where he has added a community outreach component in conjunction with the event. This collaborative effort between the CCCFCA and the CCCAA office has raised several thousands of dollars to support local non-profit organizations in the communities where the championship game is held.
Gritton grew up in Ridgecrest, California, and attended Burroughs High School where he played football and baseball. In football, he was a two-time All-CIF linebacker for the Burros, and was selected to the Kern County All-Star Team. Gritton went on the play community collegee football at Orange Coast College, where he earned all-conference honors as a sophomore. From there, he attended Humboldt State University, and was named to the all-conference team, and was voted his team’s Most Inspirational Player and MVP. In 1986, Gritton was reunited with his community college coach, Hall of Famer Dick Tucker, where he served as a coach and player in Finland.
Gritton began his coaching career at Humboldt State (four years), then he went on to coach at College of the Sequoias. In two seasons at COS (1988-89), the Giants won 19 games, winning two post-season bowl games. He was also the men’s swim coach, where his inaugural team qualified for the state championships.
In 1990, Gritton accepted the job as the defensive coordinator at Wayne State College, in Nebraska. During his tenure at Wayne State, the Wildcats defenses were rated among the nation’s leaders in many categories.
In addition to coaching football at WHCC, Gritton has served as athletic director - and more recently as associate dean of student services since 2012.