The District 230 School Board approved last night naming the Sandburg High School stadium as “Mike Navarro Stadium.” An accomplished athlete, coach and teacher, Navarro holds the all-time best career winning percentage as Head Football Coach in Sandburg’s history. He earned the Coach of the Year Award in 2001 and was inducted into the Illinois Football Coaches Hall of Fame in 2007.
Most importantly, as Principal Deb Baker noted, “He has truly made an impact on the student athletes he coached.”
“I have known Coach Navarro since 1989 when he first coached me in football as a sophomore, then as a varsity player at Carl Sandburg High School,” said Northwestern University Head Football Coach Pat Fitzgerald. “Coach Navarro brought a passion every day to practice and is truly a great motivator. He always wanted me to succeed and believe in myself. As the Head Football Coach at Northwestern I try to emulate these same values when coaching our football team.”
“Mike Navarro always pushed to get the best out of me as a student and player, even though I didn’t know I had it in me,” said School Board Member Patrick O’Sullivan. “He was a terrific teacher and coach and someone very influential in my life.”
Thornwood High School English Teacher and Assistant Football Coach Josh Folsom said, “Coach Navarro pushed me to become a successful, confident, competent member of society. He gave me confidence when I had none, he taught me strength when all I knew was weakness …Coach taught me that anything I wanted in life was there for the taking, if I was willing to work for it.”
Retired Sandburg High School Teacher and Athletic Trainer John Wator submitted the request to name the stadium saying Navarro is “an Eagle who came back to the nest to lead by example and give back to the school which helped mold him into the man he has become.”
As a Sandburg Eagle, class of 1969, Navarro excelled in athletics earning high level recognitions including in his senior year being named an All-State Football Player, becoming the record holder that still stands today of 22 touchdowns in a single season, and being the second all-time rushing yard leader for the Eagles with 1,163 yards. His four-year high school career includes a record of 34-0-1, with the tie coming in his junior year. On top of his football accomplishments, Navarro took second place in State in wrestling and was a member of the National Honor Society.
Navarro attended the University of Illinois on a football scholarship where he was ranked the tenth all-time rusher and earned the Bruce Copel Award for Outstanding Courage and Perseverance. He is currently ranked 32nd in all-time yardage for the University of Illinois. Unfortunately, his collegiate football career was cut short by a knee injury after playing only two full seasons.
Upon graduation, Mr. Navarro secured a teaching and coaching position at Lincoln-Way Central High School. His freshman football team recorded an 18-0 record over the course of two seasons.
In 1976, Navarro returned to Sandburg High School as a physical education teacher. Over the course of his 31 year career at Sandburg, he enjoyed tremendous coaching success, including two years as Assistant Sophomore Football Coach with a record of 8-8-2. He then was Head Sophomore Football Coach for 14 years with a record of 101-21-4. And then he was Head Varsity Football Coach for nine years posting a record of 73-28.