By Raiza Giorgi

Every day before Santa Ynez High School football players walk onto the field for practice or a game, they reach down to touch the Jeff Rio Memorial rock that sits just outside the field.

“I realized that our younger players had no idea why they touched the rock, or who the rock was memorializing, so we decided we needed to do something to bring back the Rio name — and what better way than with a fundraiser?” said Head Coach Josh McClurg.

A previous golf fundraiser had been called the Jeff Rio Memorial Golf Tournament, and McClurg had talked with Jeff’s father and fellow coach Carl Rio about bringing it back, but it was ultimately put on the back burner.

When Carl Rio died two years ago, McClurg decided it was time to revive the golf tournament and rename it. With the blessing of Rio’s widow, Mary Ellen, the Rio Memorial Golf Tournament will be held Saturday, June 23, at the River Course at the Alisal.

The Rio Memorial Golf Tournament honors Jeff Rio, above, and his father Carl while raising money for three scholarships.

Jeff Rio was McClurg’s coach in his senior year of high school and one of the reasons McClurg became a coach and a physical education teacher.

“The football team is more than just players. We are a family, and the Rios have been a part of this family for 30 years. Carl especially was responsible for turning these boys into upstanding young men and part of the community,” he added.

Carl Rio got more involved with volunteering for valley organizations and coaching the football and baseball teams at the high school after his son Jeff died in a car accident in 1996, but he had always been involved in the community.

“We want people to come out and have a great time and know that they are not only celebrating the Rio legacy but supporting our football program as well,” McClurg said.

The football program only gets more expensive to operate each year, according to McClurg. They are looking at $100,000 for one year, which includes the costs of coaching, equipment replacement, travel, scholarships and more.

“Each football costs $90. Helmets run about $400, and those have to be replaced and certified each year,” McClurg said.

The money raised at the Rio Memorial Golf Tournament will sponsor the Jeff Rio Memorial Scholarship, the Sean Misner Memorial Scholarship, and a third scholarship for the football program.

The tournament starts at 9 a.m. with registration at 7:30 a.m. It will host 144 golfers in four-man teams for 18 holes. The cost of $200 per golfer includes a cart, goodie bag, and a tri-tip and chicken lunch. There are sponsorships available for golfers, for each tee, and for businesses.

“The Rios are a part of this football family, and we need to honor them for all they have done for the program,” McClurg said.

For more information, email Don Kadlec at or McClurg at Golfers can register and pay online at or go the tournament’s Facebook page.

The football program is also raising money through its annual Pirate Pass Savings Card; participating businesses need to register by May 1.

The football boosters will print 1,250 cards, which give discounts at many Santa Ynez Valley businesses from Aug. 1, 2018 to July 31, 2019.