By Raiza Giorgi

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

“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 Pirate Football Head Coach Josh McClurg.

The previous golf fundraiser had been called the Jeff Rio Memorial Golf Tournament and McClurg 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 passed away 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 Saturday, June 23 at the River Course at the Alisal.

Jeff Rio
Photo contributed

Jeff Rio was McClurg’s coach his senior year of high school and one of the reasons McClurg got into coaching and becoming a physical education teacher as well.

“The football team is more than just players, we are a family and the Rio’s have been apart 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, when 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 cost of coaching, equipment replacement, travel costs, 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 golf tournament will sponsor three scholarships, one being the Jeff Rio Memorial Scholarship, the Sean Misner Memorial Scholarship and one football program scholarship, McClurg said.

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

“The Rio’s are apart of this football family and we need to honor them for all they have done for the program,” McClurg said.

For more information contact Don Kadlec at or McClurg at You can also register and pay online at or log onto their Facebook page

The Pirate Pass Savings Card is also open for businesses to sign up which need to be turned in by May 1. The boosters print 1,250 cards pass discounts and savings at many Santa Ynez Valley businesses valid from August 1, 2018 to July 31, 2019. To download an application click Pirate Pass Contract New Merchant 2018.