At Friday night’s boys’ basketball game, the Caro High School gymnasium was re-dedicated to honor Caro coaching legend Don Stamats.
Although the name of the gym name stays the same — Don Stamats Gymnasium — just about everything else is brand new.
“We did the same thing at the football field, it’s kind of a celebration that ‘we’re done,'” said Caro Superintendent Mike Joslyn. “But also celebrating the fact that the gym was named after somebody.”
Thanks to a two-mill bond proposal that was passed in February, 2015, Caro Community Schools received about $12.5 million for renovations to the district. A lot of that money was used to improve Caro’s sports facilities.
The biggest athletic renovations were: New home and away bleachers at the football field, a new asphalt track, a new fence around the outdoor athletic facility, a new gym floor, new lights in the gymnasium and new boilers to heat the high school swimming pool.
The gym floor was completed in early October, but something was amiss.
“Everything was brand new, but we still had old pads on the wall — not everything was paid by for by the millage,” Joslyn said. “We had multiple vendors locally donate money to get new scoreboards, new pads behind the hoop and other stuff.”
Donations from Poet Biorefining, Michigan Sugar Co. and Chemical Bank provided two new scoreboards with LED lighting and wireless controls. TLC Insurance and Caro Sports Boosters paid for new wall pads featuring the school’s new logo. Caro attorney Phoebe Moore provided funds to recycle glass backboards in the upper gymnasium and Caro Sports Boosters purchased padded chairs, each featuring the Caro logo.
“We’ve had some sponsors, so a lot of (the ceremony is) about that,” Joslyn said. “It’s a celebration in the community kind of deal. To get the community to come out and look at the gym — it’s been redone. But it’s also a way for us to honor the people that have gone above and beyond.”
It’s unusual for a high school to have both the school gymnasium and football field named after the same person. But that’s the case at Caro.
Stamats, despite standing just 5-foot-3, was a three-sport athlete (football, baseball, track) at three different colleges in the 1920s — Indiana University, Battle Creek College and Central Michigan College (now Central Michigan University). Upon graduation, Stamats came to Caro where he coached football, basketball, track and field and baseball over the course of 30 years beginning in 1929. He also taught social science, was a drivers education instructor and eventually took over as athletic director.
When he retired in 1983 at age 79, Stamats had been with the school for 54 years. Stamats passed away in 1989.
“To understand that he was 5-foot-3, and played college sports, I don’t think people get the concept of that,” Joslyn said. “It’s kind of like Spud Webb (a former 5-foot-7 NBA player), there’s nobody else that does that. To me, it’s phenomenal that he was able to do those things.”
After completion of the new football stadium in the fall, a half time ceremony was held at one of the Tigers’ home games to re-dedicate the field in honor of Stamats.
“He obviously had a quite an impact around here to have the football field and gymnasium named after him,” Joslyn said. “There’s obviously some older people around here that remember him very well, but the young people probably don’t have a clue who he is.”
Joslyn has been Caro superintendent for three years, and an administrator for 10. But his Caro roots go well-beyond the past decade. Joslyn attended Caro Community Schools from first-through-12th grades. And played basketball and football before graduating in 1994.
“I remember (Stamats), but I was a very young child,” Joslyn said. “It was very vague because I was a youngster, but as a grade-school kid I was almost looking eye-to-eye with him.”
The Caro basketball team played Bridgeport, the No. 4 team in Class B Friday. Results were not available at press time.
John Schneider is sports editor of The Advertiser and can be reached at email@example.com