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Bruce Rollinson, longtime Mater Dei football coach, retiring at end of year

After 34 years at Santa Ana Mater Dei, longtime Monarchs head football coach Bruce Rollinson is retiring at the end of the season, the school announced Thursday.

Under Rollinson’s tenure, Mater Dei has become one of the top football programs in the country, winning three state championships over the last five seasons. The Monarchs are currently the top-ranked team in the Southern Section, carrying a 10-0 record into a Friday Division 1 playoff matchup with San Juan Capistrano JSerra.

“I have recently decided that this year will be my last year as the head coach of Mater Dei football,” Rollinson wrote in a statement. “After playing at Mater Dei more than 50 years ago, 47 years coaching at Mater Dei and 34 years as the head coach, making this decision at this time with the entire starting line-up returning next year, should make it easier for the next coach and Mater Dei to continue with our winning tradition.

“During the months after the season, I am blessed to be able to assist closely in the effort to select the new incoming head coach. And in the future, I am committed to supporting the program in any way that I can.”

Mater Dei and Rollinson have been embroiled in controversy after a former Mater Dei football player’s family filed a lawsuit last year describing a culture of hazing within the program that left their son with a traumatic brain injury. Rollinson and Mater Dei have remained quiet about the matter. A spokesman for the Diocese of Orange said early this week a safety assessment launched by the school 12 months ago remains “in progress.”

Allison Bergeron, the executive director of communications and media relations for Mater Dei, said she “didn’t know” when asked if the announcement was circumstantial to any new information uncovered in the investigation.

“It’s sad to see the era end … but it’s great that Coach will support the school in search for a fitting successor,” Bergeron said.

In 34 years as head coach, Rollinson has compiled a record of 339-86-2, coaching Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks Matt Leinart and Bryce Young and over a hundred future college football players. Mater Dei hasn’t lost a game since 2019.

“Obviously, he’s a legend,” Mission Viejo coach Chad Johnson said, “and obviously, high school football lost a great one.”

Jason Negro, the head coach at rival Bellflower St. John Bosco, said of the news, “Bruce is a friend of mine. We’re a lot closer than people would expect. I have cherished the rivalry we have had between our two programs. I’m sad to see him retire. I relish the opportunity to play those guys and embrace the greatness his program has brought out in mine.”

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