Jeff Scurran was on one adventure when he finished chronicling another. The current Catalina Foothills head football coach was in a villa in Tuscany when he put the final touches on the first draft of his first novel.
Scurran, who was coaching a team in Italy at the time, had spent several years chronicling his time at Pima College. Although technically a work of fiction, the novel “One Game, One Time” is far more work of non-fiction than fantasy. Names are changed, scenes are dramatized and certain events are changed around to fit a narrative, but for the most part the book describes the hardships Scurran faced when leading the Storm against one of the nation’s best JUCO programs in a bowl game.
Although the book is cathartic in many ways, he broke down emotionally upon completing that first draft, Scurran’s intent was to show a reward for hard work, not toss around accusations at a situation that was very tough.
“I wasn’t there to throw stones, but I wanted people to know the story of what happened, because it is a good story,” Scurran explained. “When I first started telling people the concept they lit up. That is when I knew I might be on to something.”
While it is a football book, Scurran attempted it to be a lot more. Primarily he wanted it to be an inspiration. He admits he likes sports movies where there is the payoff of a championship for the ragtag band of misfits that come together. Here he and his players lived it.
The names are changed. Pima College becomes Arizona Southern. Blinn College became Central Texas. Most of the characters are renamed, and Scurran himself is never mentioned. In fact, the book employs an unnamed protagonist akin to Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” or the narrator of Chuck Pahlaniuk’s “Fight Club.” Truthfully, Scurran was not so much paying tribute to those works of literature, but was trying to put the reader into the mind of a college football coach. His hopes were to shed a light on the everyday difficulties that a football coach faces, whether it is a junior college coach, a top NFL coach or a high school coach.
“One of the ideas was to show people on the outside what it is like to be a head coach,” Scurran said. “It is not all the fun and games.”
He’s proud of his football scenes, the book focuses on a single bowl game, but he wanted to the on the field action to be just a part of it. While former University of Arizona coach Dick Tomey praised the descriptions of those split second coaching decision, Scurran is most proud of the depictions of family, especially the hardships that a tenuous situation can place on a family. Scurran said he was most pleased when Rita Rodriguez, wife of University of Arizona Coach Rich Rodriguez, and mother of Foothills quarterback Rhett Rodriguez, said she could relate to the stress placed on the family. The Rodriguez’s went through similar uncertainty during their final two years at the University of Michigan.
Scurran designed the book to be told in four parts, to mirror the four quarters of the football game. The first quarter is the background on the coach and his family, the second is the preparation and struggles of building a junior college football program from scratch. The third quarter of the book deals with the preparation for the bowl, while the final part is the actual final game.
Scurran realizes many around Tucson are aware of many parts of the story, but few know the whole story. Most of what happened in his final days at Pima are chronicled within the story.
“When I left Pima, I really didn’t say much about it,” Scurran said. “There was this rumor, and this innuendo. People would say they had an inside track, when they really didn’t. For a lot of reasons, no one told the story. It was never what people thought. I was never a target, I was just a coach doing his job. It wasn’t a problem (they had) with me, it was a philosophical difference on the role of sports and the role of sports in a community college.”
Although Scurran feels the story of what happened at the end of his reign at Pima is a key part of the story, he really thinks the more interesting part of the story is what happened on the field and what happens in the family of a football coach. His hope is that it sheds light into the unusual life of a football coach, as well as getting to focus on a team that overcame a lot of obstacles and won the big game.
“Not every team gets to win the big game,” Scurran said. “Not every coach who does everything right, does all the work, gets to win. It’s not fair, but it is reality. We got to do that.”
Scurran has plans for this book, as well as his next story, but his focus right now is on the upcoming season. Long term he’d love to turn “One Game, One Time” into a feature film, and he’s already formulating how he wants to tell the story of his time coaching American football in Italy.