The Wylie ISD school board voted Monday night to rename Bulldog Stadium after former football coach and athletic director Hugh Sandifer.
The stadium, which hosts football and soccer for the school, will now be known as Hugh Sandifer Stadium.
Sandifer, who coached at the school for 41 years, announced his retirement in early January. In his career, he compiled a 285-127-4 record with 27 playoff berths, four state championship game appearances and the 2004 state championship.
“It means a lot and it’s very humbling,” Sandifer said. “It’s very exciting and it comes as a surprise and comes with all those emotions in one.”
Sandifer, who had heard that it was possible the stadium would carry his name, found out after news broke on social media that it was actually happening as he received text messages from across the state.
Due to social gathering restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 virus, Sandifer was not at the school board meeting where the change was voted on.
“I did not know that it was going to be voted on (Monday night),” he said. “(Not being there) does not affect any of (the feelings) as it’s a tremendous honor for me and my family and all the coaches and players that I’ve been associated with through the years.
“Again, it’s very humbling when they tell you that it’s actually happening but also very exciting.”
Wylie superintendent Joey Light said that they had to work hard to keep it a secret from Sandifer.
“Coach Sandifer has always been able to play things close to the vest,” Light said. “We felt like turnabout was fair play and kept it close to the vest. We started getting feedback from people when he announced his retirement. It was almost a community expectation to honor him for his career. To spend 41 years in one place and have the success that he’s had was just incredible.”
When asked why it was done so quickly, just over three months after his retirement announcement, Light had a better question in response: “Why wait?”
As a result of the school board’s decision, Sandifer becomes just the third coach in the Big Country to have a stadium named after him, joining P.E. Shotwell and Gordon Wood.
“He had definitely done everything that could ever be expected of somebody in his situation,” said Light. “There was no time like the present. Those guys that have facilities named after them have done some extraordinary things. We just felt like Coach Sandifer met all those points and felt like he was somebody for future Bulldogs to emulate.”
The former coach said he’s looking forward to entering Hugh Sandifer Stadium for the first time as a fan this fall as the Bulldogs usher in longtime defensive coordinator Clay Martin for his first year as head coach.
“There’s no doubt that will be different,” Sandifer said. “It will be a different feeling with a lot of pride, and my biggest prayer is that they are playing football games in it in the fall and we are through with all of this and can get back to where the coaches and kids can get out there and start playing again.”
Martin, who was an assistant for 27 years on staff with Sandifer, was excited for his former boss.
“I think it’s a great honor that is unbelievably deserved,” Martin said. “This is a person that spent his entire career at a school district that he had an unbelievable part in shaping — not only with the Wylie athletic program, but also WISD. I can’t think of a more fitting honor.”
The new head coach, like Sandifer, knew that the stadium renaming was likely but was unsure of the timing.
“I was probably in the same situation as Coach Sandifer,” Martin said. “I knew it was in the works and it’s a great honor for a great man.”
With the coronavirus shutting down schools, it’s affected not only Sandifer’s planned final semester, but also Martin’s preparations for the fall season.
“I don’t know that anybody has any idea right now about the impact moving forward (or) how it’s going to affect everything,” Martin said. “All we can do is do the best we can in the situation that’s presented itself. It’s unlike anything anyone has been through before and it’s an unprecedented situation.”
Added Sandifer: “Nobody knew what was going to happen with everything this semester the way that it has gone and it’s been very unique. I guess it’s been an early jump on retirement.”