Growing up in Western Pennsylvania, playing
in a well run, competitive youth football league, coaching at a high
school level, and playing at a college level, gave me a great appreciation
and respect for the game of football. When we moved to State College
in 1996, I was surprised to find that there were no organized youth
football leagues that played neighboring youth football communities.
When I was growing up in the Pittsburgh area,
if you wanted to play youth football, you played for the organization
in your town. Usually, the organization represented your school district
and you played other neighboring school districts. I believe that
this was imperative to teaching young people how to be respectful,
competitive and enthusiastic about playing a game. I believe that
by learning the fundamentals at a young age I was able to stay away
from serious injury. I knew that my youth football organization had
taught me discipline, self esteem and teamwork which are all attributes
of a successful person. I wanted my children to experience the same
thing. So, the search was on.
In 1999, my two young sons and I would joke
and talk about team names while playing football in the yard. We
wanted our name to be recognized in the community. There was a team
in the Pittsburgh area called the Morningside Bulldogs and they were
always tough and well respected. Thus, the Bulldog name was born.
I wanted our organization to have that same respect and I knew that
the Bulldogs name would be quickly recognized in a community of Lions.
The only problem I had was finding someone
with the same passion. In the fall of 1999, I met Mike Rizzuto. Ironically
enough, we met at a high school football game and immediately started
talking about the Steelers. In summer 2001, Mike asked me a question,
"Are there any youth football organizations in the area?" I said,
"No, but I am going to start one. Do you want to help?" Mike said,
"Yes." And, the rest is history.
In late summer 2001, Mike began doing research
on Pop Warner. He contacted the national organization and they gave
us the name of the regional football commissioner in our area. I
called him and we talked about Pop Warner and getting started in
State College. He invited us to a meeting. After several league meetings
and explaining our intentions to the other associations, we were
voted into the Susquehanna Valley Pop Warner league in October 2001.
Next, Mike and I formed a board. Mike was
our legal representation with an extensive coaching background in
gymnastics. Mike and I quickly learned that we could challenge each
other. With my vision and Mike's close attention to detail, we knew
we had the right mix of personalities.
We recruited my neighbor Bob Abel who is now
our football commissioner. Bob is great with children and shared
our passion for football. He was quickly one of our key people in
the start up and continued success of the Centre Bulldogs.
Doug Hartman then called us and said he wanted
to be a part of what we were doing. Doug came from another youth
football organization and opened our eyes to the single wing offense.
Within a few weeks, we had recruited about
5-6 people for our board. We had to create a logo, develop a fundraising
plan, buy equipment, coordinate a registration, and become incorporated.
Lots of work to do.
At our first board meeting, we quickly decided
that our colors would be dark green and black. With Steelers and
Eagles fans on the board, it was not a hard decision. Needless to
say that the only Cowboys fan on our board, Bob, was a bit disappointed.
We fumbled around in fundraising until Jeannette
Rizzuto decided to bail us out in January 2002. She became our fundraising
committee chairperson. Colleen Karas supported us from the beginning
with meetings, registration, the many phone calls and the many pitfalls
of starting an organization. Without their support, Mike and I would
not have been able to get the Bulldogs started.
One thing that I thought was imperative to
our success was a set of guiding principles and an official logo.
The logo appears on everything that we publish. I spent several weeks
working with PAMP Printing developing the logo. I knew that our imaging
had to be consistent and recognizable. After several iterations,
the Bulldog logo was set.
I wanted our guiding principles to represent
what we believe in. I wanted people to be able to read them and
quickly understand that we know what we are doing and that our organization
is for the kids. The Bulldogs guiding principles are the foundation
of the Centre Bulldogs Football and Cheerleading organization.
To see the principles, click here.
It is amazing to think that this all started
with some simple discussions with my kids, meeting Mike Rizzuto,
recruiting guys like Bob Abel and Doug Hartman, and sticking to a
vision of what a youth football organization should be. I am sure that
we will continue to have challenges as an organization. However, it
is through volunteers (moms and dads), sponsors and commitment to
our guiding principles that we will continue to prosper and grow
as an organization.
Our hope is that each child graduates from
the Centre Bulldogs as a more confident individual with a higher
self esteem and a greater appreciation and respect for the game and
for each other.
Keith J. Karas