Senior staff writer
When young Leonard Scotten was offered the job of head football coach at Greenwood High School in 1958, he told Superintendent Stanley Porter that he would not accept the post until he looked at the team’s facilities and equipment.
There were no lockers in the locker room, not enough equipment to outfit a team, and what equipment the Woodmen had was outdated. The field was at the old city park, had inadequate lighting, no fencing and no central spectator entrance.
At that time Greenwood had about 15 players on its roster each year and had won only seven games in 14 years.
Scotten, a graduate of Washington High and Hanover College, was looking at a bleak picture.
Nevertheless, he accepted but only after convincing Porter to obtain the funding needed for proper equipment and uniforms for 35 players. The Woodmen won six games in Scotten’s first year; he also was the head track coach, assistant basketball coach and a teacher.
“The biggest challenge was selling the program,” he recalled. “The community didn’t know much about football, didn’t even care about it because it was just something to do before basketball season.”
A Dads Club was organized in 1959, and volunteers added fencing and a central entrance that assured that spectators paid to get into each game. One year later volunteers forged the high school’s new football field and lights at what is now the Greenwood Middle School field.
The winningest coach in Woodman history, Scotten posted a 162-105-9 record over 27 years. He also served as assistant principal, which took him away from coaching for 12 years. His best seasons were 9-0-1 in 1965, 12-1 in 1988 and 10-2 in 1990.
Scotten returned to coaching in 1980 and shook up the program again with the school’s first strength conditioning room, a staff that included lay coaches and the school’s first three 4A sectional titles and two regional championships. Scotten was a volunteer assistant at Whiteland for nearly a decade after his retirement.
Only two other Woodman football coaches have winning records: Gary Vandergriff 68-51 and Rich Wimmer 57-42.
The former coach-educator-administrator will be inducted into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame at a dinner July 17 at Jonathan Byrd’s Banquet Center in Greenwood at 6 p.m. Cost is $20 per person. Reservations must be submitted by July 6 with payment (cash or check) payable to: Woodman Touchdown Club c/o Doug Montgomery, 569 Savannah Drive, Greenwood, IN 46142. Info: Montgomery, 446-6040, or Mike Campbell, 727-0439.
“I feel very blessed to have coached in five decades of high school football,” Scotten said. “I think there were only 180 high schools playing football when I started; that number has doubled. So many high schools in small towns have developed tremendous traditions, and that creates pride in the community.”
He spoke admiringly of the sons of former Whiteland and University of Indianapolis football coach Bill Bless. Mark, Tim and Scott Bless are among Indiana’s highly successful football coaches. Jim Anthony, Phil Wenning, Jimmy Washel, Tommy Vandergriff, Ralph Forward and C.J. Cash are among many of the former players whom Scotten admired.
“The coaches we played against made the game a lot of fun, too,” Scotten said of coaches Doc Bolton at Center Grove, J.R. Bishop at Franklin and Ralph Johnson at Speedway.
Scotten wanted every player he coached to compete with the safest equipment available. He continues to be a staunch advocate for improved helmet safety, development of a strong feeder program, and a way to assure that each student in school has at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day.
He was honored in 1996 with a plaque at the entrance to Woodman Field for the “House Scotten Built.”
Scotten and his wife, Joyce, live in Greenwood. He has two grown daughters, a son, a stepson and one granddaughter.