Green Forest's Bill Gotto to be recognized Friday
Bill Gotto accumulated more than 150 wins in 24 seasons as head coach of the Green Forest Tigers. On Friday night, the Green Forest School District will honor Gotto for his accomplishments by naming the field at Tiger Stadium, "Bill Gotto Field."
"It's a great honor and great to see people recognize what you did in those years while you were there," Gotto said.
Gotto came to Green Forest in 1976 as an assistant coach and became the head coach in 1986. He retired after the 2010 season.
"I came to Green Forest in 1976 and we had some very successful football teams," Gotto said. "In 1976, we were undefeated and lost in the playoffs. We have been very competitive. I think we had four teams that were undefeated in the regular season. I wasn't head coach for all of those, but in all the years of my coaching, I think we won 10 district titles."
Green Forest coach Bobby Bishop was a 1978 graduate of Green Forest. Bishop said Gotto was a great help to him as a player.
"Bill was one of those guys that had a calming effect on us," Bishop said. "Our head coach, Coach Long, was very loud and outspoken. Bill had that calming effect. He was a confidence builder. He was a positive role model for us kids when he was a very young man. He has meant a lot to a lot of people here in the Green Forest community and we are very proud of him."
Green Forest Superintendent Matt Summers said Gotto is very deserving of the honor.
"I think that Coach Gotto has been a pillar of our school district and our community for many years," Summers said. "We just feel like it's the right thing to do to honor his time and the wonderful things he did for the student athletes here at Green Forest."
When Gotto first arrived at Green Forest, the only sports offered were football, boys basketball and girls basketball.
"We have just about everything now," Gotto said. "That was done several years ago, but it's something to be proud of. The football field the community helped us build was a tremendous improvement. We needed it badly."
Gotto is from Perryville, Mo. He won a state championship as a junior in high school and was recruited to play linebacker and defensive end at the University of Arkansas.
"Having a chance to play at a place like the University of Arkansas is big," Gotto said. "Plus, you get your school paid for. I come from a big family. Eight brothers and sisters. My parents told me they would pay for us to go to college if we wanted to go and I thought taking this scholarship was the way to go for me."
As a player, he learned from some of the best coaches around, including Joe Gibbs and Frank Broyles.
Summers was a defensive coordinator at Berryville who coached against Gotto for a few years. Summers said he always dreaded having to play against the Tigers because he knew Gotto would have them ready.
"He was always very organized," Summers said. "They never shot themselves in the foot. There were never any unforced errors, penalties or turnovers. They were a clean team. You knew you were going to have to go a full four quarters because they were going to hit you in the mouth. He was very calculated in the decisions he made. One of the things I respected about him most, being on the other side of the field, was he had his philosophies and beliefs, but he was also very innovative in putting his best players in the best position to make plays."
Jay Martin took over as head coach at Green Forest after Gotto retired in 2010. He now works in the administration department at Harrison schools, but Martin said Gotto taught him a lot in the 10 years Martin spent as Gotto's defensive coordinator.
"The way he coached, he gave you the opportunity to do what you needed to do as an assistant," Martin said. "He let you be very creative at the same time. If he wasn't comfortable with it, he would let you know, but he was always subtle about it. He was supportive of all of his assistant coaches and gave us all a chance to be successful."
Former coaches and players are expected to be in attendance Friday night. Gotto looks forward to reminiscing with them.
"It will be good seeing a lot of people I haven't seen in a long time," Gotto said. "And then something like the Berryville and Green Forest rivalry. I was a part of that for many years, but it was always a clean rivalry. That is something to be proud of and a game that always seems to get talked about."