It is a Monday morning in January. The night before, on January 22nd 2012, Notre Dame’s championship coach, Scot Bemis, died of cancer. The skies are tinged with gray and the air fittingly crisp. The feeling on campus is surreal, unlike anything most students had witnessed before. The school is unified in its sense of loss and in its love and respect for a great man who leaves a great legacy.
Reflecting his extraordinary coaching abilities, Scot Bemis was posthumously awarded the Arizona Interscholastic Association Coach of the Year Award on the 21st of May. In accepting the award on his behalf, Athletic director Monica Barrett spoke of those “rare people in our society who establish a living legacy simply by their character, good deeds, leadership, and basic human decency.”
When asked how she feels about the award, she says, “It’s awesome… it’s time to brag about him; it’s time to talk about him, so it feels comfortable… just having great memories and sharing them.” She smiles, “It is pretty awesome, how he affected people.”
In one way or another, he reached the entire school. From the students he taught and coached, to the faculty he pranked, Mr. Bemis had a lasting impact on everyone.
For senior quarterback Jordan Gehrke, Coach Bemis was “a role model to me and to everyone…He cared about us not only as players, but also as people.”
Junior Jenna Miles talks about the “bonding” Coach Bemis created at NDP. She goes on to say, “Losing [him] has only made all of us closer, and I am proud to say [he] changed me and who I am as a member of Notre Dame Preparatory.”
“He changed my life because he always pushed me to be the best,” said sophomore Mikayla Gottleib, who had Mr. Bemis as her soccer coach. “On and off the field he made sure I was always giving 100%, and I love him for that.”
In junior Luke Taffuri’s eyes, Coach Bemis’ greatest contribution was teaching his team how to play and win the right way. The expression ‘Get after it,’ means “giving everything you’ve got no matter what you’re doing,” he says.
According to Principal Gonsalves, Mr. Bemis had a remarkable ability to reach kids. “We tell our teachers that ‘…You think you’re here to teach a subject, [but] you don’t teach subjects, you teach kids.’ And he did that… And that’s the essence of a good teacher… That’s why he was so successful. The kids would do anything for him… That connection was made and they’ll never forget.”
And he will never be forgotten. The graduating class of 2012 donated a banner, intended to hang in the gymnasium, in honor of Coach Bemis, a fitting gift for a man that coached his way to more than a few banners himself.
Having launched Notre Dame’s football program with only freshmen and sophomores in the school’s first year, Coach Bemis went on to take his team to the state championships multiple times and won two state titles. He also coached the girls’ soccer team to a state championship.
“He pushed our team to be the greatest and he always said we have to fight to be the best,” says varsity soccer player Mikayla Gottleib, “He definitely fought as hard as he could and he is the best. I will always fight for him and I will always fight for myself.”
Finally, a personal note. When I was first assigned to cover the breaking story of Scot Bemis, that’s all it was, a story. He was a man I had never met, a man I never had the privilege of saying anything more than ‘hello’ to. Yet, on January 22, 2012 that story became more meaningful.
With his passing, I learned of an incredible man with an incredible drive, spirit, and heart. I learned to ‘get after it’ and how to apply that to my own life, and I learned that I, too, was affected by Scot Bemis. The legacy he left behind was greater than any goal, touchdown, or science experiment. He showed me a side of our school I had never seen before. I saw tears in the eyes of strong men that I never would have expected to break down in mass. I saw students come together, to embrace one another, faults and all. I learned that his life and his legacy brought the school together in a way I never thought possible. We are one body, we are saints, but most of all, we are human.