When Earl Garcia took over at Hillsborough in 1993, he re-entered a county that had long served as a football punching bag for other programs in the area. Other coaches complained the playing field would never be evened because of the county’s centralized funding.
Garcia thought otherwise. His program was the first to implement year-round conditioning — something that is now a must everywhere. His 1996 team, which played in the 6A state title game, ended a 26-year county public school title game drought.
Through his own fundraising, he took a dilapidated middle-school locker room and made it into a football field house. A weight room followed. He also assembled a staff that saw more value in raising the county’s profile than the modest coaching stipends they’d receive.
“I told myself that if I got another shot at head coaching, we were not going to make excuses,” Garcia said. “People would say we can’t go to Lakeland and win. We can’t beat Manatee. We can’t go to Southeast and win.
“I thought, ‘Screw that, they’re no smarter than us. Maybe we’ve got to work a little harder, but we’re going to make it work.’ This was the way the big boys were doing it, so if we wanted to be big boys, we had to do it that way.” Other programs — specifically Plant and Armwood — used the same building blocks to win state titles.
“Coach G was the genesis of Hillsborough County football getting on the map,” said first-year Alonso coach Brian Emanuel, who played for Garcia at Gaither and coached under him at Hillsborough. “I think that’s his legacy. He’s made Hillsborough County football what it is today.”
Now in his 41st season as a high school football coach, Garcia has been the Head Football Coach at Hillsborough in Tampa for the past 23 years. His record of 203-59 makes him the career leader in victories at Hillsborough High, the county’s oldest school. Coach Garcia’s overall record of 236-97 makes him the winningest active coach in Hillsborough County and places him second in Hillsborough County history. Hillsborough has advanced to post-season play in 21 of Coach Garcia’s 23 years at the school including the State 6A finals in 1996. He was named the “Coach of the Decade” during the 1990’s by the Tampa Tribune and has been credited by many for leading the resurgence of Hillsborough County high school football as a state power. “The wins are one thing,” said former Hillsborough and Chamberlain coach Billy Turner, who owns the county career win mark with 254. “But I think you’d really have to dig around to find someone around the state of Florida with a winning percentage like that. Now, that’s an accomplishment.”
Earl is the past president of the Florida Athletic Coaches Association and has been named to six high school all-star games including the
2005 U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio where he coached Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, Beanie Wells and C.J. Spiller among others. Included on that list are the inaugural Florida-Georgia Bowl in the Georgia Dome and the first Florida-California All-Star game in Pasadena’s Rose Bowl.
He and his staff have produced over 200 scholarship student athletes and 15 NFL players in the past twenty seasons. In 2014, All-American Quarterback Duwayne Lawson signed a full scholarship with Virginia Tech and Terrier Long Snapper Charlie Hughlett (UCF) was drafted to the Cleveland Browns. Most recently, Terrier Linebacker Azeez Al-Shaiir (FAU) was named USA Today's Freshman All-American after an outstanding 2015 season and Terrier Cornerback Anthony Brown (Purdue) was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Coach Garcia is married to Gilda who is the principal at Desoto Elementary School and has two grown children and four grandchildren. His son, Earl III, is a former head high school football coach and is currently the Defensive Coordinator on the Hillsborough staff.
“He’s never quitting,” said Gilda, Garcia’s wife of 31 years “I think he’s going to be in it a long time. I know he’s loved it from the first day he started coaching, so why stop doing something you love?”
EARL GARCIA THROUGH THE YEARS
1982 Boca Ciega (5-5)
1983 Boca Ciega (3-7)
1987 Gaither (7-4)
1988 Gaither (6-4)
1989 Gaither (4-6)
1990 Gaither (3-7)
1991 Gaither (5-5)
1993 Hillsborough (9-2, 5A Region Quarterfinalists)
1994 Hillsborough (9-2, 6A Region Quarterfinalists)
1995 Hillsborough (10-1, 6A Region Quarterfinalists)
1996 Hillsborough (13-2, 6A State Finalists
1997 Hillsborough (7-3)
1998 Hillsborough (8-3, 6A Region Quarterfinalists)
1999 Hillsborough (12-1, 5A Region Finalists)
2000 Hillsborough (11-1, 5A Region Semifinalists)
2001 Hillsborough (9-3, 5A Region Semifinalists)
2002 Hillsborough (7-4, 5A Region Quarterfinalists)
2003 Hillsborough (10-3, 5A Region Finalists)
2004 Hillsborough (11-1, 5A Region Finalists)
2005 Hillsborough (10-1, 4A Region Quarterfinalists)
2006 Hillsborough (6-5, 4A Region Quarterfinalists)
2007 Hillsborough (9-3, 4A Region Semifinalists)
2008 Hillsborough (6-4)
2009 Hillsborough (6-4, 4A Region Quarterfinalists)
2010 Hillsborough (8-4, 4A Region Semifinalists)
2011 Hillsborough (8-3, 4A Region Semifinalists)
2012 Hillsborough (10-2, 4A Region Quarterfinalists)
2013 Hillsborough (8-3)
2014 Hillsborough (9-2) State Playoffs
2015 Hillsborough (4-6)