The sun is out after a few days of much-needed rain, but Joe Filoteo isn’t worried about the football field at Cats Stadium. The artificial turf installed two years back is looking good, and it’s so much easier to maintain than real grass.

“It costs about a million dollars to put in a good turf field,” said the city athletic director. “But it more than pays for itself in a few years, because it costs so much less for upkeep.”

Starting his second season as leader of Edinburg athletics, the former basketball legend at EHS feels like he has learned a ton of things since taking over for Robert Alaniz, from facilities management to budgets and other day-to-day details.

“The transition has been smooth from coaching to administration,” noted the winner of 553 lifetime hoops contests. “I have tried to bring the same attributes I had as a successful coach to this new challenge, and so far I am satisfied with what we have been able to do.”

He does miss the intensity in the coaching business, but Filoteo will say that the job as supervisor of city sports brings its own buzz.

“It is more of a broad-scope job, since there are so many schools to take care of,” he explained. “But I enjoy it, I have excellent people working with me here and we think that the future is very bright for Edinburg sports.”

In his tenure so far, Filoteo has noted three main areas to work on: staff, facilities, and the budget. He knows that in all those areas, change and improvement do not come overnight, it’s all a process that unfolds by the year, not by the game as is the case in an individual sport.

“For example, we made some renovations to the field last year and are continuing with that right now,” he said, adding that the Cats press box has been refurbished, new coats of paint have been applied in areas around the 10,100-seat stadium, and that the plans are in the works to add on to the scoreboard in the future. Then there is the Swine Flu specter, which altered Valley athletics last year and threatens to do the same in the fall.

“This job has been all I anticipated, and more,” he laughed. “I just try and be prepared and stay out in front of all issues, there has definitely been a lot of learning done so far.”

The city will add two new middle schools next year and a fourth high school in 2011. While he does his part to ready for those ventures, the new AD keeps one goal in mind.

“Confidence, consistency and equity, those are the keys to strive for in this role,” he said. “I try to reinforce a positive mindset in all the things the district is doing. Part of that is the all-sports thing.”

Last year the district tallied up the performance of all varsity teams for the first time, with the goal of identifying the most successful all-around program in town. North came out on top in 2009.

“Each sport always celebrated the City Champ, so we decided to make it a city-wide thing,” he said. “We have a nice plaque now to award to the winner. It’s good to recognize when there is excellence happening in athletics.”

As a long-time Bobcat, Filoteo is aware that some people might imagine that he has lingering favor for EHS, but he tries to counteract that misperception.

“People see me everywhere, so I think they know that I support all the schools equally,” he said. “”I want us all to be productive, follow all the rules, and win as often as we can.”

THE NEWEST WRINKLE

Among the many innovations planned this year, maintenance chief Mario Lopez, working closely with Filoteo, is involved in one.

The former North football coach was also an official for almost 25 years. This year he is helping usher in the use of a third basketball ref as the old two-man system is phased out.

“We’re working with the Texas Association of Sports Officials, transitioning into the three-man mechanics,” said Lopez, who worked some of the biggest high school games on the state, including a state playoff game back in 1989 featuring Shaquille O’Neal when he was at San Antonio Cole. He’s vice president of local TASO chapter. “We were one of the only chapters in the state that had yet to switch to three-man.”

The addition of the extra arbiter will allow Valley schools to be on even footing with the rest of Texas, and with a number of regional competitions headed to the area in the future, it was a necessity.

“The three-man mechanics will be good for us, but now we are in the process of recruiting new people to help,” Lopez explained. “It’s going to take more manpower.”

To that end, the city will have five weeks of training for new officials, starting in late September. This year most districts will go to bi-weekly doubleheaders featuring girls’ and boys’ games at the same site.

“We encourage young people who are interested in becoming officials to come out and train with us,” he added. “They can make pretty good money, 50 dollars a night, once they finish training.”

The first meeting for TASO will be Sept. 16 at Donna High School, and Lopez said that anyone wanting more information on the training should call him at 821-3925.

“Having three officials will make for less work for each ref, and it should enhance the quality of their work,” he commented. “It’s a different game with three officials.”