Steve Mooshagian thought he had seen it all, experiencing football’s gamut of emotions.
But what happened Saturday night convinced him otherwise.
Mooshagian, 57, who was Sacramento State’s head coach for four seasons and a Fresno State assistant coach for 10 seasons, is in his seventh year at Ventura College, a community college in Southern California. He was aghast like everyone else when something seemingly unthinkable happened.
This was an unfortunate, isolated incident, beyond the realm of anything I’ve ever seen.
Steve Mooshagian, Ventura College football coach
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Bernard Schirmer, a freshman lineman for Mount San Antonio College of Walnut, slugged an official, dulling what should have been a joyful 34-29 victory for host Ventura over JCFootball.com’s top-ranked team in the country. The official, whose name hasn’t been revealed, was struck by the 6-foot-5, 275-pound Schirmer after trying to separate players and prevent a fight during the third quarter. The incident went viral and was shown on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”
Schirmer, who was ejected and arrested on suspicion of battery, told the Ventura County Star he was “truly sorry” and the punch was not intentional. Schirmer explained he often tries to compose himself by hitting himself on the helmet and didn’t know the line judge was so close to him.
“Just crazy, never experienced anything like it,” Mooshagian said Monday. “The next thing I see is the referee on the ground. I saw the referee get up, and I shook his hand and asked if he was OK. He was woozy. I saw him after the game in the parking lot, and he seemed OK.
“It’s really too bad. We should be happy about coming back from a 17-0 deficit, but this is the news. I’ve seen players push an official away, and we’ve seen in the NFL where an official’s flag hit a player in the eye, but not this. This was an unfortunate, isolated incident, beyond the realm of anything I’ve ever seen.”
Otherwise, Mooshagian’s experiences at Ventura have been “terrific.”
He’s a football lifer, the son of a coach, a product and booster of the community college system and its two-year process. He’s 45-22 at Ventura with five bowl game appearances, and his Pirates, 2-0 this season, seek their fourth conference championship in five seasons.
After many stops in his coaching career, Mooshagian has found a home on the picturesque 112-acre Ventura campus. He was a wide receiver at Cerritos College in Norwalk in the late 1970s before playing two seasons at Fresno State, where he served on the coaching staff from 1985 to 1994.
Mooshagian began his coaching career at Washington Union High School in Fresno in 1983, coached at Fresno City College and had assistant coaching jobs at Pittsburgh and Nevada and with the Cincinnati Bengals. He was 11-33 at Sac State (2003-06), then had stints at the University of San Diego and Feather River College in Quincy before being hired at Ventura.
“John Wooden once said that experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want,’” Mooshagian said. “I look back and think of the Sac State years, and there are some things I wish I could have done differently, but I learned from it.
Coaching is a roller-coaster ride. I tell players all the time to enjoy that ride. It doesn’t last long as a player, and you don’t coach forever. So appreciate the game, because you never know how good it can be or what will happen.
Steve Mooshagian, Ventura College football coach
“Then I wondered, ‘Where did I have the most fun playing and coaching?’ And that was at the community college level, so I looked for jobs between San Diego and Santa Barbara, near the beach, and sure enough, with the blessing of God, I got this job, and it’s been a great fit, a nice home, the right place at the right time in my career.”
One perk of coaching the Pirates is being surrounded by family, with his son and son-in-law on his staff. Bobby Mooshagian, who coaches receivers, starred at Memorial High in Fresno and played for his father at Sac State. Tyson Butler, the defensive coordinator, also played for Mooshagian at Sac State and married Mooshagian’s daughter, Janaye. They have three children, all regulars at practices and games.
“She’s a true coach’s daughter and a coach’s wife, having her last baby right before a scrimmage,” Mooshagian said. “In between classes, I went over, got to hold the baby, got back for the scrimmage – perfect.
“My son has seen the pain and suffering his dad went through as a coach, the losses, the different jobs, moving on. He’s had some deep wounds, and he appreciates all of it, how great this game is and coaching together. I appreciate it, too. I’ve seen him grow.
“Coaching is a roller-coaster ride. I tell players all the time to enjoy that ride. It doesn’t last long as a player, and you don’t coach forever. So appreciate the game, because you never know how good it can be or what will happen.”