The SportsTurf Interview: Brian Scott

This month in our feature, “The SportsTurf Interview,” we visit with Brian Scott, professor of horticulture at Mt San Antonio College in Walnut, CA. This past January Scott was honored with the STMA’s Dr. William H. Daniel Founders Award, given annually for significant contributions to the sports turf industry through research, teaching or extension outreach. Scott-led teams have consistently placed high in the Student Challenge competition at STMA Conference over the past decade.

SportsTurf: What are you responsible for in the turf program at Mt. San Antonio?

Scott: My primary responsibilities at Mt. SAC include:

Professor of Horticulture where I teach several courses including Soil Science, Integrated Pest Management, Turfgrass Production and Management, Sports Turf Management, Landscape Design, Landscape Laws, Contracting and Estimating and Horticulture Science. We offer four Associate of Science Degrees and 12 Certificates. Our degrees are Park and Sports Turf Management, Ornamental Horticulture, Equipment Technology and Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Our IPM Degree is aligned with California’s requirements for the Pest Control Advisors (PCA) License so that any student who successfully completes that degree and has 2 years of field experience will be able to qualify to take the PCA Exam. I believe we are the only Community College program in California that can make that statement. I developed that degree and implemented it fall 2011. We have certificates in Interior Landscaping, Landscape and Park Maintenance, Landscape Design 1 and 2, Landscape Equipment Technology, Landscape Irrigation, Nursery Management, Landscape Construction, Park Management, Sports Turf Management, Tree Care and Maintenance and Horticulture Science. Two other faculty, Tom Visosky and Jennifer Hinostroza, and I are responsible for updating curriculum program modifications in all of these degrees and certificates.

Agricultural Sciences Department Chair where I oversee the entire department. In addition to the horticulture side of things, we have degrees in Registered Veterinary Technology, Horse Ranch Management and Agri-Technology. We have a 110-acre farm that includes horses, sheep, swine, cattle, a few llamas, a Zebu and a Watusi named Norma Jean. We also have a state-of-the-art animal hospital in our new Agricultural Sciences facility that was completed in 2011. This new facility has several lecture and laboratory rooms, a computer lab and offices for our nine full-time faculty and several of our classified staff. We also have a 10-acre nursery where we grow a diverse plant palette to sell to raise money for our program.

Turf Team coach where I have been organizing the team since the first competition in Orlando in 2006. This responsibility includes qualifying students for the team, training the team, acquisition of funds for travel (which in the past has included several landscape jobs installed by turf team members) and organizing all travel details. Chaz Perea has been coaching the team since 2011 and he has taken over the primary responsibility of conducting all training sessions.

Overseeing our turf plots and sports turf lab, which consists of Kent Kurtz Memorial Stadium, a Wiffle ball field we installed to provide a training area for sports turf students and occasional extremely competitive night Wiffle ball games using glow-in-the-dark balls.


SportsTurf: How has your career benefitted from being a member of STMA?

Scott: I think it started as a student member when I was attending Cal Poly Pomona. Dr. Kent Kurtz was my advisor and I remember working out of that office in Upland when he was the Executive Director of STMA. Doc encouraged me to apply for an STMA scholarship. I did and was awarded the “Harry Gill” scholarship. It was to be awarded at the first independent STMA National Conference in Vero Beach, FL in 1989. Doc told me I had to go to Florida to receive the award; I told him that it would cost me more to go to Florida than the scholarship awarded me. The next thing I knew he told me that the hotel and airfare were all taken care of by STMA. I came to find out later through sources that he paid it out of his own pocket!

The banquet room that year was very small and I sat at a table with Doc and Harry Gill. I will never forget that evening. It instilled something in me that was rekindled in 2001 when I began my teaching career. Once again, I found myself seeking council from my long-term mentor, Doc. He was still at Cal Poly (which is right next door to Mt. SAC). He welcomed my students as they were his own. He edified my in front of my students even when I was very wet behind the ears. He helped me to plug back in to STMA as he and Steve Dugas were getting ready to start a new local chapter, which became the Greater LA Basin STMA, the chapter of which I am now serving as President. I became an active member of the national STMA that same year when the conference was in Vegas. I have been to every conference since and have met many people who have helped me develop the turf program at Mt. SAC to what it is today. We did not even have a sports turf program when I started and now we have a program that has national recognition through the STMA. The success of my students is what my career is all about. In that light, STMA has provided an avenue of success for my students, thus an avenue of success for me.

SportsTurf: How do you explain your students’ history of success in the STMA’s Student Competition?

Scott: I believe that it is my role to give students a vision that overpowers the excuses that would keep them from the immense commitment of time and effort that is required to prepare for the competition. I have always talked about the opportunities that are created by attending the conference and networking and learning from their potential employers. I also speak to the fact that the relationships they build with their teammates through the entire experience will last a lifetime. I share with them that my own experience in college was defined by going “above and beyond,” investing time in extracurricular activities that are still paying dividends today. I also live by the philosophy that I would rather have a few extremely dedicated students on the team rather than a larger number of partially committed students. We do not accept partial commitments.

I attribute much of our success in recent years to the coaching efforts of Chaz Perea. He has developed an incredible training system. His expectations of the students are extremely high; but at the same time he dedicates countless hours to their success, and they see that and appreciate it. Chaz and I are not paid for the time we spend developing the turf team. The students do not earn units toward their degree for participating on the team. The only reason I mention that is because I think it speaks volumes as to WHY we do it. There is a passion that is shared every year, with every team to be the best. That is the goal every year. Lynda Wightman is right: there are no losers in the Student Challenge. However, there is something special about holding a trophy, knowing at that moment your efforts paid off and you are the best at what you do. We sometimes tend to minimize the importance of that because we don’t want to appear to place too much importance on winning. But everyone who has ever felt that feeling knows it holds a special place in their life.

SportsTurf: How has social media impacted your work?

Scott: I can’t get students to pay attention in class. They are always on social media! Just kidding, sort of. It has probably had more of an impact than I can think of but the main impact is the ability to communicate with students and observe them communicating with each other. It is wonderful to be able to see what students all over the country are doing just by checking social media sights. The networking opportunities are multiplied exponentially. The downside is that students sometimes expect me to be available 24/7! From a professional standpoint, I am able to keep in constant contact with those who are instrumental in my professional development and in giving students job opportunities.

SportsTurf: How do you think the profession and industry will change in the next 10 years?

Scott: Well we have already seen some of it in California and other places. Many more organic products and methods will be used. Rainwater harvesting and water recycling at facilities will play a major role. Every structure will have solar panels to supply part or all of the power. Turf managers are going to have to be astute in all of these systems as I am sure it will be part of their responsibility to maintain these systems. Battery-operated equipment may become the standard. The demand for quality fields will increase. I am not sure the budgets and resources will ever keep up with that. It will become more important for students to acquire the ability to interact with supervisors, peers and subordinates. These skills are difficult to teach. To sum it up, in the past we were able to focus on a particular field or facility. Going forward we are learning to think about how every decision we makes impacts not only our facility, but the environment around it as well as the footprint that is going to left for future generations.

SportsTurf: What are your passions and interests outside of work?

Scott: My family is my first passion. I have been married for almost 25 years to my amazing wife. If I include the time we spent dating, we have been together for 30 years. She has been nothing but supporting and encouraging to me. My daughters are 19 and 16 and are incredible young women. I am a blessed man. Because I have two beautiful daughters I have taken a keen interest in shotguns and target practice! All kidding aside, we are a family who likes their firearms. I believed my girls should learn to handle a weapon, and they do a great job.

I love to water ski, wakeboard and pull family and friends up and down the Colorado River all summer long! I also love to fish and camp. I like to golf, although I am a mediocre player at best. Within the past 3 years I have made a commitment to increasing my physical fitness. As a result, I have run several half-marathons, completed three Tough Mudders, some 5k runs and even a Triathlon Express. I also love attending concerts ranging from AC/DC to Blake Shelton.

SportsTurf: Who would be included at the table if you could dine with anyone, living or dead?

Scott: This is a tough one. I am a social creature. I first thought of so many people, but I narrowed it down to one. I would choose to have one more dinner with my grandpa, Billy Jo Scott, who passed away in 2010 after living for 7 years as a stroke victim. I would want it to be just the two of us, like old times before his stroke.

You see, my grandpa was my hero. He did not have a college education. He did not even finish high school. Yet somehow he taught me about the value of being educated. He was one of the best teachers I have ever known. He taught me how to weld. He taught me how to hunt. He taught me how to mold lead bullets for his black powder guns. He taught me the value of family and friends, and how to nurture those relationships. He taught me how to discipline (or be disciplined) but show love at the same time. He taught me about how to deeply love my wife, as he and my grandma were married for more than 60 years. He taught me how to look for the positive qualities in everyone, and see them for what they can be, but love them for who they are. He taught me how to forgive, and how not to hold a grudge. I know this is where I developed my passion for teaching, by watching my grandpa give so much of himself to others every day. I could go on for pages about this man whom I love so much, and miss so terribly.

There was not a day that went by in my childhood that I did not want spend time with my grandpa. And growing up living next door to him, it made it easy to visit. We did not always have long, deep conversations. We just kind of hung out and experienced life together. And that is what I would like to do one more time. Greet him with a hug, break bread together, have a few laughs, shed a few tears, and just hang out, one last time. This time, I won’t say goodbye. I will just say see you later.