Don Markham and Juan Caldera took different paths in different era’s to earn their inductions into the 2017 edition of the Colton Athletic Hall of Fame. The two are similar since both conducted business non traditionally. In Colton, the late Caldera was able to build the best privately owned, multi-sports stadiums in San Bernardino County. Forty years later, Markham came to Colton and rebuilt one of the best high school football programs in the county, leading Colton in 1978 to its first CIF championship in 37 years.
Markham acknowledged that he is still learning about Caldera. If the two would of been in Colton at the same time it’s interesting to imagine what kind of partnership could have formed. Like Caldera, Markham owned a number of enterprises such as the Colton Racquetball and Health Club. In a recent interview, Markham, 76, said he also once owned and coached the North Hampton Storm of the defunct Euro Football League to the national championship in England. He used the double wing to win another national title in Finland’s version of pro football for the Helsinki Roosters. While coaching in England, Markham was in preliminary negotiations to become part owner of the Oakland Raiders’ entry in NFL Europe, something he’s glad that did not work out. “I would have lost a lot of money.
“I always wanted to progress somehow into professional football,” said Markham. “I was hired by the Toronto Argonauts’ as an assistant and had my plane ticket but the owner didn’t want me when he found out I was going to use my double-wing offense.”
Markham was hired at Colton a year after he had won the first of his five overall CIF-championships while at Los Angeles Baptist HS. Colton was 1-9 the year before Markham arrived. His first year in Colton the team improved to 7-2. Colton took it a step further in 1975 when it finished the season at 13-1 after losing the CIF title game to Santa Ana Valley. His 1978 CIF-Southwestern Division championship team actually finished second in the Ivy League. Markham led Colton to another CIF title game in 1981, a loss in front of 29,000 at Angels Stadium. He coached CHS to five league championships, two against much bigger schools in the Citrus Belt League. He led the Yellowjackets into the playoffs 8-of-10 years at a time when only the top-2 teams in each league qualified. Markham left Colton after the 1983 season, having compiled a 92-33 record.
“I think my one regret is that I should never left Colton,” recalled Markham. “I asked for a one year sabbatical so that I could help my friend coach at L.A. Pierce College. They would not grant my request, so I quit. Looking back, they just didn’t want me to leave. If I would have listened, I might have been at Colton forever.” Markham said the key to his success was to instill pride, get players into the weight room, maintain a small playbook, and encourage a few leaders to help enforce team rules.
“When you think about Don Markham, you think of someone who pays attention to details,” said another former Colton football coach Harold Strauss. “No one could make on the field adjustments like him.” Strauss earned his credential by doing student teaching for Markham at Bloomington HS. Strauss said Markham was his mentor beginning in the 1970’s. “He would often leave me alone in charge of practice. The responsibility taught me a lot.” Strauss won three CIF titles coaching at Bloomington Christian before coming to Colton in 2000, where he won a string of league titles and had as many as nine former players on NFL rosters at the same time. “Markham was an X’s and O’s coach who wanted everything precise. He was always looking for an edge. He started an era at Colton.”
After Colton, Markham continued to win everywhere he went except for his last year at Pacific HS. During the 1990’s, Markham’s teams at Bloomington HS made news by setting national scoring records while winning three CIF championships in four years. Markham retired from football in 2015, leaving with a 310-121 record. He totaled 15 league championships overall at other schools like Bishop Amat, Ramona, and Leuzinger. While coaching at Bandon HS in Oregon, his team was runnerup for the state title.
Starting as a Junior All-American coach in the late 1960’s, Markham led Northridge to three Los Angeles City championships. It was a time when he was a LAPD patrolman. He was asking for so much time off to coach youth ball that his superiors gave him a ultimatum. “They asked, either you are a police officer or you are a football coach. I told them I was a football coach.” Markham quit the LAPD after five years.
Markham will be accompanied at his formal induction by his wife of 54 years, Linda. He has three children, seven grandchildren, and one great child. The April 21 ceremony will be held at 6 p.m. at the Gonzales Community Center, Colton. Like a boss.