They aren’t the Tracy Raiders any more.
The longtime youth football program has been renamed the Tracy Junior Bulldogs, a move intended to reflect the organization’s status as the feeder program for the Tracy High Bulldog football teams.
The Tracy Raiders board of directors set the foundation for the name change back in November and made it official at their March meeting, when the organization became the Tracy Junior Bulldogs. Come late summer, when practice begins, the teams will wear green and gold instead of silver and black, and the Raiders logo on the gray helmets will be replaced by a green-and-gold stripe.
“The idea was probably hatched before I was involved,” said Jonathan Blackwell, board president, adding that he heard support for the change from parents who played with the Tracy Raiders themselves.
“It was really from their mouths that got the added momentum to that movement. There was growing consensus.”
He added that the board knew that many would be unhappy with the change.
“We can’t just discard a legacy. So there was a lot of thought and consideration for the people who created this great organization. I get that. It wasn’t until people who grew up in this town said, ‘We were Tracy Raiders because that’s all we could be, but it was a stepping stone to being a Bulldog.’”
Those unhappy with the change are also unhappy that it happened so suddenly, without a widespread effort to get input from people who grew up with the Tracy Raiders.
Steve Viado, former Tracy Raiders president, was involved with the group for 25 years and didn’t know about the change until just this week.
“You would think they’d put some feelers out and talk to people,” he said. “You don’t put 25 years into the program and drop the tradition like that.”
Viado added that people who know the Raiders’ history would also know that a name change would be widely opposed. He was involved with the Raiders when the team made the change from its original red, white and blue uniforms and adopted the silver and black, and the logo, used by the Oakland Raiders.
“Even that process didn’t happen overnight. They talked about it for a couple of years before it went through. There was a lot of controversy on that, too,” he said.
“Tracy’s a small enough town that history means a lot here.”
Sheila Soares, who was the Raiders’ president for eight years through the 2009 season, said that the name change had been discussed while she was president, and she expected it would happen eventually.
“I’m happy and I get it, but it’s also bittersweet. The history and tradition, that speaks volumes, especially for the people who founded the league.”
Soares said that a name change was just one part of the organization’s primary goal to establish continuity between the Raiders and the Tracy High Bulldog teams.
“It’s a vision that we’ve had as an organization.”
She also expected that some wouldn’t be happy about the change.
“Within two or three hours of the decision, I had a lot of phone calls,” she said.
Blackwell said that there are many reasons to justify a name change, including Delta Youth Football League’s mandate that teams identify themselves as feeder programs for high school teams. It doesn’t require that they have the same name and colors, but some DYFL teams have done so anyway. He stressed that Junior Bulldogs players, just like Raiders, ideally will have their sights set on the Tracy High team.
“A good argument was made that if a kid starts when he’s 6 or 7 years old, playing as a Bulldog, and sees a path where they’re a Bulldog all the way through their high school program, they’re less likely to give up that path.”
“We want to get that emotional, psychological connection established at a young age,” he said, adding even the Tracy High offensive and defensive strategies could be taught to players at a young age.
“We were already doing that with football generics and fundamentals, but we’re going to do that from top to bottom.”
Bob Corsaro, former president of the Tracy Raiders, said he didn’t know about the change until it was a done deal.
“I did receive complaints from people who know that I’m a past president,” he said, but he added that he wouldn’t state his opinion on the matter and will support the Junior Bulldogs just as he supported the Raiders.
He added that the name change, regardless of the players’ transition from youth football to high school football, doesn’t change the team’s relationship with Tracy High School. While the Raiders have always played on Peter B. Kyne Field at Tracy High, Corsaro, who is Tracy Unified School District’s director of facilities use, said that all four youth football programs in Tracy, including the Cougars, Buccaneers and Panthers, have the same access to Tracy High’s Wayne Schneider Stadium and pay the same rates to use that field or any other field owned by the school district.