Devoted prep historian dies
Sollenberger was man behind
The Arizona Republic
Jun. 25, 2005 12:00 AM
Whoever said you can't be in two places at one time didn't know Barry Sollenberger.
Sollenberger did his best to disprove that theory every Friday night during the fall, attending two, three or four high school football games.
It was that love for high school sports and the athletes that provided a purpose.
The man who was known as Arizona's high school sports historian for nearly four decades and was sports information director for the Arizona Interscholastic Association, died at his Tempe home on Thursday, his 60th birthday.
Funeral arrangements were incomplete Friday. AIA Executive Director Harold Slemmer said a memorial service likely would be held later in the summer, so that many high school coaches and officials who now are out of town on vacations may attend.
"His name was synonymous with high school sports history in our state," said Slemmer, who, when he assumed leadership in 1999 brought Sollenberger on board. "It is a complete shock. How do you possibly fill his shoes?"
Sollenberger was a star track and field athlete at Arcadia High in Phoenix, winning the decathlon with a record point total in 1964. He later ran track for Arizona State.
In 1970, his statewide high school football magazine debuted, later focusing on a Valley readership base as Phoenix Metro Football. Issue No. 35 is expected to be published soon.
"The first cover was Fred Mortensen (former Tempe High quarterback)," said Skip Bryant, former sports editor for the Tempe Daily News (now East Valley Tribune). "His knowledge of prep sports was unmatched."
The libraries at the state Capitol and ASU (Sollenberger also published ASU sports programs) were as much of a home as athletic fields.
"Encyclopedic," is what Gilbert football coach Jesse Parker called him.
"He was a basic, down-to-earth guy, rejecting the greed of today for the love of what he was doing," Parker said.
Bourgade Catholic football coach Pat Lavin, who played at St. Mary's in the 1960s and coached at St. Mary's in the 1970s, said nobody knew more about high school athletes.
"He paid the price, living on a shoestring to put together one of the best prep magazines in the country," Lavin said.
In 1978, Sollenberger collaborated with writer-publisher Dave Kukulski on the football magazines.
"We faced a lot of challenges over the years, but we stuck with it. He would look at numbers, but he would take a long look at what actually happened," Kukulski said.
Just last week, Sollenberger prowled the sideline at Surprise Stadium, watching the Arizona Coaches Association All-Star Football Game with longtime friend Ron Cosner, softball coach at Tempe Marcos de Niza.
On Sundays, he and Cosner would run uncompleted freeway loops (202 and 101) and wind up at McDonald's.
"He was a great friend. I think he was one of the most influential persons in high school sports," Cosner said.