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Cottonwood benefactor built football program into success, only to be told to leave
Prep football » As grown-ups debate the booster’s deeds, former players have his back.

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One big draw of the program was that Cate paid a company to film all practices and games, then cut up highlight tapes for individual players. He would get the tapes online or even mail them directly to college assistants, helping bring exposure to Utah recruits.

"We had the same film service that the Dallas Cowboys used," Cate said. "For years, people gave me grief that I was just marketing the kids. That was the point."

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Cate also recruited college assistants to help build the program. He paid them to tutor and gave them tuition money. Some of the coaches went to clinics in Las Vegas where Cate covered all expenses.

When school officials heard Cate was paying assistants, they asked him to stop. He stubbornly plugged on, unable to see a problem with his approach.

Former players saw Cate as the businessman he is. He asked all players to be 10 minutes early to meetings. He taught them the value of finishing work before starting play, and getting through tough times to eventually taste rewards.

"Even now, Scott’s kind of the voice in my head, telling me to grind," said Matt Martinez, a linebacker who eventually walked on at the University of Utah. "He did that with everybody he coached. He never showed up unprepared. And people who say he was too tough as a coach haven’t been around a real hard-ass."

Ultimately, any internal complaints were dismissed by the on-field product.

"We would hear grumbling," former assistant coach Jodi Thompson said. "But like anything else when you’re winning, those grumblings get shouted down."

A plea for help » Although Cate denies actively recruiting players, talent certainly found its way to Cottonwood.

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The program’s most successful players — fullback Stanley Havili, lineman John Martinez and quarterback Cooper Bateman — all came from outside the school boundaries. Martinez and Havili went on to play for USC. Martinez is a junior there; Havili now plays for the Philadelphia Eagles. Bateman will enroll at Alabama.

Cate said his relationship with Havili began with a plea for help from his family. Embroiled in his own legal troubles, Sione Havili asked Cate to take his younger brother under his wing.

Cate worked out with Stanley Havili and gave him rides home from practice while he was at East High but insists he did not recruit him. Havili said he only transferred because his family thought it would be good for him, and he agreed.

Most coaches agree Havili’s transfer from East initiated the stream of players who would follow.

Cate’s "heart was in the right place, but it was like field of dreams: If you build it, they will come," former Murray coach Dan Aragon said. "I don’t know if they recruited in the first place, but what they did over there certainly changed the landscape. It was kind of an arms race."

No one had quite the war chest Cottonwood did, and as a result, the Colts enjoyed success. In 2002, the team was 1-10. By 2004 it was 10-4 and earned a trip to the finals, breaking a streak of 15 losing seasons.

Between 2004 and 2011, Cottonwood accumulated a 72-25 record, more wins than in the previous 24 seasons. More importantly, its stars went on to top college programs. Seeing the success, more families streamed in via open enrollment or transfers from Murray, Glendale and West Valley City.

Competing coaches complained. Some felt forced to re-evaluate their programs.

At East, then-coach Aaron Whitehead tried to emulate Cottonwood while still maintaining a community-based program. East built a new field and began tracking grades.

"When we lost Stanley Havili and other kids, I had to ask myself, ‘What are they doing that we aren’t?’ " Whitehead asked. "For us, it was about keeping our kids. We tried to build a program that was competitive that also allowed kids to play with their friends they grew up with."

Some Cottonwood-area kids transferred to nearby schools, convinced they’d never play behind incoming talent. Aragon said two of the best defensive backs Murray ever had, Clayton King and Tez Allums in 2006, lived within Cottonwood boundaries.

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