New St. Vincent Athletic Director Stan Switala sees athletics as the avenue over which St. Vincent de Paul High School can travel to both enrollment prosperity and greater recognition.

St. Vincent currently has a student population of around 230. New principal Pat Daly says an enrollment of 400 would be ideal for the school. Switala sees athletics as a key factor in reaching that goal.

“We want St. Vincent to be a place where students want to come for the athletics as well as for the academics,” Switala said. “Once kids come here and play highly competitive sports, and once we get into a better league, more kids will come and enrollment will increase,” he explained.

Supported by Daly, Switala plans to upgrade the entire St. Vincent program. “We need to get to the point were we can help athletes get to the next level,” he said.

He said he wants to get St. Vincent sports upgraded to the point where the school can compete in the Marin County Athletic League or the North Bay League by 2020.

“People think it is a stretch, but it can be done,” he maintained.

As Switala makes changes, he has the support of Daly, who made a similar transformation at St. Bernard’s in Eureka when he increased enrollment 167 percent and helped turn the Crusader football program into one of the best in Northern California. The Crusaders reached the semifinals of the North Coast Section Division 4 playoffs this season.

Switala also pointed to the athletic success enjoyed by nearby Catholic schools Marin Catholic and Cardinal Newman. “I don’t understand why we can’t get in their place,” he said. “Our vision is to get to that point.”

The athletic director acknowledged that reaching the lofty goals won’t come easy, and it won’t happen overnight or this school year.

And it won’t happen without change, some of it unpopular change.

Gary Galloway, who helped shepherd the St. Vincent athletic program for three decades, coaching football, basketball and baseball, concentrating for the last several years on football and baseball, has been replaced in both sports.

John Antonio, a St. Vincent alumnus, former head coach at Piner High School and popular assistant for St. Vincent, Casa Grande and several other area schools, will take over the football program.

Switala, with a long history of coaching baseball, including at San Rafael High School, will be the baseball coach.

Also gone is 8-year varsity basketball coach Lance Phillips, who has been replaced on an interim basis by Jarred Pengel.

Switala acknowledged that the changes haven’t been readily accepted by everyone.

“The changes have been accepted well by the student/athletes and the parents,” he said. “The push back has come from people who have been around for a long time, and don’t accept change easily.

“Everything we’re doing is done to create a better environment for the student/athletes while they’re here and when they leave.

“We want St. Vincent to be known for its outstanding athletic programs as well as for its outstanding academic programs.

“I like challenges and this is a challenge. It is not an easy task. Everything we are doing is to strengthen the athletic program and the school.”