Coachella Valley High School spent the last year turning a classroom at its 106-year old facility into a museum dedicated to the history of the school. Displays honoring the first 50 years were recently completed, and will open to the public by invitation Wednesday evening.
Within that display, the four Criner brothers are featured prominently, largely because of their immense contributions to the school’s athletic department. All four were standout athletes, and transitioned to coaching after high school.
“We were lucky to have them,” said Richard Ramirez, president of the CVHS alumni association. Those four were really special to our community.”
Herb became an associate athletic director at Boise State. Jimmy coached at UCLA with Dick Vermeil and was the head football coach at Boise State and Iowa State. Bobby became a successful basketball coach who won a number of league championships.
But perhaps none had a great influence at Coachella Valley High than Walt, who was inducted into the Snow College (Utah) Hall of Fame on Saturday.
Walt Criner coached the Snow College football team for just four seasons, but his influence on the program has had a lasting effect. He led the Badgers to a perfect season (11-0) and a junior college national championship in 1985. He was named the National Junior College Coach of the Year.
Three players from that team played in the NFL. Twenty-nine accepted scholarships to four-year colleges, including Bronco Mendenhall, the current head coach at Virginia.
Criner also coached at Idaho State, Cal Poly Pomona and Arizona Western College, but his longest tenure was at Coachella Valley High, where he coached football and baseball.
After graduating from CV in the 1950s, Criner played football and baseball at Pepperdine. He returned the Coachella Valley High after college, and taught and coached at the school for 21 years.
During his two decades at the school, he coached football and volunteered as the offensive coordinator at College of the Desert. He also coached the CV baseball team for 15 seasons and won 10 Desert Valley League championships.
Criner now lives near Lake Tahoe, but visits the Coachella Valley regularly and hopes to check out the CVHS museum for himself.
“I have a lot of great memories there,” Criner said, “and I’m proud of the things we were able to accomplish.”