Jim Hartman, the father of the Mitchell football dynasty in the 1970s, died Saturday of Alzheimer’s dementia. He celebrated his 87th birthday Sept. 20.
Hartman coached for more than three decades in Colorado Springs, finishing with a 211-101-4 record — the most wins of any football coach in city history, and was inducted in the Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame in 2009. Hartman is also a member of the Colorado High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
He was a lifelong resident of Colorado Springs, except for short absences when he went to college and joined the military. And he took great pride in his community.
“The community gave a ton to him and he gave a lot to the community,” said his daughter, Diane.
He started the football program at Mitchell in 1965 after working as an assistant at Colorado Springs High School, now Palmer, and Wasson under Gib Funk.
Hartman spent 18 years at Mitchell, guiding the Marauders to 138 wins and three state championships.
Mitchell brought home state titles in 1975, ‘77 and finally in ‘81, when the Marauders went undefeated. Mitchell was the state runner up in ‘73 and reached the state semifinals in 1980. In more than three decades of coaching, Hartman had just two losing seasons and was named the state’s high school football Coach of the Year four times.
“The amazing thing is, Jim Hartman won those state championships, all three of them, before open enrollment,” said Tom Sandoval, who played against Hartman's team when he was in high school, and later joined his coaching staff before taking over the Mitchell football program after Hartman left in ‘82. “We were winning with the kids we were given, and there was so much pride in that.”
Thanks to Hartman, Sandoval said the tradition of excellence spanned all the way down to the youth level. Elementary and middle school players waited for the opportunity to be a Marauder and play for Hartman.
“He established a tradition that didn’t just start when you walked in the door to play your first game,” Sandoval said. “The anticipation of going to Mitchell to play football started at a young age, and you could almost feel the confidence in the players — even ones who hardly saw the field. Just being able to put the uniform on on a Friday night was an honor to them.”
Diane Hartman said she believes her father would most want to be remembered for his ability to inspire young people. And not just those he saw at practice.
Diane said Hartman, who taught biology, physical education and was dean of students at Mitchell for a time, had a unique ability to communicate with and inspire his students.
“He had a great presence in the school,” Diane said. “There was great respect and love for him, and so many people have reached out to me — not just football players, who remember Jim Hartman as a man of his word. He was very much trying to build a community, not just a community of football players. His main goal was to inspire young people to be the best people they could be, and he had quite a talent for it.”
In his coaching tenure Hartman primed future Heisman candidate Terry Miller for an All-American football career at Oklahoma State, and future NFL players including Cullen Bryant and Darryl Pollard.
Hartman also coached his son, Jim Hartman III, in his final year at Mitchell. It was what many would consider a ‘rebuilding year’ after Mitchell graduated every starter from the ‘81 championship team. But for Jim Hartman II it was business as usual.
“He actually started out with one loss, and then won eight straight,” Jim Hartman III said. “To lose every starter from the undefeated ‘81 team, and pull off a season like that the following year was pretty special.”
His sustained success could be attributed to a number of different facets Hartman implemented into his program, from the C-squad and JV structure, to his personal demeanor. But it was his platoon style, which gave athletes one specific role on either offense or defense, that Hartman valued most. His system required 22 different starters each game and none of Hartman’s players played both ways.
“I think the thing he is most proud of is his platoon players,” Jim Hartman III said. “It brought more kids out playing for Mitchell, and he was really proud of that, but what he said he really liked about it is he could take a student-athlete and focus on them and their position and technique throughout the whole practice.”
Hartman embodied Colorado athletics. He played football and ice hockey and ran track for Colorado Springs High (now Palmer) and attended Colorado A&M (now Colorado State) where he earned four letters in football, three in track as a pole vaulter, and two in gymnastics.
He served as an Air Force pilot in the Korean War, but couldn't be without sports for long. So he returned to Colorado Springs to begin his coaching career. He coached gymnastics, wrestling, track and field and cross country, but he left his biggest mark on the gridiron.
While his first few years serving as football coach at Mitchell were rocky — he was 10-18-1 through his first three seasons — he quickly found his footing, leading the Marauders to immense success through the next 15 seasons.
Hartman took over the Widefield football program in 1985 after taking a few years off from coaching. He led the Gladiators to a 52-23 record in six seasons before turning to his next challenge — Doherty. The Spartans were 0-10 the year before Hartman took over in 1992. He was 21-21 in four years before he retired in the spring of 1996.
"I've often wondered why I kept going," Hartman told The Gazette in ‘92. "I think it's because I honestly like coaching, I love the association with the kids, and we've always had fun.”