The Comets coach, who has deep ties to Palomar College, recently racked up his 100th victory in a comeback season after college athletics across the state lost a year to COVID-19.

SAN MARCOS — Joe Early, the Head Coach of Palomar College’s football team, first made the record books at Palomar with a 98-yard kickoff return as a student athlete in 1979.

On Saturday, September 18, 2021, he made his mark in the records yet again—this time as the coach—when his team beat the Southwestern College Jaguars, giving Early his 100th career win at Palomar.

“I was a student athlete here, played football here,” Early said. “I’ve been here pretty much most of my life—as a student and as an employee. I take a lot of pride in the program. I’ve been here for some really good times and for some hard times.”

The 2020 season lost to COVID-19, for example, will go down as a uniquely difficult time for athletic programs and coaches everywhere.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that haven’t played in a year and a half” because of the pandemic, Early said of this year’s team. “We started out on a good note with a win, even though 95 percent of our players are freshmen. We’re improving every week.”

Palomar’s Athletic Director, Daniel Lynds, said wins are hard to come by at the collegiate level of football, and so it’s rare for coaches to hit the 100-win milestone.

But victories, Lynds added, are only part of the mission at a community college, where players are learning and developing and trying to earn a position at a prestigious university football program.

“Joe has 100 wins, but I’d bet he’s got close to 1,000 transfers. The real win is to help those 20 to 30 students each year who move on from our program and continue their academic and athletic pursuits,” said Lynds.

“Coach Early is a dynamic, positive leader, and everything he does is to promote the well-being of student athletes here at Palomar,” Lynds added. “A hundred wins is an incredible milestone, but it’s really a minor accomplishment in the context of his career. He touches more lives than that on a weekly basis. We’re proud of him.”

In addition to coaching, Early is a tenured professor at Palomar, and this year is serving as Chair of the Kinesiology Department.

“I’m lucky to be where I’m at, and I think the future is bright,” said Early.

The Comets football season continues at 6 p.m. on Saturday, October 2 with a home game—the annual Breast Cancer Awareness Game—against rivals San Diego Mesa College. Palomar home games are played at Escondido High School; admission costs $10 for adults, $6 for seniors, children and members of the military.

Photo of Palomar Comets football by Hugh Cox for Palomar Athletics.