Burl Toler Campus: Gateway High School and KIPP San Francisco Bay Academy
A photograph of Burl Toler in his officiating uniform. (University of San Francisco).
A photograph of Burl in his later years.
Backstory and Context
Previously known as Western Addition School Campus, this campus was renamed for Burl Toler. It was formerly the site of Benjamin Franklin Middle School where Toler was a teacher as well as a principal. Toler was the first African American secondary principal in the district as well as an active member of the local community. The campus is currently shared by two charter schools: Gateway High, and the KIPP San Francisco Bay Academy. The schools opened in 1998 and 2003, respectively.
Burl Toler and his teammate, Ollie Matson, were the only African American players on the 1951 San Francisco Dons football team. Toler was drafted to play in the NFL, but a knee injury in a 1952 college all-star game ended his career. However, Toler made his mark as the first African American referee in any professional sport. In recognition of his skill as an official, he was given the honor of officiating three NFL Super Bowl games before retiring. He then moved on to teaching and eventually ended up at Benjamin Franklin Middle School where he taught before being promoted to principal.
Toler and Ollie Matson were the only African American players on the San Francisco Dons, a team that went undefeated with a record of 9-0. The team gained interest from the Orange Bowl and was invited to play with one stipulation: the team must leave Toler and Matson behind. Unanimously, the team elected to turn down the invitation despite the honor and financial incentive for the program.
Without funds from the bowl game, and with the university financially troubled, the school decided to end the program. Those who were not seniors had to transfer to other schools but this did not change the player's minds about playing without their African American teammates.
Toler, who was the team captain and played linebacker, belonged to the Bay Area Hall of Fame and was a USF Trustee. He passed away in 2009 but left behind a legacy that will be remembered forever. For these reasons and more, Toler’s name is given to the two schools on the Burl Toler Campus.
1. Carpenter, Ed. Standing on Principle. University of San Francisco. April 26, 2017. October 31, 2018. https://www.usfca.edu/news/standing-principle.
2. Chapin, Dwight. Don in the truest sense / Retired educator and NFL official still keeps busy. San Francisco Gate. September 23, 2001. October 31, 2018. https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Don-in-the-truest-sense-Retired-educator-and-2874879.php.
Estrella, Cicero A. School to be renamed to honor football star. San Francisco Gate. October 21, 2006. October 31, 2018. https://www.sfgate.com/education/article/SAN-FRANCISCO-School-to-be-renamed-to-honor-2485502.php.
Weber, Bruce. Burl Toler, First Black N.F.L. On-Field Official, Dies at 81. The New York Times. August 20, 2009. October 31, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/21/sports/football/21toler.html.