Bishop Diego’s Dan Peeters steps down as athletic director to move closer to his son
There’s just one thing larger than Dan Peeters’ affection for his Bishop Diego High School family:
The love for his own family.
It’s why Peeters, the Cardinals’ athletic director since 2004, announced on Wednesday that he’s leaving his alma mater to take the same position at La Reina High of Thousand Oaks starting July 1.
It will bring him closer to his home in Camarillo and his 6-year-old son, Reas, who has been battling leukemia for the last two years.
“It’s going to be hard to not continue my relationship with Bishop, I’ve had so many positive experiences and worked with so many tremendous people,” Peeters said. “It’s been such a joy to go to work every day.
“But a big part of this is that my son still has 16 months left in his treatment. My wife has taken a large share of the responsibilities for his recovery, but now I can be more a part of that process.”
Peeters met his wife, Jana, when she was a teacher at Bishop Diego. They also have a 10-year-old son, Tallan.
“We moved to Camarillo five years ago, and I’ve been commuting ever since we bought our first home in Buellton in 2006,” he said. “I’ve been commuting for the last 12 years, so it’ll be really nice to not have to spend 60 minutes in the car after work.”
Peeters, a basketball star in Bishop’s Class of 1987, received his B.S. degree in Therapeutic Recreation from Cal State Hayward and his M.A. in Education from the University of La Verne.
He returned to Bishop in 1999 as a long-term, substitute teacher and was tabbed by the schools’ basketball coach, the late John Ward, to coach the freshman team. Peeters joined Bishop’s faculty in the fall of 2000 and was appointed as athletic director four years later by the school’s principal, Rev. Tom Elewaut.
“I had just wonderful people to work with, starting off with John Ward and Tom Crawford and Father Tom,” Peeters said. “John inspired me to get into coaching.
“They were all great examples of a leader for me.”
Under Peeters’ direction, 10 different sports programs have won 18 league championships.
In 2015, Bishop’s girls basketball team won the school’s first CIF-Southern Section championship in 32 years behind Coach of the Year Jeff Burich and CIF Player of the Year Jordyn Lilly. The boys football team followed suit in 2017 with both a CIF-SS title and Santa Barbara County’s first CIF-State championship, led by Coach of the Year Tom Crawford and Player of the Year John Harris.
“Dan’s contributions to Bishop Diego High School during his tenure are numerous,” head of school Karen Regan said. “I am grateful for his invaluable input and expertise, namely as director of athletics, but also as a coach, a teacher, and fellow administrator.
“His vast experience with and knowledge of the community makes him an esteemed colleague who will be greatly missed.”
Peeters has served as the president of the Tri-County Athletic Association since 2014 and has also held many other administrative posts.
He’s coached basketball, softball, track and field, as well as football at Bishop, serving on the gridiron the last five years as one of Crawford’s assistant coaches. The Cardinals have averaged 10 victories a season since 2011.
Crawford, who also arrived at Bishop in 1999, has served as the Cardinals’ head football coach since 2000 and now also serves as the auxiliary head of school.
“For a small school, the success that we’ve had has been due in large part to the fact that Dan knew how to prioritize the right things, and create a real positive experience for the students, and support the coaches,” Crawford said. “When you think about having to replace that experience and that perspective he brought, it’s a little overwhelming.”
Peeters served as the special teams coach both for the varsity and junior varsity football teams, but Crawford also sought him out for critical advice.
“His knowledge of sports is so solid that he was a great strategy guy,” he said. “When it came to such things as the use of timeouts and taking penalties and going for one or two points, Dan was the guy I’d look to during those crunch times.
“I always felt confident that his advice was the right stuff. I’m going to miss him in that regard, as well as personally.”
Peeters and his wife kicked off last September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month by conducting “Team Cheek Night” during a home football game against Lompoc. The event included cheek swabs and signups for the National Bone Marrow Registry, and also provided exposure for the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation family support group.
“Since my son’s diagnosis, I’ve seen the good in so many people,” Peeters said. “So many people chipped in, it was definitely inspiring to me. I really felt the power of this community.”
He will succeed Josh Michael as the A.D. at La Reina, an independent Catholic college prep school for young women.
“Since Bishop is also a private Catholic school, I think my experience will translate quite well,” Peeters said. “I’m thrilled to continue to work in Catholic education. I know how much Catholic schools can transform people’s lives.”
Michael Cano, who has been serving as Peeters’ assistant the past few years, will take over in the interim as acting A.D., Regan said.
“Since my son’s diagnosis, Mike has run the day-to-day operations of athletic director when I’ve attended to my family’s needs, so he’s in the position where he won’t miss a beat,” Peeters said.