|REEL FACE:||REAL FACE:|
Born: January 18, 1955
Lynwood, California, USA
Born: May 14, 1941
Birthplace: Sweetwater, Texas, USA
Born: April 18, 1967
Norristown, Pennsylvania, USA
Pictured in 2015.
Born: August 21, 1986
Diana Maria Riva
Born: July 22, 1969
Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
Mexico City, Mexico
No, the real Coach Jim White actually started coaching cross country at McFarland High School in 1980. However, he had been a teacher in the McFarland School District since 1964, following his graduation from Pepperdine University. Back then, McFarland was largely white demographically. He retired in 2003 after 23 years of coaching boys cross country. The movie pushes up his arrival and coaching position at McFarland to 1987, the first year his cross country team attended and won the state championship (1987 was also the very first year that California had a state championship).
Not exactly. Jim White restarted the program in 1980 after it had been dropped for a year. However, he did rebuild the boys and girls cross country programs from the ground up. -Congressional Record, V. 146, Pt. 12
The real Jim White and wife Cheryl White actually have three daughters, Tami, Julie and Jami. Julie and Jami are depicted in the McFarland, USA movie. They are portrayed to be 15 and 10, a few years younger than they actually were at the time of the first state title in 1987 (the girls were in college at the time). All three girls graduated with degrees in education from Lubbock Christian University in Lubbock, Texas; Tami in 1985, Julie in 1988, and Jami in 1991. -LCU.edu
Yes. Inspired by the irony of his last name, "Blanco" was one of the nicknames that the kids and their families gave Jim White. -LA Times
McFarland High School is actually just down the road from the Central Valley Correctional Facility, not across the street. Though it is very close, Jim White likely wouldn't have had a clear view of it from his classroom window, as a street of homes separates the school's athletic fields from the prison grounds.
Yes. A 1997 LA Times article described it as a rickety, worn bicycle, but did not state that it was a girl's bicycle like in the movie. However, similar to the film, Jim White had never been a runner himself and used the bike to follow the team during their workouts.
Yes. To make up for the time they couldn't work in the fields due to cross country practice, Jim White would sometimes give his time to them by helping them pick in the fields. "Sometimes I helped them work in the fields," says the real Coach Jim White, "but more importantly, I had practice at a different time. If one or two of those boys couldn't make practice at four o'clock 'cause they're just gettin' in from work, then I might practice at 6 or 7 o'clock with those boys. So I'd have two practices." -KGET 17
Likely not. Local photojournalist John Harte, who followed the team at the time, says that he witnessed opposing teams offer genuine handshakes of good luck. This included members of the Bakersfield High Drillers. In the least, such scenes seem to have been exaggerated by the filmmakers.
Yes. However, it happened a little differently than in the movie. The real Coach Jim White took both the boys and girls cross country teams to the California central coast beach at Cayucos during the 1985 season (not the 1987 season). It was indeed the first time that many of the kids ever saw the ocean. -John Harte
Yes, and at times the White family paid for new shoes and clothing for the team out of their own pockets. On one occasion, Mrs. Diaz made 200 dozen tamales to send the team to Asia. Coach White took the orders and delivered them. -KGET 17
No. Danny Diaz was not overweight, but he was the seventh runner on the team. His performance at the 1987 state meet did help McFarland lock up the title. -23ABC News
The McFarland, USA true story supports that McFarland High School won nine CIF California State Championships in cross country (including five in a row) and held a streak of attending the state championship meet 24 years in a row. That streak ended while the movie was in production, after the small school was elevated to Division I status, a byproduct of their success. They were cross country state champs in 1987, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000 and 2001.
No. Director Niki Caro chose to omit Luis Partida, who in the movie is replaced with David Diaz. "Niki Caro wanted to show more family in the movie so they chose me," says the real David Diaz, who actually graduated during the school year before the first state title win. David is represented in the McFarland, USA movie along with two of his brothers, Damacio and Danny.
Yes. Dozens of Coach Jim White's runners ended up going to college or into the armed forces. All seven Diaz children went to college and all seven returned to McFarland where they live today. Many of White's former runners credit him with inspiring them to achieve personal and career goals they would have otherwise deemed impossible (People.com). Some, like David Diaz, became teachers themselves. Thomas Valles went on to become a prison guard (LA Times).
Learn more about the McFarland, USA true story by watching the Jim White interview below. Also, take a closer look at the Diaz family, who had seven children run for McFarland.
WATCHCoach Jim White Interview
PrepCalTrack.com conducted this Jim White
interview. The legendary former McFarland
cross country coach talks about what it
was like to have a movie made about his
experience coaching the team. He says that
it's not all true but he's okay with that.
WATCHThe Diaz Family - McFarland's Family of Champions
Members of McFarland's Diaz family reflect
on their time as cross country runners
under Coach Jim White at McFarland High
School. Included in the segment, titled
"McFarland's Family of Champions," are
Danny Diaz, daughter Delia Diaz, Gabriel
Diaz, Damacio Diaz, David Diaz, Diego
Diaz, and father and mother Paul and
Juanita Diaz. They talk about being
inspired to strive for something beyond
picking in the fields. All seven Diaz
children ran for Jim White and all seven
went on to college.
WATCHMcFarland, USA Movie Trailer
Coach Jim White (Kevin Costner) is the new
PE teacher in McFarland, an economically
challenged town in California's farm-rich
Central Valley. White sees the athletic
potential at the predominantly Latino high
school and decides to put together a cross
country team. He offers the kids a chance
to know what it feels like to be