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Daughter Caught Between Dad Who Leads Waves, Mom Lions

November 06, 1986|KAREN FRAWLEY | Times Staff Writer

Being a Pepperdine fan usually doesn't create problems--unless you happen to be 9-year-old Allison Fortner.

Her father, Ron, 40, is the women's basketball coach at Pepperdine University, and her mother, Nancy, 43, is the women's volleyball coach at Loyola Marymount University.

The schools are rivals in the West Coast Athletic Conference.

There lies Allison's problem.

A loyal Pepperdine Wave fan, Allison wanted to bring her orange and blue pompons to the first volleyball confrontation between the schools.

"You do and you're dead," Nancy said.

"Maybe we'd better leave them at home," Ron said to his disappointed daughter.

Family peace was a top priority. The Fortners, united at home, were divided in the gymnasium.

"Blood is thicker than water," Ron said. "To be honest, I am pulling for my wife, but when Loyola's women play Pepperdine's women, I try to stay as neutral as I can."

Nancy has the same problem during basketball season. "Basically, I am cheering for my husband, but I am sitting on a fence in some respects, because I want Loyola to do well," she said. Ironically, Nancy is a graduate of Pepperdine.

Pepperdine has dominated the 11-year history of the rivalry. Loyola has only one win over Pepperdine in women's volleyball--in 1983--during Nancy's seven-year coaching reign, and has never won in women's basketball.

"It's a bigger rivalry for Loyola than it is for Pepperdine," Ron said. "I suppose if Pepperdine had been on the losing end as often as Loyola, it would be reversed."

While she hasn't been that successful against Pepperdine on the court, Nancy has scored some points against them off the court. At a fund-raiser for Loyola's athletic department, she wore one of her husband's' Pepperdine T-shirts but drew a big circle with a line drawn through it.

Now, when Ron walks into the gym wearing an orange and blue Pepperdine T-shirt, the Loyola volleyball team goes berserk.

"They are hysterical," Ron said. "They try to antagonize me to get into arguments and when I won't, they go bananas."

The Fortners see competition as a way of life. Both had outstanding athletic careers. Nancy was a member of Olympic volleyball team in 1968 and 1972 and an 11-time All-American in the U.S. Volleyball Assn.

Ron was a national bowling champion at age 10 and played basketball at Valdosta State College in Georgia.

They met at Pepperdine in 1969 in a badminton class. Nancy was a undergraduate and Ron a graduate assistant. They were the two best players in the class.

"Nancy still swears that she used to let me win because she liked me," Ron said. "I'll never know how true that is, but it could be, because she was very good."

Every day Ron Fortner comes to work, he is reminded of just how good an athlete his wife was.

Nancy is in Pepperdine's Hall of Fame for her career accomplishments in volleyball.

"I am always humbled because my office sits below her plaque," Ron said. "She is in the Hall of Fame and I have been here (at Pepperdine) more than she has, but she deserves what she has got."

They became engaged in 1973 . . . for the second time. The first time, they had planned a wedding with 300 guests.

"Nancy panicked and got scared out of the wedding," Ron said. "She does not like a lot of formality."

The second time, the Fortners had a quiet wedding in Las Vegas and brought along 14 friends.

"We went to a little chapel, and it was real nice, although I wondered how it was going to be," Ron said. "We had a big reception a week later."

Nancy is quiet and Ron is talkative, a combination that works for them.

"After a game, win or lose, I can't settle down or go to sleep. I am just wired," Ron said. "Nancy can come home like nothing happened. She is amazing."

"Compared to Ron, I probably am calm," Nancy said. "He is more emotional and carries things over a little more. If he loses and comes home, its Down City, but I can forget about it."

The Fortners said their relationship is based on communication, patience and understanding. They talk about similar problems at work and home and have a great deal in common.

"There is a lot of coping," Nancy said. "Time is a big problem with us."

It gets tough during the early months of the school year, especially when the seasons overlap.

"Sometimes I think she should spend more of her time with me or Allison instead of doing the laundry, but I understand that's the only time she has to do it," Ron said. "We've managed for seven years so I guess we can manage a little longer."

The daily commute from their San Pedro home to Loyola and Pepperdine is difficult, and Allison gets shuffled between them.

"It's hard to race home and pick her up from school every day and take her to choir practice or soccer," Ron said. "We bring her back with us after school, and she has a good time with the players, who are like her brothers and sisters."

Allison attended Ron's basketball camp last summer and was introduced to the sport.

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