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Steve Springer

Shoup Finds Way to Make Something of Nothing

November 16, 1986|STEVE SPRINGER

It was a tiny new college of 333 students. There was no football team. There wasn't even a field or equipment or much money. The team would play in the middle of nowhere but in the shadow of several of the nation's powerhouses.

Sound like a great deal?

Bob Shoup thought so a quarter century ago when he agreed to become the first head coach of the Kingsmen of California Lutheran College in Thousand Oaks.

But then, Shoup, it seemed, had been finding a way over, around or through hurdles all his life.

When he was a junior high school student at Marshall Fundamental in Pasadena, he wanted to play football.

The minimum weight was 120 pounds. Shoup was 118 1/2.

No problem. Shoup sewed two padlocks into his trunks, weighed in and made the team.

Shoup had a successful coaching career at North High School in Torrance, but when the CLC offer came up in 1962, it was too tempting to pass up.

As always, Shoup found a way.

The total football budget that first season was $5,000. This year's budget is $75,000. But when the team needed a means of transportation to get to practice and games in 1962, Shoup commandeered an old U.S. Navy bus that had been rescued from a war surplus store. He was able to beg, borrow or negotiate for equipment, took his team to Camarillo for practices and, sure enough, by the time opening day of '62 rolled around, there were the Kingsmen on the field, 33 in number.

That first squad was reduced to 29 on occasion by injury, but it persevered and won three of seven games.

Shoup heard the Dallas Cowboys were looking for a training site in 1963 for an exhibition game against the Rams. He convinced college administrators to put in a bid and, when the Cowboys agreed to come, the college had immediate credibility.

Not to mention side benefits such as a field, locker room and showers, requirements for having the Cowboys spend their summer in Thousand Oaks. The NFL team has been there every summer since.

In 1971, less than a decade after they had begun, the Kingsmen had won an NAIA championship by beating Westminster College of Pennsylvania.

There have been been many postseason appearances since and such players as future NFL stars Hank Bauer (San Diego Chargers running back and special-teams player), Brian Kelley (New York Giants linebacker) and Ralph Miller (Houston Oilers end).

But Shoup, now 54, still zeroes in on that 1971 title game against Westminster as the highlight.

"There were serious discussions about closing the college then," Shoup says. "We were having real financial problems. After we won the championship, there was a dramatic turnaround. That win had tremendous public relations value and produced a lot of financial support. It was the high-water mark."

There haven't been many high-water marks lately. CLC is now CLU, Cal Lutheran University. The school has not only changed it's name, but also its affiliation. It is now with the NCAA in which it is a member of the Western Football Conference and plays against bigger schools with larger budgets. CLU is 3-7 in its silver-anniversary season.

Shoup plans on sticking around to solve the new generation of problems.

Perhaps his coaching career could be summed up in an incident that occurred in a game years ago.

The Kingsmen, trailing late in the first half, had the ball on their 45-yard line.

During a timeout, Shoup told his quarterback, "I want you to just heave that ball into the end zone, and we'll score."

His quarterback protested. "Coach," he said, "I can't throw the ball 55 yards."

Shoup smiled, put his arm around the kid and said, "Sure you can."

The quarterback faded back and fired a beautiful spiral 55 yards into the end zone where a teammate caught it for a touchdown.

Shoup turned to a reporter on the sidelines, rolled his eyes in amazement and said, "I never thought he could throw the ball 55 yards."

Something out of nothing? Shoup's been doing it all his life.

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