Players and recruits expressed surprise Saturday that Rich Lopez, Cal State Northridge football offensive coordinator, supplied loans to a community college transfer.
Lopez, a Northridge assistant for six years, gave Eric Staggs, a 6-7, 280-pound offensive tackle from Sierra College in Rocklin, Calif., a $300 check for a truck-rental deposit and also paid a $58.94 motel bill for Staggs in January while Staggs and his wife looked for an apartment. The truck-rental deposit was made with head Coach Bob Burt's knowledge.
Staggs, 20, who has left the Northridge program and returned to the Sacramento area, also received a $170 discount on the rental truck, which was secured by Jerry Campbell, an assistant line coach.
Mike Kane, Northridge's all-time leading rusher, said he didn't think Northridge coaches "would go that far to get a player." Although his career as a CSUN football player ended last fall, Kane said the infractions disturbed him.
"In all these sayings you hear, 'One guy doesn't make a team,' and 'one great guy can't beat 11 good ones.' I believed that. Coach Lopez is a great coach and Coach Burt is a great coach, but what they did wasn't right."
The loans and the discount are in violation of NCAA rules that prohibit college representatives from offering "special benefits" to student-athletes that are not generally available to other students. Staggs denies that they were loans, saying that after he paid about $110 toward the rental truck, repayment of the balance was never discussed.
Albert Fann, from Cleveland High and CSUN's prize catch of last recruiting season, said Northridge never offered him a loan or any other inducement.
"It surprises me because, me, being their top recruit, I was never offered anything like that," he said. Fann said he would play football for Northridge regardless of possible NCAA punishment.
"I'm just going to play football and go to school," he said. "There's been other schools doing a lot worse things, but then I'm not the NCAA."
Brian Clark, a senior All-Western Football Conference center, said the $300 rental deposit wasn't "a big deal" to him. "I knew Eric Staggs had a family and all that," Clark said. "Maybe coming from Sacramento, he was struggling. It seems like the coaches were trying to do a lot for him."
This is the second time in the past two years that Northridge has been discovered breaking NCAA regulations.
In December, 1985, former Northridge football Coach Tom Keele held an illegal tryout for nine prospective kickers.
"What came out about Coach Keele . . . this is two years right in a row," Kane said. "Maybe someone's going to get in real trouble this time."