SAN DIEGO — It could have been the what-else-is-new department.
Brian Fogarty, the University of San Diego's fifth-year football coach, announced earlier this week that academic problems have hurt his team's chances this season.
But this was about academic problems with a different twist.
Let Fogarty explain:
"We were hoping to be a little deeper this year than we're going to be," he said. "A couple of our kids decided that academics were more important than football, so they won't be playing this year. I guess you can say we have academic problems the other way."
Ah, but that's the way the school wants it. USD, an NCAA Division III independent, does not give football scholarships.
So Fogarty, many times, just has to make do with what he has.
Sometimes he doesn't know exactly who will be playing for him until just before the season begins.
Four years ago, Fogarty and his staff decided the best way to build a solid program would be to concentrate on recruiting freshmen instead of community college players. There were 45 freshmen that year. But this season, only 12 of those players are still with the team.
The number of players who have left the program may be dramatic, but, according to Fogarty, the reason is rooted in the idea that football is not the top priority of all of his players. The coach explains that some leave because for financial reasons (it costs $11,000 a year to attend USD), some because education is a priority, some because of injuries, some just because they find out they're not good enough.
"So, I guess we'll have a young team this year," Fogarty said. "Gee, it seems like I say that every year."
This year, the season will start Sept. 12, when USD travels to Los Angeles to play Occidental College. The Toreros' home opener is Sept. 26 against La Verne.
A year ago, USD's season started with much promise. The team had a 3-1 record but lost its remaining six games. USD later got one more victory when Azusa Pacific was forced to forfeit its game with USD for using an ineligible player. USD's final record was 4-6.
This year, Fogarty is hoping the team will be better, but he never can be sure.
The Toreros should have been solid in the offensive line this season because all five starters were expected to return. Now, because of two of the players are academic problems, he has only three returning starters up front. Eric Nasland, a 6-foot 1-inch 245-pound tackle, told Fogarty that he has decided to take off his senior season to concentrate on his studies. Nasland wants to work on his studies, so he can attend medical school.
Then, Pat DeBlase, a 6-1 210-pound offensive lineman, told Fogarty that he was transferring to UCLA because they had an academic program more suited to his field of study.
"The kids we get have to be the type that are going to worry more about their academics," Fogarty said. "They come here to get an education. All this does is make us a little thinner. We have people who can come in and replace the guys who have left, but now our backups are weaker."
USD's starters, meanwhile, appear to be solid. All of Fogarty's running backs and receivers from a year ago return along with the three linemen. Also back are six starters on defense.
The best of the group is Jeff Mansukhani, a 5-10 175-pound wide receiver/kick-returner who led the Toreros with eight touchdowns last season and was named a Division III Academic All-American.
Mansukhani caught 49 passes for 811 yards and 7 touchdowns, returned 18 kickoffs for 140 yards and returned nine punts for 140 yards and 1 touchdown, a 59-yarder.
This year, Mansukhani again will be one of the focal points of the offense. But Fogarty is hoping the team will have more balance than last year. In one game, against La Verne, the team passed 57 times.
"In the past, I've gone a whole season and barely passed that much," Fogarty said. "I'm hoping to be more conservative this year; although with Jeff, I know we have to open it up some."
The key to USD's offense will be how well its new quarterback, Braulio Castillo, a transfer from San Diego City College, plays. Castillo is replacing Pat Dixon, who passed for 1,727 yards and 15 touchdowns last year.
"I think he gives us more options than last year," Fogarty said. "Pat was more of a drop-back passer whereas Braulio can move around and run better."
Defensively, USD is led by senior linebacker John Gutsmiedl, the team's leading tackler a year ago. He is one of six starters returning defense.