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The Gauntlet Is Thrown : Chaminade Vigorously Pushes Athletics In Hope of Upstaging Catholic Brethren

December 11, 1987|JOHN LYNCH | Times Staff Writer

Looming on the horizon in West Hills, the Crusade is gathering momentum. Chaminade High is calling out for recruits.

Missionary zeal overstates the case, but school officials have devised an ambitious game plan intended to transform Chaminade into nothing less than the No. 1 Catholic school in the Valley area. So be advised Crespi, Alemany and Notre Dame: Chaminade is flexing its muscles.

"I want every Catholic kid and every kid thinking of going to a private school to want to go to Chaminade," said Brother Bill Campbell, the school's first-year principal and a chief architect of the mission. "When Chaminade Prep is mentioned, I want people to think of it as the place to go, the place to be."

High academic standards and a rigorous disciplinary code are essential ingredients in the Chaminade package, but Campbell and Father Allen DeLong, the school's president, have instituted what faculty and students call a new emphasis--athletic achievement.

The school has installed lights at an on-campus football stadium that is scheduled to be completed in time for the 1988 season. Chaminade not only wants to win, the Eagles want everybody to know they're winning. Toward that end, the school has established a position for a sports information director, a job that is nearly unheard of at the high school level. In addition, DeLong invited sports writers to the school this fall for an introductory luncheon, another unusual step.

The school also has something called the Eagle Sports Line. Those calling after regular business hours get a recording that states school hours in one breath and directs callers to the 24-hour sports-information line in the next. This week's recording extols the football team, which upset St. Joseph last week in the playoffs, 20-13. It's all part of the plan to publicize Chaminade.

"I like to pick up the paper in the morning and see Chaminade in the headlines," Campbell said. "In fact, I love it."

Campbell has his heart set on a particular headline this weekend, one that would inform readers that Chaminade has won the Desert-Mountain Conference football championship. More than a Southern Section title rides on tonight's game against Woodbridge at Irvine High.

Said DeLong: "This is a dream and goal we've had in the back of our minds, and the whole pie is within our vision. We're doing things and striving to improve ourselves in many areas. A victory would reflect what we're trying to do in all areas."

DeLong, who was named president two years ago, hired Campbell this summer as principal of the school's West Hills campus, a facility for grades 10 through 12. The school, which opened in Los Angeles in 1952 and moved to the Valley 10 years later, is affiliated with the Marianist Order of the Catholic Church. Originally an all-boys school, Chaminade admitted girls in 1974 and has an enrollment of 1,330, including three junior-high grades at its Chatsworth campus.

Campbell, 43, taught and served as athletic director at a Catholic school in Long Island for 13 years and was an administrator at Riordan High in San Francisco before coming to Chaminade. He set the tone for his administration before school started, meeting with the football team during the two-a-day practice sessions in August.

"I told them that I wanted us to win," he said. "I want athletics to be part of our vision. If a school is strictly athletic, that's not a good service, but if it's strictly academic, most people don't know about them. There's no doubt that the press we've received from football will peak interest in our school."

Reports from other private schools support that claim. Crespi, a Catholic school of 650 boys in Encino, won the Big Five Conference football championship last year and, subsequently, the number of applicants for this academic year increased 25%.

"There is a relationship between that and the football team's success," said Father Joseph Atcher, Crespi principal. "It can translate into increased interest."

Campbell preaches excellence in all activities and is proud of the girls tennis, soccer and volleyball teams that qualified for postseason play over the past two seasons. Still, football draws the most media attention.

"I want to see Chaminade on the winning side of the ledger in all sports, but The Times isn't going to write too much about girls cross-country. I want to see all the major sports do well because it brings excitement to student life," he said.

Campbell walks the sidelines of every football game, providing encouragement and medical assistance--he's a licensed trainer. Players say his presence marks a shift in attitude on campus.

"After the preseason meeting, we could feel the change," said Doug Kavulich, a Times All-Valley offensive tackle. "Everybody on campus is aware of us. It's like a wake-up year."

Chris Noonan, a Times All-Valley kicker, was struck by Campbell's honesty.

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