The tiny Cal State Dominguez Hills athletic program completed the last school year of the decade with one of its best collective performances, prompting Athletic Director Dan Guerrero to proclaim that the Toros have just begun to get into "the chase."
In the 1990s Guerrero boldly predicts that Dominguez Hills will develop into a national power on the NCAA Division II level.
"I am very proud to say that we don't like to play just for third place in the conference," he said.
In 1988-89 Dominguez Hills tied for the men's soccer conference championship, sent two teams (men's basketball and women's softball) into Division II Western Regional postseason play and advanced in golf to the national finals. Senior basketball player Anthony Blackmon was voted the outstanding male athlete of the California Collegiate Athletic Assn. Academically, senior women's basketball player Kathy Goggin was a Rhodes Scholarship finalist.
Although it finished last in CCAA women's supremacy standings, the university wound up third in the men's category.
Those results are considered impressive because the Toros spend less per athlete than any other member of the CCAA: Cal State Northridge, Los Angeles and Bakersfield, Cal Poly Pomona and San Luis Obispo, UC Riverside and Chapman College of Orange.
Dominguez Hills, which offers only eight sports, the minimum for participation in the NCAA, has long been considered an over-achiever among CCAA members, mainly because it has fewer students and a shoestring athletic budget. For example, in 1988-89 the men's basketball program received about $12,000 in student aid to split among players. At Chapman one full-ride scholarship is estimated to cost $16,000 a year. (A full ride generally includes books, tuition, housing and living expenses.)
Dominguez Hills has an enrollment of 8,600. San Luis Obispo, which won the men's supremacy title, has 16,200 students. Second-place Northridge has 31,000.
More than anything else, those two factors also combined to create a "good ol' days" attitude of "being happy with whatever results we can muster" from the school's administration, which has suffered from a revolving door in the president's office. When Dr. Robert C. Detweiler, formerly of Cal State San Bernardino, takes office this summer, he will be the university's fourth president in six years.
Toro athletic performances in the past 10 years haven't been bad, school officials point out, but neither has the school dominated. Often the results have been uneven.
For example, the men's basketball team advanced to regional play three times in the decade but won only two conference championships. No team in the CCAA, however, won more than two conference titles.
The baseball team, mediocre in the early '80s, advanced to the College World Series in 1987 but has since finished last in the CCAA. In 1983 the softball team won the CCAA title, but a steady five-year decline netted a last place, 3-17 conference finish in 1988.
It's those kinds of ups and downs that Guerrero would like to eliminate. He has already had major opportunities to shape the program. In his first year on the job after five seasons as an assistant athletic director, Guerrero hired four new coaches: George Wing (baseball), Nancy Fortner (women's volleyball), Janis Ruetz (softball) and Van Girard (women's basketball). Dave Yanai (men's basketball), Dr. John Johnson (golf) and Marine Cano (men's and women's soccer), have been retained.
In addition, Guerrero hired Greg Bistline, formerly a fund raiser at Cal State Fullerton, as an associate athletic director in charge of athletic development and promotion. In his first six months on the job, Bistline has raised $45,000, mostly through corporate sponsorships. Those funds will go toward athletic scholarships.
"We are no different than any other institution that knows that in order to get better we have to augment our existing funds," Guerrero said.
Bistline's hiring marks the first time in the school's history that it has aggressively sought financial support from off-campus sources. Fund raising has been routine for other CCAA schools.
"We're still very much in the formative stages," Guerrero said. "We're just beginning the kinds of things that other institutions have been doing for years."
Dominguez Hills is also financially unique among CCAA members because it does not receive student-body funds for athletic programs. By comparison, Northridge, which is moving up to Division I in 1990, receives about $240,000 a year just for scholarships from student funds. San Luis Obispo gets about $190,000 of its operating budget from student fees. Student-body funding is a tax added to enrollment fees specifically for athletics.
Dominguez Hills does not figure to pick up much student support financially, much the same way that its basketball team has had trouble filling its 4,000-seat gym. Guerrero attributes lack of strong student support for athletics to the "commuter campus" image that many urban universities suffer.