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Football Program Sacked at East L.A. College : Education: The $90,000 program is sacrificed to avoid student service cuts and layoffs. A petition drive to restore the sport gathers more than 1,200 signatures.

April 18, 1993|JAVIER CERVANTES | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

East Los Angeles College has dropped its football program, leaving Central Los Angeles with only one community college football team.

College President Omero Suarez said he had to cut $90,000 from the school's budget and chose to eliminate football rather than scale back other student services such as counseling and student government. He added that dropping football was necessary to avoid laying off full-time employees of the college.

Athletic Director Gil Rozadilla was upset about the elimination of football and helped organize a student petition calling for the program to be restored. He gathered 1,265 signatures in two days and presented them Wednesday to the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees at Harbor College.

"I look at these cuts as if they were immoral," Rozadilla said. "They not only affect the college, but they affect the high schools that feed this campus and the community."

The board denied a request for additional funds to finance the program. Rozadilla said the athletic program will seek private funding.

County Supervisor Gloria Molina, a graduate of East L.A. College, was sympathetic to the athletic department but said she understood the necessity.

"It is unfortunate that athletic programs are being cut throughout the state, but this is a sign of the times," Molina said in a statement. "California is in a deep fiscal crisis."

This is the second time in seven years that football has been eliminated at East L.A. College, a 16,000-student community college in Monterey Park.

The program was cut for budgetary reasons in 1986, but was restored in 1988 when former president Arthur Avila allocated additional funds received from the Los Angeles Community College District, according to Ed T. Mitchell, dean of academics.

Rozadilla expected a reduction in his athletic department and prepared a reduced budget that maintained the football program. "I expected a 5.7% cut (from the athletic budget), but they cut 25% without my knowledge," he said. "This is very damaging for the campus."

Most of East L.A.'s players come from the 41 high schools on the Eastside, in Southeast Los Angeles County and in South-Central. The only remaining community college football program in the central city is at Southwest College.

"L.A. City and L.A. Trade Tech do not offer football and, if we get cut, then some of these kids who want to play will have nowhere to go," Rozadilla said.

Players can travel an additional 10 to 20 miles and play at Pasadena City, Rio Hondo, West L.A. or Santa Monica colleges.

East L.A. running back Jaykuan Marrero, who was recently named team captain, is now without a team. Marrero missed most of last season with turf toe and a hamstring injury. The 5-foot-8 sophomore hoped his play this season would earn him a Division I scholarship.

"Football means more than just playing on the field," Marrero said. "Players learn the meaning of discipline, self-esteem and respect."

Sophomore receiver Jaime Lopez said: "I lose a chance to play for a scholarship too. Players come here because they have no money and they need a chance to play for a scholarship."

Last season, the Huskies finished 0-10. However, the program has produced players who have had successful careers in the National Football League, including Oakland Raider Ben Davidson. Another Raider, Clarence Davis, wore a Huskie uniform in 1968-69. East L.A. has won six conference titles, appeared in two state championship games and won the state title in 1974.

"This has already had an impact on recruiting in the high schools," Rozadilla said. "People in the community have already heard about it. On Easter Sunday my phone was ringing off the hook with people asking me if it was true."

The Huskies will still offer baseball, men's basketball, men's soccer, wrestling, women's volleyball and softball.

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