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CSUN's Dykes Sits--and Wonders : Football: Free-spirited linebacker, who quit team after being suspended, says he might have acted hastily.

October 13, 1994|STEVE ELLING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NORTHRIDGE — Billy Ray Dykes Jr. concedes that he was being pulled in several directions at once. He admits he wasn't playing as well as he could.

Now he isn't playing at all.

Dykes, a starting inside linebacker at Cal State Northridge, left the team for personal reasons two weeks ago amid no acrimony, even less fanfare and a smattering of confusion.

Whether he made the right call is hashed out daily in the corners of Dykes' mind, he said Wednesday.

"I think about it a lot," Dykes said. "I wonder whether I made the right decision."

In fact, it sounds as though Dykes would like to make a comeback, once he gets a few personal matters straightened out. The latter contributed to his quitting in the first place.

"He was worried about money, about class, about his family, about school," Coach Bob Burt said.

"But I have to worry about the team. I think he was spread too thin."

To be sure, Dykes is not the traditional player. He took two years off after graduating from Kennedy High in 1988 and is a 24-year-old senior. What's more, he is embroiled in a lengthy battle with his former girlfriend over custody rights to their 3-year-old daughter, Brandy.

"I know I've been absent (from practice) a few times, but I had to deal with lawyers and go to court because it's important to me," Dykes said.

Dykes (6-foot-2, 230 pounds) left the team before an Oct. 1 game against Cal State Chico when he believed he was going to be benched for arriving late to practice after getting delayed in class. It wasn't much of a reason to quit, really.

In fact, it might not have been reason at all: Burt said he planned to start Dykes anyway.

When Dykes didn't show for the Chico game, though, Burt's hand was forced. Dykes was suspended and quit the following week.

"He was a starter. It's not like we were looking for a reason to get rid of him," Burt said. "But then, he wasn't playing like we thought Billy Dykes should have been playing. I think his head was all turned around."

It still is, to a degree. During an interview Wednesday, Dykes produced a piece of binder paper containing a brief, handwritten list of grievances concerning the way he was handled by coaches before he left the team. He then characterized his complaints as "just little things, little incidents."

"Coach Burt didn't seem to fully understand that I'm not a live-in-the-dorms kind of athlete," Dykes said. "I have responsibilities."

Actually, the coach does understand. But Burt also has responsibilities--to the other Matador players. "He missed a couple of practices a week at times, all for valid reasons," Burt said. "But that wasn't helping him much as a player."

Burt said he met with the linebacker two days after the Chico game and that Dykes left on amicable terms.

"He's a good kid," the coach said.

Seemingly, Dykes' playing days are now over. A sobering thought, Dykes said, one worth . . . reconsidering?

Burt said during practice Wednesday that his office door is open if Dykes wants to discuss the conditions of a return. Thus informed, Dykes said he planned to contact the coach.

Maybe football is a complication Dykes can live with after all.

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