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Northridge Braces for Cutbacks

Several men's sports may be eliminated to meet new budget and gender-equity guidelines.

May 29, 1997|FERNANDO DOMINGUEZ and TRIS WYKES | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

NORTHRIDGE — Coaches of several men's athletic teams at Cal State Northridge left a departmental meeting Wednesday fearing their programs may be eliminated.

Paul Bubb, the school's athletic director, presented the proposed athletic budget for the 1997-98 school year and informed the coaches of the steps needed to bring Northridge in compliance with state gender-equity guidelines.

The budget is expected to be finalized Friday by Blenda J. Wilson, the school president. Bubb then must determine how the money is spent.

Sources say Wilson is adamant about the athletic program not overspending, as it did the past two years. This year the budget was $4.6 million, but $5.3 million was spent.

Administrators have several budgeting options from which to choose, but if cuts are made men's teams that do not belong to the Big Sky Conference face the greatest risk. The most likely to go, according to sources, are soccer, swimming and diving, golf, volleyball and baseball.

In addition to budget concerns, Northridge must have an equal number of male and female athletes. Currently only 39% of the school's more than 400 athletes are women. The school must have a ratio close to 50-50 or show progress toward compliance by 2000.

To achieve that goal, women's water polo, lacrosse and rifle may be added. No sports that require building a facility will be added. All current women's sports are safe from cutbacks.

If three women's sports are added and no men's sports are cut, Northridge's projected ratio of athletes for 1997-98 would be 53% female and 47% male--a ratio close to that of the general student population. Without increasing the women's teams and maintaining the current men's teams, the ratio would be 55% male and 45% female.

Some coaches believe that Bubb, who declined comment, already has decided which programs to eliminate.

"We will not have a program in [1998]. I just want to play in '97," said Marwan Ass'ad, the men's soccer coach. "I am smart. I can read the writing on the wall. The only way we can stay is if there is a special love and passion for our sport by the athletic director or by the president.

"But are they going to put us ahead of baseball or volleyball? No."

Ass'ad has a 173-86-25 record in 15 seasons at Northridge and is the program's winningest coach. He said he "begged" Bubb to let the soccer team compete in 1997 to showcase players for other programs.

"It's too late for [the players] to look for other schools now," Ass'ad said. "But if we play [other teams], I can tell the coach these [Northridge] players are available and he can get a real good look at them."

Former Matador players were dismayed to hear of the program's tenuous situation.

"It kills me; it leaves an empty feeling in my stomach just thinking about it," said Keith West, who played from 1993-95 and was the nation's fourth-leading scorer in 1995. "It's not easy . . . competing with UCLA and Fullerton when you only have three scholarships, but we still did it."

Adolfo Perez, Mission College men's soccer coach and Northridge's captain in 1992, said the program's elimination would leave a void in a region loaded with youth soccer players.

"It's going to be devastating for the Valley," Perez said. "[Northridge is] where all the boys and girls go to see high-caliber soccer."

Northridge qualified for the Division II soccer title match in 1987 and '88 before moving to Division I in 1990. In the past three seasons, the Matadors are 20-27-6, including a 4-10-2 record last season.

Since its move to Division I, the soccer program, along with several others, has been threatened with elimination for financial reasons.

Other programs in the same predicament include swimming, which captured nine Division II men's national championships from 1975-85 under Pete Accardy.

"We've kind of been on the chopping block the past four years," said Barry Schreifels, the swimming coach since 1993. "It doesn't feel good."

Staff writer Steve Henson contributed to this story.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Showing the money

Northridge's projected 1997-98 athletic budget with and without three additional women's sports.

EXPENSES

*--*

MEN PARTICIPANTS SCHOLARSHIPS OPERATIONS SALARIES Baseball 27 $75,330 $77,162 $100,452 Basketball 15 $100,440 $140,800 $186,896 Football 85 $376,650 $232,500 $280,715 Golf 8 $12,555 $20,750 $18,228 Soccer 20 $33,480 $36,145 $23,247 Swimming 16 $16,154 $9,998 $23,685 Tennis 0 $0 $0 $0 Cross-Country -- -- $20,070 -- Indoor Track 32 -- $23,150 -- Outdoor Track 32 $66,960 $54,560 $73,688 Volleyball 16 $29,234 $23,515 $74,720 Men's Total 251 $710,803 $638,650 $781,631 PCT. 55.16% 50.94% 57.65% 56.80%

MEN TOTAL Baseball $252,944 Basketball $428,136 Football $889,865 Golf $51,533 Soccer $92,872 Swimming $49,837 Tennis $0 Cross-Country $20,070 Indoor Track $23,150 Outdoor Track $195,208 Volleyball $127,469 Men's Total $2,131,084 PCT. 54.93%

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