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VALLEY/VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Search for New Northridge Men's Coach Looks Priceless

Volleyball: He plans to stay at Bakersfield and hopes Campbell will get job permanently.

April 03, 1998|MIKE BRESNAHAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

NORTHRIDGE — Cal State Northridge is conducting a national search for a men's volleyball coach, but at least one likely candidate won't apply.

John Price, who coached the Matadors for 12 seasons before leaving last year to take over the women's program at Cal State Bakersfield, has decided to stay put.

Northridge Coach Jeff Campbell was hired in August on an interim basis after Price left July 24. Because of stipulations in emergency-hire situations, the university must conduct an open search for a coach.

Campbell has led the Matadors (9-12, 5-11 in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play) to a respectable season despite several players leaving the program after it was temporarily cut last summer because of budget and gender-equity problems.

Campbell is a leading candidate to be hired on a permanent basis, but Price's application would have made the selection process interesting.

"Trying to look down the road three to five years from now, I feel I could be in a better place if I stay at Bakersfield now," said Price, who led the Roadrunners to the NCAA Division II quarterfinals last fall.

"If I go back [to Northridge] now, I'm permanently burning the women's volleyball bridge. I don't think I could get back into women's volleyball if I leave here after one year. And I think it would be unfair to the players here. We've got a chance to win the national championship here in the next couple years."

Price, who guided the Matadors to the 1993 NCAA title match, said deciding not to apply for the Northridge job was difficult.

Campbell, an assistant for seven seasons under Price, recently received commitments from three touted high school players in the region--Joe Nargi of Taft High, Jeff Toon of Kennedy and Steve Russell of Royal.

Campbell also received an endorsement from his former mentor.

"I can't think of anybody outside of [Pepperdine Coach] Marv Dunphy or [UCLA Coach] Al Scates, established coaches, who would be better qualified than Jeff, though I have no idea who's applying," Price said. "Loyalty to the school, loyalty to the program is huge and I think Jeff's got an advantage there. He knows what needs to happen there to be successful."

Said Campbell: "Last year's team was an established team and we went 8-11 [in MPSF play]. We're potentially one or two games away from that with a team that wasn't even in existence three weeks before school started. I'm extremely proud of the guys."

The position is expected to be filled in the next two weeks, with finalists possibly announced today.

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