NORTHRIDGE — Nearly one year after he said hello as the new football coach at Cal State Northridge, Jim Fenwick is saying goodbye.
Fenwick said Monday he is leaving Northridge to become offensive coordinator at New Mexico, giving up the Division I head coaching position he had long sought.
"This opportunity came up," Fenwick said from Dallas, where he is attending the NCAA Football Coaches' Assn. convention. "You never know when another opportunity like this would have come up. I had to deal with what's best for my family."
Under Fenwick, the Matadors had a 6-6 record last season and finished in a three-way tie for fourth place in the Big Sky Conference at 4-4.
Fenwick, 45, toured New Mexico's facilities in Albuquerque on Sunday and accepted the job offer from Rocky Long, the former UCLA defensive coordinator who became the Lobos' coach on Dec. 20.
The position represents an increase in base pay from $72,000 to $80,000 for Fenwick.
"I've always been very impressed on how he's handled things and run his offense," said Long, who has known Fenwick for about six years. "I think he was the best guy for the job to help continue [building] this program to bigger and better things, and I'm awfully glad we got him."
Although the move from a Division I-AA head job to a I-A assistant position might seem a step back, Fenwick said the instability of Northridge's athletic program played a major role in his decision.
Northridge dropped four men's sports in June and recently reinstated them through the 1998-99 school year, but their permanent survival depends largely on finances.
The football program was not in jeopardy, but Fenwick said the fund-raising demands to make the Matadors competitive with other Big Sky schools were more than he wanted to undertake.
"Do I want to go and be responsible for fund-raising and balancing a budget, or go and just run an offense?" he asked.
Paul Bubb, Northridge's athletic director, said he was surprised.
"You kind of ask, 'Why?' " Bubb said. "I don't know [if] we asked him to do [any fund-raising] we didn't ask our other coaches to do."
Some of those involved with the program were not as shocked.
"He's going to a program that's established," said Aaron Flowers, who in November completed his college career after setting several school passing records in two seasons as Northridge's quarterback. "He can be somewhere where he doesn't have to worry whether the program will be around from year to year."
Marc Goodson, a senior last season and a two-time All-American linebacker for the Matadors, believes the move is detrimental to the program. "If you want to build a serious program there, you need a coach for more than one year," he said.
Fenwick said he was prepared to return to Northridge until Long made an offer he couldn't refuse.
Northridge hired Fenwick on Jan. 9, 1997, after he assembled nationally prominent programs at Valley and Pierce colleges.
Bubb said he is taking applications for the position.
Eastern Washington Coach Mike Kramer expressed interest in the job last year before Fenwick was hired. But he has different thoughts today.
"I couldn't do that to the five guys I just hired," Kramer said of replacing five assistants who left for Weber State. "But [the Northridge] job is more than a job. If anyone got that job and made it a crusade, he could win back to back-to-back national championships."