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Ponciano Tries Best to Be Two Places at Once

Football: New Northridge coach had conflict with Big Sky convention and Matador fund-raiser on same day.


PARK CITY, Utah — Ron Ponciano looked relatively fine, considering.

"It was a little hectic, but it went smooth," Ponciano said. "It just worked out perfect."

Ponciano, Cal State Northridge's first-year football coach, was referring to a scheduling conflict that cut into his time at the Big Sky Conference summer kickoff convention that ended Tuesday.

After arriving Sunday at this resort town where most skiing events for the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002 will be held, Ponciano was forced to bail out temporarily.

He gave a quick overview of the Matadors at a breakfast Monday, anxiously glancing at his watch while others talked before him, and flew home to attend Northridge's fund-raising golf tournament in the afternoon at Porter Valley Country Club.

Ponciano said it was the only day the course was available.

"It was one of those things that I knew this golf tournament is the premier fund-raiser for us," Ponciano said.

Ponciano, who said the tournament netted from $15,000 to $20,000, was back in Park City late Monday.

Going into their third Big Sky season, the Matadors still are lightly regarded by conference coaches and media, who pick them to finish no better than seventh in the nine-team league.

The assessment partly reflects the feelings of people in a conference laden with tradition, where perennial power Montana sets the standard, and also the lack of continuity at Northridge.

Ponciano is the third Northridge coach at the kickoff convention the last three years. He replaced Jim Fenwick, who replaced Dave Baldwin. Fenwick is offensive coordinator at New Mexico and Baldwin is San Jose State's coach.

Those changes make Northridge seem unstable and vulnerable, but Ponciano warned his counterparts.

"I firmly believe we'll be competitive," Ponciano said. "It comes down to who has the most depth, who has the most discipline. Those are the teams that will win."

Last year, Fenwick left the kickoff convention discouraged by what he perceived as a lack of respect for Northridge by other Big Sky schools. Ponciano is not downcast, just realistic.

"You start getting respect by out-recruiting them and we did it this year," Ponciano said. "I feel very, very optimistic about the direction we're going."

Ponciano, a former assistant at Northridge and San Jose State, is among three new Big Sky coaches in 1998. Northern Arizona's Jerome Souers and Weber State's Jerry Graybeal are the others.

They are not giving up a lot in experience. Only Montana State's Cliff Hysell, who is headed for his seventh season with the Bobcats, and Eastern Washington's Mike Kramer, who is entering his fifth with the Eagles, have more than four years coaching in the Big Sky.

Ponciano, despite being at a school with substandard facilities and inadequate resources, projected a positive outlook.

"I left [San Jose State] because I wanted to be a head coach," Ponciano said. "It's tough getting a head-coaching position. . . . I knew the battles I would face."

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