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Coaches Feeling Sting in Loss of Leadership

Reaction: Bubb and Brame have strong supporters but erosion of their credibility damaged the athletic department.

November 04, 1998|From Staff Reports

Coaches at Cal State Northridge had mixed reactions Tuesday to the resignations of Paul Bubb and Judy Brame, the school's top two athletic administrators, following an internal investigation into the arrest of Michael Abraham, the women's basketball coach.

Jeff Campbell, the Northridge men's volleyball coach, sympathized with Bubb but supported the school's decision to pressure the athletic director to step down.

"This is tough on me because he's a friend of mine," said Campbell, who was given a three-year contract in April by Bubb. "If you look at the [athletic] program from where we are now compared to five years ago, I think we're far ahead. Maybe not in terms of wins and losses, but certainly in terms of student services and graduation rates.

"[But] I think some of [Bubb's] decisions, especially relating to some of the recent incidents in terms of not being truthful right from the start, has hurt the credibility of the program. It definitely affects the community, the university and recruiting when these things happen."

Ron Ponciano, Northridge's first-year football coach, was upset by news of the resignations. He was hired by Bubb and was close to Brame, senior associate athletic director, often hugging her after football games.

"It saddens me, there's no question," Ponciano said. "I feel like I've lost two friends in the administrative department. . . . I always pictured them a part of Northridge.

"Judy and Paul are special in my eyes. I'm going to miss them."

Ponciano hopes Bubb's firing will not have an adverse effect on the football program.

"We need confirmation about the program and our goals," he said. "My main [administrative] link [Bubb] is gone. Paul has become a very good friend. . . . Paul Bubb is a real football guy."

John Price, former Northridge men's and women's volleyball coach, said Bubb is being unfairly blamed for the fallout created by the arrest of Abraham, who was charged last week with possession with intent to distribute at least 50 grams of crack cocaine.

"I think [the crisis in the athletic department] was there before Bubb and will be there after him," said Price, women's volleyball coach at Cal State Bakersfield. "He's probably the only employee of the university suspended for a mistake. There have been a lot of mistakes by [Northridge] administrators, but they don't get suspended or fired."

Bubb gave Abraham a two-year contract in 1997 despite reports from several women's basketball players who suspected Abraham was using drugs. Bubb questioned Abraham and conducted his own inquiry, sharing the players' information only with Brame.

Ponciano, echoing other Matador coaches, said Abraham's arrest reflects poorly on the entire athletic department.

"It does tarnish the whole picture, but that situation had little if no impact on our football momentum, our football recruiting right now," he said. "Too many good things are happening in the program for anything to defeat it right now."

Vito Clemente, a senior defensive back, said it's impossible to minimize the negative publicity generated by Abraham's arrest.

"It reflects on the whole [Northridge athletic] program," Clemente said. "[Abraham] represented the program like any player. The headlines are going to read CSUN first and then the player's name or the coach's name."

Northridge coaches concerned about the impact negative publicity will have on recruits can take heart in the decision of 6-foot-7 pitcher Kameron Loe of Granada Hills High to commit to the Matadors on Tuesday.

"It didn't have anything to do with the baseball program," Loe said of the controversy. "We met with Coach [Mike] Batesole and he went over everything."

Price said the events of the last week have unfortunately become commonplace at Northridge, which has endured a string of athletic scandals and controversies this decade.

"I was always frustrated at Northridge because it always seemed like people didn't let people do jobs, then one mistake and you're out," Price said. "To make things happen, you have to take risk. The whole goal seems to be not to make waves, just survive."

Staff writers Fernando Dominguez, Eric Sondheimer and correspondent Mike Bresnahan contributed to this story.

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