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DOMINGUEZ

Matadors Receive Big Sky Warning

October 22, 1998

While Cal State Northridge continues to play musical chairs with the location of a proposed new football stadium, Big Sky Conference Commissioner Doug Fullerton continues to fire warning shots.

"I'm convinced that within two years, there's going to be conference realignments in the West," Fullerton said. "The schools that aren't ready are going to be left behind. Part of that criteria will be the [football] stadium you have."

Whether, or how, the Big Sky changes in the near future is conjecture at this point. But the message should be clear to Northridge, which has the shabbiest facilities in the conference:

Stop talking and start building.

The real hassles at Northridge started earlier this year when the school contracted with Sylmar businessman Alfred Mann to build a biotechnical complex on the North Campus Stadium lot.

That means the Northridge football and soccer teams have to find other accommodations, probably within two years.

But here's the catch: Northridge told the Big Sky when it joined the conference three years ago that it would build a football stadium on campus or substantially renovate North Campus Stadium.

Neither has happened.

Instead, Northridge put together a football site advisory committee to identify a campus spot for the new stadium or find outside alternatives.

The ideas ranged from two or three locations on campus to investing perhaps as much as $1 million to upgrade Pierce College so the Matadors could play there.

From this perspective, the public forums recently held by the advisory committee were mostly smoke screens to appease university neighbors, who oppose a new on-campus stadium.

The school was lambasted in the summer of 1997 for ignoring public sentiments when it dropped four men's athletic programs, which later were reinstated. Northridge administrators weren't eager for more acrimony, so the committee held open meetings.

But the bottom line was always clear. Northridge needs to build on campus, soon, or forget belonging to a legitimate conference. Pumping money into an outside facility would be wasteful and potentially regrettable.

With the exception of Portland State, which plays at nearby Civic Stadium, every Big Sky school has a stadium on campus. And some schools, such as Montana State, are refurbishing their facilities.

Northridge President Blenda J. Wilson, who knows the Big Sky wants Northridge to build on campus, last week authorized the committee to toss the North Campus area back into the mix.

That's one of the two most logical choices. The other is just off Lindley Avenue, on a site between the baseball field and the gym, to keep the school's sports facilities in one complex.

Whatever the case, it's time for Northridge to fish or cut bait.

If whiny neighbors protest, and those near Halsted Street and Lindley already have, so be it. What did they expect when they moved next to a university? No traffic, no noise, no people?

Delaying the process any longer would tell Big Sky officials that Northridge is too unstable, too wishy-washy, to remain in the conference if it realigns. The conference commissioner can't make the point more plain.

"The people in the Big Sky are continuing to improve themselves and Northridge needs to keep up," Fullerton said.

*

Kevin Carrasco had the look of a winner after Canyons' improbable 42-41 victory over Hancock in football on Saturday night. In more ways than one.

Carrasco completed touchdown passes of 62 and 17 yards in the final 51 seconds to move the Cougars into sole possession of first place in the Western State Conference Northern Division.

The sophomore from Saugus High completed 26 of 46 passes for 399 yards and four touchdowns--all career highs--and was selected conference player of the week.

As the final seconds ticked away, Carrasco shed his helmet in favor of a New York Yankees baseball cap. But Carrasco said he isn't rooting for the Bronx Bombers in the World Series.

"I just like the hat," Carrasco said. "I want the Padres to win."

*

Carrasco's heroics helped vault Canyons to a No. 25 national ranking this week by JC Gridwire. Canyons, playing its first season in 17 years, is ranked sixth in Southern California and 10th in the state.

*

Staff writer Vince Kowalick contributed to this notes column.

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