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Arias' Message Is Music to Matador Coaches' Ears

Northridge: Fourth and final candidate for athletic director wins over campus forum by playing up school's stature in community.

May 08, 1999|VINCE KOWALICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NORTHRIDGE — Robert Arias moonlights as a musician, playing guitar, congas and harmonica in a band called Los Doodz, a seven-member ensemble whose performances benefit a bevy of youth organizations.

On Friday, Arias, his followers firmly in tow, pounded a drum for Cal State Northridge. And the beat appeared to be contagious.

Surrounded by about two dozen supporters--ranging from athletes, entertainment-industry representatives and community members--Arias made a dynamic pitch before a campus forum to become the next athletic director at his alma mater.

"I'm tired of reading in the newspaper about [Northridge athletic teams] playing before sparse crowds," Arias said. "I asked these people to come because it is important that the story is told that this is not an apathetic community."

Arias, 49, a former athletic director at Loyola Marymount, is the final of four candidates to be interviewed for a position expected to be filled by May 31.

Last but not least? So it seemed, judging by the sharp contrast between the gathering that greeted Arias and those of previous candidates.

Several Northridge coaches, almost all of whom were absent at previous forums, were in attendance, including men's basketball Coach Bobby Braswell, football Coach Ron Ponciano, women's basketball Coach Frozena Jerro, softball Coach Janet Sherman and various assistants.

Several supporters volunteered lengthy testimonials to Arias, who spearheaded Loyola Marymount's expansion to Division I during his tenure from 1980-85.

After the one-hour forum, Ponciano offered his own.

"He really moved all of us," Ponciano said. "He seems extremely well-organized. As fatigued as we all are and emotionally drained with the whole transition thing, he came in and had something special."

Ponciano said opinions changed after a morning meeting between Arias and coaches.

"We thought he wouldn't have a shot, on paper," Ponciano said. "Knowing what he did at Loyola, I thought he wouldn't have a prayer because they don't have football. But when we were done, Bobby Braswell and I walked out and said to each other, 'Draw up the contract right now.' "

Arias' credentials appear lacking, compared to other candidates. In 1985, as part of sweeping administrative changes at Loyola, he was reassigned to campus fund-raiser.

Arias for years has forged a career mentoring youths through athletics. Since January of 1998, he has served as president of One to One/Los Angeles Community in Schools.

A graduate of Poly High and lifelong Valley resident, Arias described the Northridge job as "the only one that would take me from my youth work."

Arias also voiced his support for an on-campus stadium. Administrators announced last week, after months of discussion, that the stadium will be built adjacent to existing North Campus Stadium.

Arias said he supported leasing the stadium for non-athletic events, including concerts.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Robert D. Arias / PROFILE

* Age: 49

* Current Job: President, One to One/Los Angeles Communities in Schools, a public/private partnership for at-risk youth.

* Education: USC, master's degrees in public administration (1976) and social work (1974). Cal State Northridge, bachelor's degree (1972).

* Previous positions: Director of athletics, Loyola Marymount, 1975-80. Executive director of USC Learning Center, 1975-80.

* Professional highlights: Supervised construction of Albert Gersten Pavilion, George Page baseball stadium and Olympic Pool Plaza at LMU. Recruited Olympic weightlifting competition for LMU. Negotiated contracts for Lakers and Clippers to practice at LMU, as well as NBA summer pro league.

* Personal: Married, one daughter.

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