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Valley / Ventura County Sports | Q & A With Sam Jankovich

Final Ex-Sam

CSUN's Interim Athletic Boss Reviews Program

May 13, 1999|STEVE HENSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sam Jankovich has served five months of his six-month term as interim athletic director at Cal State Northridge and has nearly completed a state of the department report.

Jankovich, a former athletic director at Miami, came to Northridge during a tumultuous time. Athletic Director Paul Bubb and his top assistant, Judith Brame, had been forced to resign in the aftermath of women's basketball Coach Michael Abraham's arrest on crack cocaine trafficking charges.

The Northridge administration already was under fire for cutting baseball and men's swimming, soccer and volleyball in June 1997, a decision reversed two months later.

Although Jankovich has by all accounts guided the department with a steady hand, uncertainty on campus has increased during his tenure.

President Blenda J. Wilson resigned and will leave the first week of June. Ronald Kopita, the vice president supervising athletics, has been reassigned and there is a new chancellor for the California State University system, Charles B. Reed.

Louanne Kennedy, a longtime Northridge administrator, will be interim president for at least one year. A permanent athletic director will be hired in the next two weeks from a pool of four finalists who interviewed last week.

Jankovich, who did not apply for the post, shared his views of the program in a recent conversation.

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TIMES: Your job has been to evaluate the athletics program and report your findings. Have you also made decisions that will have a lasting impact?

JANKOVICH: I think I've done both. I've approached it as if I'll be here the rest of my life. I've tried to solve problems, but with issues we couldn't solve immediately, facilities and fund-raising for example, I've identified the problems.

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TIMES: With the turnover in administrators, are you worried that your message and conclusions will get lost?

JANKOVICH: I've been able to express what is important. We were in an extensive budget meeting with the top people on campus a few days ago and I think everyone understands that the problem is not with expenses, but with revenues.

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TIMES: After the four men's sports were cut and reinstated in 1997, the university contributed more money than usual to athletics. Will the university return to its previous funding level?

JANKOVICH: The university has to give the new athletic director enough time to generate $1.5 million and $2 million a year through fund-raising. That's not going to happen overnight.

But if interest from the community cannot be generated in three to five years, the message will be clear once and for all that Northridge athletics are not important to the community.

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TIMES: Is there resistance within the university to continuing strong financial support for athletics?

JANKOVICH: I think there is a concern that each year the athletic department says, "Give us help and we'll correct our problems." Then the problems aren't solved, which creates a credibility gap.

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TIMES: After sports were cut and reinstated in 1997, President Wilson said the athletic program would remain broad-based. Is it possible to sustain the 21 sports currently offered?

JANKOVICH: There are too many programs and too many student-athletes for the amount of money available. As long as you approach it [broad-based], you will have a tough time excelling.

The women's programs already are being financed at the maximum; they aren't in need. But to comply with Cal-NOW, we have to come up with more money and hire more support staff, which is unrealistic. If you add programs, what are you going to add, water polo? It's insidious.

This means there are fewer opportunities for men. People say, "Do away with football and the Cal-NOW problem is solved." But football provides great opportunities to African-American young men.

The NCAA stipulates that you must give at least 25 men's scholarships in addition to football and basketball. If you do that and cut the rest of the men's sports, you would save only $150,000 in operations and scholarships. It would help you get closer to where you should be with Cal-NOW, but it doesn't save much money.

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TIMES: Which coaches will you give new long-term contracts?

JANKOVICH: By the first part of June we should have [men's basketball Coach Bobby Braswell, baseball Coach Mike Batesole and women's basketball Coach Frozena Jerro] under new contracts of three to four years.

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TIMES: Poor attendance is a problem blamed on substandard facilities and apathy among students and the community. What can be done to create awareness that attending a Northridge game is a good value?

JANKOVICH: We want to start a loan program where local corporations assign an employee who will work with our marketing person and athletic director. And we will introduce a family plan where a corporation pays a percentage of the cost for football tickets and we sponsor a tailgate party for them.

We need a bigger pep band and more cheerleaders. Eight cheerleaders for 21 sports is not enough. We need to make attending Northridge events more fun for the family.

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