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Northridge Football Hit by Inquiry

Investigation: Ponciano denies rules violations after Jankovich triggers internal probe and reports to NCAA.

May 28, 1999|VINCE KOWALICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Cal State Northridge is under internal investigation for possible NCAA football rules violations, the university confirmed Thursday, but Coach Ron Ponciano emphatically denied any wrongdoing and insisted the program will be vindicated.

Sam Jankovich, Northridge's interim athletic director, said a campus board of inquiry has been convened to investigate "allegations of potential serious violations" brought forward by an anonymous source last week.

Jankovich said he immediately forwarded the information to university President Blenda Wilson, the NCAA and the Big Sky Conference, of which Northridge is a member.

The board of inquiry will forward its findings to the NCAA, Jankovich said.

Jankovich declined to discuss the allegations or speculate on how long the investigation will take.

"We put together a team to conduct an inquiry and they are looking into the validity of the charges," Jankovich said. "I cannot discuss the allegations, but I am in constant touch with the NCAA. Any time we hear of these [allegations], we take these things very seriously. There is nothing more I can say, except I do hope these allegations are unfounded."

Chuck Smrt, director of enforcement of the NCAA, said Northridge contacted the association this week.

"We have been in communication with [Northridge] and they have notified us that they are looking at some situations," Smrt said. "We could wait for the institution's report, we could go out and do some work on our own or we can work with the institution. Generally, whatever position we start with might not be the same one we continue with."

Ponciano labeled the allegations "absolutely ridiculous" and "a complete joke." He said he is "fully confident" the investigation will support his claim.

Ponciano, promoted to head coach from defensive coordinator in January 1998, said Jankovich informed him last week that the program would be investigated.

"Sam told me that there are going to be some allegations and that some of them were going to be serious," Ponciano said. "I don't know, specifically, what they are. He said, 'I'm going to tell you one thing, Ron: Be as honest as you can completely be.' So that's what I'm going to do."

Ponciano, during an interview in his office Thursday, said he is extremely anxious to "get to the end of it.

"My comment about the allegations are that they are absolutely ridiculous and I'm standing by it," Ponciano said. "When all is said and done, I assure you Cal State Northridge football has done nothing wrong and that's it.

"I'm not threatened one bit. I invite the investigation. The Northridge bashers are getting all excited about this. But I'll tell you what, they're going to be very disappointed."

Ponciano declined to speculate on the source of the allegations.

"I don't know what's happening," Ponciano said. "You sit around and you ask yourself, 'What is someone's motive?' I think I know who, but I don't know why."

Jaumal Bradley, a running back expected to return as a senior in the fall, said players are aware of rumors but he is unaware of possible violations.

"It's shocking to some of the players," Bradley said. "There is nothing to my knowledge going on. It's a tight-knit family atmosphere at Northridge and our guys talk about what's going on. Our coaching staff is pretty squeaky-clean, as far as what we're allowed to do, and I think the coaches are, too."

Ponciano confirmed that last fall Northridge self-reported an NCAA violation in exceeding the number of scholarships available. The Matadors signed 36 players, six over the limit.

Northridge will have 24 available scholarships this year, Ponciano said.

"It happens quite often in college football," Ponciano said. "You overcommit and you can't sign as many next year and that's how it works. I knew I over-signed. The point is, I wasn't about to take a scholarship from a kid that I offered it to, so I'll take a hit next year."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

OVERVIEW

Allegations recently surfaced that the Cal State Northridge football team might have violated NCAA rules.

Interim Athletic Director Sam Jankovich, who declined to discuss the allegations, informed university officials, who convened a board of inquiry.

Jankovich informed Big Sky Conference and NCAA officials, who are waiting for the internal report.

Football Coach Ron Ponciano denies wrongdoing, although he admitted the program already reported to the NCAA that it was six scholarships over the limit.

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