BASEBALL, SOCCER, SWIMMING, VALLEYBALL; CSUN DROPS BALL(S); BUDGET DEFICIT, GENDER INEQUITY FORCE DEMISE OF FOUR SPORTS.
Saying it must cut expenses and create equal opportunity for its female athletes, Cal State Northridge eliminated, effective immediately, four sports Wednesday.
The university is cutting three of its most popular programs - baseball, men's volleyball and men's soccer - as well as men's swimming, Athletic Director Paul Bubb announced at a news conference Wednesday.
The move slices more than $500,000 in scholarships, salaries and operations costs from a budget estimated to be nearly $800,000 in the red, although the university will honor scholarships for at least one year for athletes who choose to stay at Northridge.
Coaches will receive either a severance package or be reassigned, Bubb said.
Nearly 80 roster spots for male athletes will be eliminated, resulting in a male-female ratio more reflective of the student population, as mandated by a 1992 agreement with the California chapter of the National Organization for Women.
The entire Cal State University system was sued by the California chapter for allegedly violating provisions of Title IX, federal civil rights legislation that guarantees equal opportunity for female and male athletes.
``We cannot continue to operate in a deficit mode,'' Bubb said. ``We looked at what we faced, and there were limited options. Cutting sports was not the option we wanted to have, but given the resources we have, that was the only option.''
The decision, finalized Wednesday morning by Bubb and student affairs vice president Ronald Kopita, closed out a two-month effort to resolve the athletic department's budget, Kopita said.
President Blenda J. Wilson, who met with Bubb and Kopita on Tuesday to discuss the plan Bubb recommended and Kopita approved, was unavailable for comment. She left for a trip Tuesday afternoon on university business, Kopita said.
In a letter electronically mailed to the campus community, Kopita included the following statement from Wilson: ``We are a university. Our first and highest commitment must be to our academic program.''
Northridge's affiliation with the Big Sky Conference also factored into the decision. The men's sports eliminated are not required by the Big Sky. Of the five that were in jeopardy, only men's golf will remain since it may be required by the conference next year.
With six men's and 10 women's teams left in the program, administrators have mapped out a new future for Matador athletics.
``We believe that we can gain . . . national recognition through men's basketball and, in (Division) I-AA circles, football,'' Kopita said. ``Football and basketball will generate enthusiasm on a national level. Other sports, we hope, will generate enthusiasm on a regional level.''
Bubb decided against holding any type of public forum to discuss the situation, instead consulting in April with campus advisory boards. He met with the Athletic Association, the Intercollegiate Athletic Advisory Board, his administrative staff and head coaches. Collectively, the first two groups consist of alumni, community members, faculty and students.
``I do not think significant resources would have come out of the community forum,'' Bubb said. ``It was a difficult decision enough to make without having people go against their neighbors.
``A community forum would come down to be a popularity contest. I've never wanted to put coaches against coaches, athletes against athletes, and community members against community members.''
Bubb and Kopita said they have for the past two weeks received letters and calls from concerned students, parents and community members, but the numbers have not been overwhelming.
Pleas from coaches
They also rejected men's soccer coach Marwan Ass'ad proposed plan to keep his program alive for another year.
Ass'ad, who has coached at CSUN for 15 years, will be paid until his contract expires at the end of the year. Bubb gave him the option to run a club soccer team.
``The most disappointment comes from the president,'' Ass'ad said. ``It looks like she did not argue anything. It seems there was not much wisdom invested by the president about this whole thing. She hasn't called me, she hasn't written letters, she hasn't asked for a meeting with the coaches.
``I just want to see her face. She used to show her face. Her personality and character are so sound and graceful - so come out and talk. I know we are not much, the whole soccer team. She does not have to let us go this way.''
Men's volleyball coach John Price also is frustrated - with administrators and the Cal-NOW agreement that requires athletic programs to mirror, within 5 percent, the male-female proportions in each Cal State University campus.
``It's really tough when you do something and you're successful at it, and you're told you can't do it anymore,'' said Price, who has led his team to eight straight winning seasons and, in 1993, an NCAA championship game.
``Because of the Cal-NOW decree, they could not touch women's swimming or softball, who are not in the Big Sky Conference,'' Price said. ``If it was mostly a budget issue, (Northridge has) eliminated three teams - volleyball, baseball and soccer - that have revenue potential.''
Swimming coach Barry Schreifels, still head of the women's squad, has decided to run a men's club team if enough swimmers decide to participate.
Assistant baseball coach Tim Montez - who spoke with Bubb for head coach Mike Batesole, who was interviewing at Iowa - said he is interviewing at Arkansas this week. Washington State and Santa Clara have called him as well, but the idea of uprooting his family from its Newbury Park home is unsettling.
``I've got to do what's best for my family, and if that means putting on a suit and tie and using my (business communications) degree from Pepperdine, then that would be my alternative,'' said Montez, who has been coaching baseball for 11 years.
``But my heart goes out to the community, it goes out to all our players past and present, to all the recruits we made promises to and their families, and all the loyal fans that followed us and died Matador red.''
Since the school finished with final exams two weeks ago, the campus was mostly empty Wednesday. Three shoes and an athletic cup were the only visible signs baseball had existed. The field sprinklers were on, and they were drowning the area around home plate.
Religious studies student John Fernandez said he voted for the fee referendum of $27 per semester in 1995 believing it would keep the athletic department out of debt.
Since budget concerns were a reason for Wednesday's cuts, Fernandez wondered where his money went.
``CSUN will forever be the ugly stepdaughter to USC and UCLA,'' he said.
No comment from CSUN
Blenda J. Wilson, president of Cal State Northridge, was out of town Wednesday on university business and not available to answer questions about her school's decision to drop four men's sports.
Wilson also was not available to speak with the media via telephone.
A spokeswoman in the president's office said later that Wilson would not be available to answer questions this week and probably next week because her schedule was booked.
``To drop a program the magnitude of baseball that has been, from an athletic perspective, the Rock of Gibraltar in the San Fernando Valley, it's a tragedy for me.''
- Frank Sanchez
Pepperdine baseball coach
``Every day, we'd be out there with petitions to get people to vote for the football team. Who would think they would cut the only successful sports they had? It just doesn't make sense, but once again, that's the kind of athletic department we have around here.''
- Adam Kennedy
CSUN All-America baseball player
``It was just a way to ruin our senior year basically. Now it's a panic to find somewhere to go.
- Matt Rainer
Royal High pitcher who signed a letter of intent to play at CSUN
``Players, they're confused. Wow. I know this group of players wanted to play. They love playing here. They love playing in Division I. Why won't you let us play, Paul?
- Marwan Ass'ad
CSUN men's soccer coach to Athletic Director Paul Bubb
``Is it a good decision? Absolutely not. As a Southern California institution, you need to offer programs consistent with high school programs and local interests. Certainly, baseball, volleyball and soccer are as much a part of Southern California as any sports.''
- Bob Hiegert
former CSUN athletic director, currently teaching at the school
``I view their decision that they cut the sports to support equality. The issue is one of equity, and we support equity. It is unfortunate that it takes a lawsuit to bring the issue to the table. Sometimes, a groundswell of support needs to come up around an issue to make something happen.
- Jean Morrison
president of the San Fernando Valley chapter of NOW
``We expect to have a respectable Division I-AA football program. It is reasonable to think we can draw 11,000, 13,000 or 15,000 fans. . . . We're not going to get the limelight of a USC program. . . . But there's a niche that can be filled.
- Paul Bubb
CSUN athletic director
3 Photos, 2 boxes
PHOTO (1 -- color) Paul Bubb, Cal State Northridge athletic director, answers questions about the decision to cut four sports.
(2) Banners painted on the right-field wall at the Matadors' baseball stadium reflect the team's success.
John McCoy/Daily News
(3 -- color) WILSON
Box: (1) No comment from CSUN president (see text)
(2) Quotes (see text)