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MOORPARK COLLEGE FOOTBALL: BITTNER STILL LOVES GAME : COACH WON'T SLOW DOWN.

Byline: Dave Shelburne Daily News Staff Writer

Ike was in the White House, Elvis was just hitting his stride and the Split-T was the cutting edge in offense when Jim Bittner began coaching football.

More than 40 years later, he's still at it - serving double duty as Chief Raider at Moorpark College and dean of the Western State Conference coaches.

``Every year, people ask me when I'm going to retire,'' said Bittner, 62, who will begin his 20th season as Moorpark's head coach Sept. 19, when the Raiders open against county rival Ventura. ``But as long as I like it, I'm going to keep on doing it.'

There hasn't been much not to like for Bittner since 1985, the season after his son helped Camarillo win a Southern Section title in football, then talked many of his high school teammates into playing at Moorpark.

``That's sort of when the big turnaround came,'' said the Moorpark coach. ``We've never looked back.''

The Raiders won their first WSC title that season - sharing it with a powerhouse Glendale team that would go on to defeat Taft in the Potato Bowl - and then finished first or second in conference or division nine of the next 10 years, totaling five titles and annually playing in bowl games.

Moorpark has posted a 63-17 regular-season record during the '90s and could improve on that .799 winning percentage this year, when All-WSC safety Bubba Jackson - Bittner calls him ``one of the best players we've had in a long time'' - leads another defensively strong team.

The ongoing success has made it easy for Bittner to like what he's doing, something a former WSC rival and coaching longtooth says he can understand.

Jim Sartoris, current Glendale athletic director, was head coach of the Vaqueros for 17 years, producing the No. 1-ranked community college team in the nation at the end of the 1986 season.

``It's hard to walk away from something you've worked so hard at when you're having success,'' said Sartoris, now an assistant who has been coaching football continuously at Glendale since 1970 and can relate to the anxieties and exultations Bittner has gone through.

``You've probably got to be a little insane to stay in it that long and go through all the headaches,'' Sartors said. ``But coaching gets in your blood, and I know it's in Jim's blood. It's what he lives for, and I can't see him retiring - he's an institution there.''

The ``Institution'' has seen the game evolve plenty in his four decades of coaching.

``When I first started it was all Split-T football,'' Bittner said. ``Then it went to wishbone, and from there to Power-I. Then the no-huddle, run-and-shoot stuff got into the act.''

Through all the changes, Bittner has maintained his own philosophy of coaching, borrowing here and there but sticking mostly with a defense-oriented style of play that tends to dictate field position.

``He's not a fancy guy,'' Sartoris said. ``He doesn't use all the latest fads that come down from the pros. He just stays with the same basic stuff - and he always seems to have a few trick plays.''

One of those - a fake punt by quarterback/punter Kenny Lutz - proved the deciding play in a 1985 win over previously undefeated Glendale in perhaps the pivotal game of the Bittner regime.

Lutz, who eventually broke every San Jose State passing record, was the marquee player in Moorpark's break-through 8-2 championship team of '85, and the first of many high-profile Raiders - including current NFL players Jamal Anderson and Curtis Marsh.

Bittner remembers them all, some of whom have made repeat tours of the program - his son Jim, the fullback from '85, is now the Raiders' offensive coordinator.

How does it feel to coach so long?

``I don't think I'm going to get any more money for it,'' he said. ``but I'm enjoying what I'm doing. Coaching is still as fun as ever.''

CAPTION(S):

2 Photos

PHOTO (1) ``I don't think I'm going to get any more money for it, but I'm enjoying what I'm doing. Coaching is still as fun as ever.''

- Jim Bittner

in his 20th season as Moorpark's head coach

(2) Jim Bittner, now 62 years old, will begin his 20th season as Moorpark College's head coach on Sept. 19 when the Raiders face Ventura.

Daily News File Photo
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 3, 1998
Words:722
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