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CSUN NOTEBOOK: WAC SPLIT MIGHT AFFECT MATADORS : CSUN COULD BE ALIGNED WITH TEAMS IN CALIFORNIA.

Byline: Marc J. Spears Daily News Staff Writer

With the defection of eight Western Athletic Conference schools, a massive domino effect is on the horizon that could include Cal State Northridge.

On Tuesday, eight WAC schools decided they would leave the league in the fall of 1999. The eight remaining WAC institutions are not the only ones that will be affected by this move. Potentially, teams from the Big West Conference, the Sun Belt, Conference USA and the Big Sky, which includes CSUN, could be affected as well.

From Sunday through Tuesday, presidents of the current WAC schools will discuss the situation in Monterey. And soon after, the Matadors might have the opportunity to join the Big West or stay in the Big Sky, which could swell to 12 teams.

Here are some of the possible scenarios:

WAC commissioner Kent Benson says he would consider asking other schools to join the WAC. He mentioned Nevada, Utah State, New Mexico State, North Texas State and Boise State. All of those schools are members of the Big West, which has 12 total members, six playing Division I-A football.

If the WAC was to take four members of the Big West to make a 12-team league, the Big West would have to consider dropping football and adding members. That is when Northridge moving to the Big West becomes a possibility.

``It is too early to tell,'' said Big West associate commissioner Rob Holvaks. ``We are in the process of contacting all our current members.

``As we go down the road, geography will play a role in what we do. Once the domino effect begins to fall, like the breakup of the Southwest Conference, it will change. But we are on solid footing because of geography.''

If the Big West is tampered with, Long Beach State, UC Irvine, Cal State Fullerton, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, UC Santa Barbara and Pacific would likely be left. For rivalry, travel and financial reasons, that could make the Big West very attractive to the Matadors.

``If the Big West lost members, you would still have to consider if it was still strong enough to join. It's a win-win situation for Northridge,'' said CSUN athletic director Paul Bubb. ``If new opportunities come our way . . . great. If not, we are already in a stable league and we're just looking for a conference for our baseball program.''

If the Matadors were to join the Big West, their I-AA football program would either be in jeopardy, become an independent or attempt to put together a football-only league with other I-AA schools.

``I wouldn't want to speculate on what could happen with football,'' Bubb said. ``But we're committed to a broad-based athletic program.''

The Sun Belt Conference, which has three independent I-A football members, is toying with the possibility of adding three schools to make a six-team football league. The available WAC Texas schools (Texas Christian, Southern Methodist, Rice, Texas-El Paso) and Tulsa could be candidates. Also, the available WAC Texas schools, Tulsa and North Texas State could decide to form their own conference that could also draw interest from Houston and Tulane, both Conference USA schools.

If something were to happen in the Southwest region, remaining WAC schools San Jose State, Hawaii and Fresno State might consider joining the Big West. At that point, Northridge could get consideration as a non-football member.

``At this point, anything is possible,'' said San Jose State spokesman Lawrence Fan.

Big Sky commissioner Doug Fullerton said his conference might be in a position to add possibly as many as three members. The nine-team Big Sky, which has never had more than nine members, could be interested in adding three Big West schools.

Big West schools Idaho - a former Big Sky member - and New Mexico State would probably consider dropping their football programs to I-AA. Also, Cal Poly SLO is an independent I-AA football school. Such a move could give the Big Sky two six-team divisions and create the possibility of adding associate members for a baseball league.

``If the Big West loses schools, and there are schools remaining, there will be a willingness to talk (about expansion),'' Fullerton said. ``If the right schools become available, it could be a possibility. We'll just wait and see where everything settles. I think we've positioned ourselves pretty well.''

Bubb said, ``The Big West has the most to lose and the Big Sky is in a good position.''

Coaching changes: Cal State Northridge men's basketball assistant Mike Johnson was promoted to associate head coach on Wednesday. The announcement came a day after CSUN assistant Eddie Hill announced he was taking a similar position at San Jose State. Johnson, 29, has been a coach at Northridge during the past seven seasons.

Northridge now has a full-time and a part-time position to fill. Sources say the likely new full-time assistant is Cleveland High coach Andre Chevalier, CSUN's all-time leading scorer. Chevalier, who scored 1,311 points from 1990-94, has coached the Cavaliers the past two seasons. A part-time assistant could be hired within the next week.

Vikings stand: Portland State's Intercollegiate Athletics Board on May 23 recommended that baseball and wrestling be retained. PSU president Daniel Bernstine expects to make an final decision on the recommendation either today or Friday. The move probably nixes any possibility of CSUN's independent baseball team taking the Vikings' spot in Pacific-10 Conference Northern Division.
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 28, 1998
Words:898
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