The feeling around Harbor College is that the naming of Chris Ferragamo as football coach puts the athletic program back on the map.
The question that remains is whether Ferragamo made an upward move in leaving a highly visible program at Banning High or whether he will end up playing relatively obscure games before cozy gatherings of friends and neighbors--Harbor's lot in the recent past.
Banning led the Los Angeles Unified School District in attendance and could fill 10,000- to 20,000-seat stadiums for games against traditional rivals Carson and Long Beach Poly. The Los Angeles Community College District is so financially strapped that several athletic programs were scrapped last summer and Harbor didn't know until three months before kickoff whether football would be funded.
People watching Ferragamo's first two weeks in action say the energetic coach, who has said he wanted a job at a major college, will make Harbor a visible program that will attract top players from the harbor area and possibly serve as a career springboard.
George Swade, Ferragamo's predecessor, was a good coach who did a creditable job with the talent on hand. But Swade did not always attract the powerhouse talent that observers say is available locally.
Harbor administrators were clearly excited when they announced Ferragamo's appointment. Athletic Director-baseball Coach Jim O'Brien has won several state baseball titles at Harbor but still does many of the unglamorous chores from watering the field to driving the bus.
"It's been a struggle," he said before Ferragamo's press conference. "But we're going to get it going now." Afterward he said, "This is going to affect so many sports. You should have seen how excited my baseball team was when I told them. . . . I've been working on this for two years. He's got a lot of big ideas, a lot of enthusiasm. Speaking for the community, there's been a lot of excitement generated for Harbor."
Carson Coach Gene Vollnogle, Ferragamo's high school coach at Banning before they became rivals on the sideline, said: "I think it's a good move. I think he'll get it going there. He's already spent more time here (recruiting) than the other guy. I think he'll be a good recruiter, I think he'll hustle."
Can Harbor, with its limited facilities and an 8,000 enrollment, compete with neighboring giants like El Camino and Long Beach? "He's got the best football players in America right in his district," Vollnogle answered. "He has to do it fast, get it going right away."
"I expect the kids from this area to stay here," Ferragamo said. "I think my presence will bring them to our school. If they're in our area, we want them to play for us."
Ferragamo also said this is a chance to grow and experiment as a coach. At Banning, he said, there was always talent but every September the coaching staff started at square one. "This is a chance for our staff (at Harbor) to expand on the things we've built," he said.
Ferragamo, who interviewed with Larry Smith for an assistant's job at USC, said the time just seemed right to make a move to the junior college where he was an All-American offensive lineman in 1959. "I was receptive. I feel it's a step up for me.
"My dad said make a move if the time is right. Right now is the time it's easier to make my move. I don't have to move my family. . . . I really feel the community will be behind me. I know everybody here. I have never left here."
Among Ferragamo's top priorities are fund raising and establishing a healthy boosters club similar to the community support he had at Banning.
Ferragamo says he'll change the uniforms, change the attitude, bring in marching bands--and win football games. "I want something that's in my style, something that says my way. Something that's a little different."
Coming from one of the nation's pre-eminent high school programs, Ferragamo will find a lot of things that are a little different at Harbor.
Around the Horn: Guard Mike Wnek of Biola University was named NAIA District III basketball player of the week last week. The Bishop Montgomery High graduate had 35 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists and 6 steals in two games as Biola, the fifth-ranked NAIA team in the nation, improved to 22-1. Wnek is among District III leaders in assists with a 5.4 average . . . Major leaguers George Brett and Scott McGregor, American League umpire Darryl Cousins and former big league pitcher Ken Brett are among those expected on hand Saturday for the annual El Segundo High Alumni Baseball Game and Reunion at Recreation Park. Activities before the 1 p.m. game include batting practice at 10, a photo and autograph session at 11:45 and a home run contest at 12:50 . . . Cal State Dominguez Hills basketball star Williams Alexander will be honored before Friday's game. Alexander recently broke the California Collegiate Athletic Assn. career scoring records, both overall and in conference games. Friday's game against Cal State Los Angeles begins at 8:05 p.m.