Cal State Northridge signed its prize football recruit--Albert Fann, 6-2 1/2, 215, a one-man, bull-elephant backfield.
Fann, Cleveland High's All-City tailback, rushed for 1,128 yards and 14 touchdowns last season and was heavily recruited by several major colleges until it was learned a week ago that his grades had dipped below Division I minimum standards.
It might not be USC, UCLA or Washington, but late Tuesday Fann decided Northridge was good enough. Wednesday at 8 a.m., he signed a letter delivered to his home by CSUN Coach Bob Burt.
Fann, one of 11 recruits signed Wednesday by Northridge, was called a "blue-chip" Division I prospect by USC recruiting coordinator Dick Laguens. He will vie for the starting spot at tailback vacated by All-American Mike Kane, CSUN's all-time leading rusher. Richard Brown and Lance Harper, Kane's backups, return at the position.
"I wanted to stay close to home and Northridge is a good school with a football program that is on the rise," Fann said. "The coach told me that I would get some playing time and be given a chance to start. The rest is up to me."
Northridge improved from 4-7 in 1985 to 8-3 in 1986, Burt's first year as coach. Kane accounted for 64.1% of the Matadors' rushing offense with 1,565 yards. He was also the team's top receiver with 30 catches for 383 yards.
"People are going to start to understand that we can attract quality athletes like Albert Fann," Burt said. "I don't care what the reasons are. If he wanted to, he could have waited and probably met those grade requirements. He's not a dummy, and if USC and UCLA don't get these kids who want to stay near home, then we're going to get them."
Fann, who rushed for 243 yards and two touchdowns against Chatsworth last September, said he hopes to help Northridge become a football power.
"I want to make a big splash out here," he said. "Then maybe some local people around here will start coming out to the games."
Fann's signing takes the sting away from Northridge losing tailback Eric Mortensen, who rushed for 1,860 yards and 28 touchdowns for Antelope Valley High last season. Mortensen announced Tuesday he had chosen Brigham Young over Northridge and Hawaii.
"I think you can say we're pretty happy with that trade-off," Burt said. "We got Albert--the guy we really wanted. He's a household name. When you mention the name Albert Fann, football people know exactly who he is."
Fann is expected to play as a freshman, as are tight end Jason Dallas, 6-5, 210, of Long Beach Poly and nose tackle Tom Osendorf, 6-2, 230, of Savanna High in Anaheim, who also signed, as expected, Wednesday.
"We feel that all three of those guys can come in and help right away," Burt said. "The others may be a year away, but we're very pleased with the quality of athlete we've been able to attract."
Also signing letters with Northridge were split end Don Martin (6-4, 180) from Dorsey, offensive tackle James Richards (6-4 1/2, 240) from Antelope Valley, defensive tackle Terry Ferguson (6-5 1/2, 215) from Chaffey, defensive end Greg Spaulding (6-4, 230) from Calabasas, running back Turai Blanche (6-1, 200) from Lincoln and linebackers Victor Elliott (6-3 1/2, 200) from Long Beach Poly, Wayne Hall (6-3, 205) from Azusa and Hector Valdez (6-3, 225) from Sierra Vista.
Northridge lost only three of its top 14 recruits. Defensive end George Cross of Quartz Hill and kicker/punter Jay Hollis of Dana Hills chose other schools in addition to Mortensen.
Cross (6-5, 210) picked Cal State Fullerton, and Hollis, who has a 53-yard field goal to his credit, will attend a community college in hopes of attracting the interest of either USC or UCLA.
ALBERT FANN'S 100-YARD-PLUS GAMES OF 1986
Date Opponent Yds TD Sept. 20 Chatsworth 243 2 Oct. 11 Crenshaw 191 1 Oct. 18 El Camino Real 183 5 Nov. 1 Granada Hills 120 0 Sept. 27 Canoga Park 114 3