It has been a year since the Cal State Northridge football team started spring practice under the guidance of a rookie coach named Bob Burt, a man who had the gall to tell the players with a straight face he would make them winners.
This after Northridge had gone 4-7 in 1985 and had only five winning seasons in the previous 16.
Burt said he had a list of four goals:
Have a winning record.
Break the school record for wins in a season.
Win a conference championship.
Qualify for the eight-team NCAA Division II playoffs.
Northridge failed to reach three of those goals last season. But after meeting goal No. 1 with an 8-3 record, the Matadors will be met with high expectations for this season when spring practice begins today at North Campus Stadium.
"The goals are the same," Burt said Tuesday. "We only met one of the four and I'm going to remind our players of that every day. There is no reason we couldn't have reached them all last year. We came close, but we didn't do it."
Burt is hopeful that the success the team experienced last season will carry over. "Our people really believe now that they can have that level of success," he said. "I'm not sure our guys truly believed that at the start of last year.
"The opposite side of the coin is, now that they believe it, how bad do they want it? It is important for us to remember that last year is just that, last year, and it means nothing."
Among the 16 starters Northridge has back are six 1986 All-California Collegiate Athletic Assn. selections--center Brian Clark, offensive tackle Carlos Rivera, defensive back Kip Dukes, linebacker Mark Dozier, defensive end Steve Dominic and defensive tackle Dester Stowers.
But several of the holes that need to be filled are major ones, Burt said.
The biggest loss is at tailback, where All-American Mike Kane spent the past four seasons building the school's career rushing record.
"How do you replace Mike Kane? You don't," Burt said. "But we have a couple of guys who are capable of being very successful."
Richard Brown and Lance Harper, Kane's understudies last season, will battle for the starting position in spring workouts. Albert Fann of Cleveland High is another possibility, but he and the other high school recruits are not eligible to take part in spring drills.
Competition at quarterback also should be interesting. Rob Huffman, Sherdick Bonner and Chris Folsom are the top candidates to replace the departed Chris Parker.
Huffman was a JC All-American at Glendale College last year and Bonner was a redshirt freshman at Northridge. Folsom was a reserve at CSUN in 1985 as a freshman but was not on the team last season.
Burt also must find a replacement for All-American kicker Mike Doan and fill vacancies at offensive tackle, nose tackle, cornerback and inside linebacker.