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College Division : Women’s Gymnastics Struggling at Cal Poly Pomona

Ray Johnson, second-year women’s gymnastics coach at Cal Poly Pomona, realizes his team is on the endangered-species list.

The Broncos and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo are the only two National Collegiate Athletic Assn. Division II schools in Southern California that still have a women’s gymnastics team. The list included three before Cal State Northridge dropped the sport after last season.

In fact, there are only five Division II teams in gymnastics in California. The others are UC Davis, CS Sacramento and CS Chico.

Despite a good crop of underclassmen this season, Johnson is facing the harsh reality that the days of the program are numbered.

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“I don’t think we have that much time, which is a shame because we have some good kids in the program,” he said. “The future is bright for us athletically, but it’s not for the program.”

Johnson said it is the prohibitive cost of fielding a women’s gymnastics team that has brought an end to most Division II programs.

“When you have to cut something in the (athletic) program (for financial reasons), you cut what’s hurting you, not what’s making you the most money,” Johnson explained. “It’s just a trend to drop the sport of gymnastics because of the cost of upkeep and the crowds just aren’t there.

“It’s not bringing in any money, so it’s easy to say let’s drop it. I don’t think it should have to be that way in Division II, where competing is the big thing, but that’s just the way it is.”

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Johnson said a lot of people think that biggest reason for the high cost of the sport is insurance. After all, women’s gymnastics is the No. 1 college sport for injuries--even higher than football in sheer numbers.

“This sport is the one that’s going to cost the most because of the number of injuries, but it’s really not as bad as everyone thinks,” Johnson said. “When they talk about injuries (in gymnastics), they’re dealing with the number of injuries. But what we’re really dealing with is a lot of injuries that heal over the normal course of time. We’re not talking about the kind of injuries you get in football.”

But the coach said the biggest costs for the program are from equipment and travel expenses. He said he must update equipment each season to stay in line with NCAA requirements.

With few teams in the area competing, the Broncos also spend a lot of money traveling.

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“Scheduling home meets is not a problem because everybody wants to bring their team to California to compete against us,” he said. “But going away is another question. We have to go far away for road meets, and that’s where the cost comes in.”

The athletic department has helped keep the program afloat. Johnson said the department pays for more than 75% of the program’s yearly expenses but realizes that will not last if the Broncos do not start winning with consistency.

“The programs that are around now, probably with the exception of ours, are the ones that have been winning. So I guess that’s important to keeping the program.”

Short of that, Johnson knows the program will continue on the road to extinction.

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At the start of the season, the race for the California Collegiate Athletic Assn. men’s basketball title was considered wide open and little has changed that outlook.

When conference play starts Friday, the favorites will be Cal State Northridge (8-3) and UC Riverside (10-2)--the teams that were picked one-two by conference coaches at the start of the season.

However, they may receive some competition from Chapman (9-4), Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (7-4) and Cal State Bakersfield (7-5).

Riverside was off to its best start ever with a 10-0 record but lost to Division I opponents Southwestern Louisiana (63-62) and Southern Mississippi (98-79) last week. The Highlanders, who do not have a starter taller than 6 feet 6 inches, have been led offensively by 6-2 guard Maurice Pullum, averaging 15 points, and 6-4 forward Julius Thomas, averaging 14.3.

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Northridge has won seven of its last eight games, but the Matadors suffered a big scare when starting center Todd Bowser injured his knee in an auto accident Friday night. Bowser, a 6-8, 270-pound sophomore who was averaging 13.4 points and 7.9 rebounds, is day-to-day.

The Matadors will have to rely on their strong backcourt tandem of Pat Bolden and Chuck McGavran. Bolden is averaging 15 points and McGavran 14.3.

With four straight nonconference wins, Chapman may also be ready to emerge as a title contender. The Panthers could have the best offensive player in the conference in 6-7 senior forward Kelly Huston, who averages 23.4 points and 9.3 rebounds.

It looks like business as usual for the Cal Poly Pomona women’s basketball team, which once again has emerged as the solid choice to win the CCAA title.

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The Broncos (11-2), who were ranked No. 6 in the first NCAA Division II poll after finishing second last season, have not had much of a challenge in winning or sharing six straight CCAA titles and going 68-3 in conference play.

The Broncos have only one senior--guard Paula Tezak--on their 12-player roster. The scoring leaders are junior guard Cathy Gooden at 18.4 points, sophomore center Niki Bracken at 15.9 and junior forward Marcine Edmonds at 15.2.

If any team is to challenge Pomona for the title, it may be UC Riverside, which has a 9-4 record and was tied for 19th in the Division II rankings last week. The Highlanders are led by their front line of forwards Laura Spellacy, Debbie Arnold and Patti Held.

Riverside will not have to wait long to see how it matches up against Pomona because the teams meet in their conference opener Saturday night in Pomona.

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College Division Notes

The Biola men’s basketball team, ranked No. 3 in the National Assn. of Intercollegiate Athletics at 15-0, has enjoyed playing CCAA teams this season. The Eagles are 3-0 against CCAA teams heading into a game against visiting Cal State Northridge at 7:30 p.m. tonight. All-America forward Johnny Griffin scored 74 points in three games last week to lead Biola to the Point Loma Nazarene tournament title. . . . Biola will be short-handed the rest of season because guard Monte Chadwick has been declared academically ineligible. The 6-1 junior was the top reserve guard and averaged 9.8 points and 3.6 assists. . . . Cal State Northridge Coach Pete Cassidy needs one more win to reach 250. In 16 seasons, Cassidy has a 249-188 record. . . . Senior setter Angela Brinton, who led Cal State Northridge to the NCAA Division II women’s volleyball title and was named division player of the year, has been nominated for the Honda Broderick Award. Brinton was the only Division II player nominated for the award, which goes to the top player in the sport.


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