Notebook : USD Worships the Ground Redskins Walk On

Times Staff Writer

The biggest beneficiary of Super Bowl XXII might not be the pockets of local merchants, but the morale of a local football team.

The University of San Diego Toreros had a pretty good season, going 6-3-1 to be ranked 20th in the nation in NCAA Division III. But if they have an easier time recruiting, they can mostly thank the NFL.

Because the Washington Redskins have chosen to train there this week, the NFL has given USD an entire football facility face-lift, free of charge.

The NFL has given them a new field, with new grass and goalposts and the works. They have given them essentially a new locker room, with new carpet and fresh paint.

Now, says football Coach Brian Fogarty, if only the Redskins would give them a peek at their closed practices.

"It really would be nice to get a chance to watch and see how they do things," Fogarty said. "But I just don't know what their rules will be. I hear it's going to be pretty tight."

His 3,500-seat stadium was chosen as a practice site mainly because it is only 10 minutes from San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium. But if he is thrown out of there this week, Fogarty has already decided, he won't complain.

"The NFL will pretty much own the place for a week, it's all theirs," he said. "But after all they've done for us, I can hardly be upset. Any inconvenience they have caused has been well worth it."

Some of Fogarty's players will be a little luckier. They have been hired as security guards.

The Hyatt Islandia Hotel, host to the Redskins beginning tonight, is inviting all fans to come out and see their heroes.

But there might not be any parking. And they won't be able to leave the lobby and restaurant area. And if this week is any indication, there will barely be any room to move.

"It is just crazy around here," said Jessica Rogers, sales manager. "Security has doubled, tripled. Our parking lot is full of television trucks. Traffic outside is going to be a mess.

"We encourage people to come, our restaurants and souvenir stands will be open. But we suggest they get here early."

While every major hotel in town is being used in some capacity by the NFL, the Hyatt was chosen for the Redskins because of its history of lodging NFL teams when they play the Chargers.

While on the San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium field, the Broncos and Redskins would be well-advised to look down for pigeons.

Dead pigeons, that is.

Super Bowl groundskeeper George Toma, the Kansas City Royals' groundskeeper who is hired out for most of this country's major sporting events, initially had trouble growing his special field in San Diego. Pigeons were eating the grass seed.

In a stadium inhabited by several forms of wildlife--skunks have chased baseball pitchers out of the bullpen--this was not surprising. But short of scarecrows, Toma didn't have any ideas on how to stop them.

A curator at the San Diego Zoo finally told him he could scare away the live pigeons with dead pigeons placed around the field. Using a dozen dead pigeons from a local veterinarian, he tried it.

It didn't work. The live pigeons ignored the dead ones. It wasn't until Toma starting feeding the live pigeons corn that the birds left enough regular seed alone to account for what is now a grassy green field.

Toma has been left to wonder, how in the name of Alfred Hitchcock could birds cause so much trouble?

"Birds are usually my friends," Toma told Times reporter Michael Granberry. "They can tell me when the seed is just right, or when there's insects."

Redskin and Bronco schedules for Super Bowl week detail such things as arrival times and interview availability and photo opportunities but mention absolutely nothing about practice times.

It's not that these teams are so good they will neither need nor get time to practice. Rather, practices are closed to both the media and the public, so the presumption is that no one other than coaches and players needs to know.

Securing the Broncos' practice field at San Diego State will be made easier by the fact that classes are not in session and that the practice field is in a remote area of the athletic complex.

"There will still be a security ring around the practice field and locker areas," said Al Luginbill, San Diego State associate athletic director in charge of football and basketball. "They do really like the fact that the practice field is isolated."

No special preparation had to be made at San Diego State, other than the turf on the practice field. It has been manicured to approximate the conditions of the turf in San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.

Dave Watson, director of catering at the La Jolla Marriott, said food service for the visiting Broncos will be a little different than for the normal banquet.

"Meal service will be real quick," he said. "Maybe 30 to 45 minutes. Get in and get out. I don't think they're planning on any guest speakers."

Super Bowl tickets, already an easy and expensive sell, now come in interesting packages.

One classified advertisement, for example, offers a week in a three-bedroom, three-bath tri-level house in La Jolla plus six Super Bowl tickets and tickets to a Frank Sinatra concert for $20,000. The same folks have a similar package available in a two-bedroom waterfront condominium in the Coronado Cays for four Super Bowl tickets (plus Sinatra, of course) for $15,000.

"I told my husband he was crazy, but he said there were people who'd be interested," Jan Carr said. "He was right. I've been surprised by the calls we've been getting."

If no one goes for the whole package, will they take the tickets and go to the game?

"Oh no," she said. "We'll sell the tickets. We're going to watch on television."

For those interested in the game alone, another ad offers seats in a sky box for a mere $2,500 each . . . but food and drink are included.

In Denver, the Broncos worked out in pads for 1 1/2 hours at their indoor practice facility while icy winds gusted to 80 m.p.h. outside the bubble. The team will take today off before departing for San Diego Monday.

Wide receiver Vance Johnson, the only Bronco with a serious injury, will begin practicing again Tuesday and should be ready for the Super Bowl, trainer Steve Antonopulos said.

"If he doesn't have any problems through the week, I don't foresee any problem," Antonopulos said.

Johnson was examined Friday by a team physician and was given permission to practice.

Times staff writer Dave Distel contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World