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Huskie Football Is Making a Comeback

Rudy Valles, dean of student affairs at East Los Angeles College, stood outside his office talking to the women’s athletic director, Sharron Denny, about the purchase of a uniform for the mascot.

“We need a mean-looking Huskie, not one of those happy ones,” Valles said.

The new Huskie may prowl the East L.A. sidelines with a scowl on his face, but underneath that scowl he will be smiling, because there has been no football team to cheer in the last two years.

The team is back under Coach Al Padilla and is 1-1 after a victory over Pierce College and a loss to Chaffey. But for the last two years, 22,000-seat Weingart Stadium at East L.A. has been home only to joggers on the track and touch football players on the field. Football, along with several other sports, was discontinued after the 1985-86 academic year because of budget cuts imposed by the Los Angeles Community College District. Faced with shrinking state funding, the community college trustees cut the athletic budgets at several community colleges. Each college decided which sports to drop, but it was obvious football would be one. It is the most expensive because of equipment and training costs.

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Hal Garvin, president of the board of trustees, said the funding problem started 10 years ago.

“In 1978, Proposition 13 changed the property taxes, and our funding situation grew worse every year since,” said Garvin. “Eventually the board decided that something had to be cut. You had to lay off part-time people and many part-time people were coaches and physical education instructors.” Garvin pointed out that he and other board members were not pleased with the decision, including the vice president of the board, Lindsay Connor.

Community colleges felt the crunch more severely in the middle of this decade when enrollment around the state dropped for various reasons, including demographics. Connor said the state allocates money for each student enrolled in school, but colleges couldn’t provide services because of budget cuts, so fewer students enrolled. The schools, in turn, received less money, so more services were cut. There were also fewer high school seniors graduating to feed into the community colleges.

The school years 1984-85 and 1985-86 had the lowest enrollment of the decade. The spring ’86 budget was too low to maintain a full athletic program. At East L.A., administrators felt running an athletic program on a low budget would not be beneficial to anyone, so men’s and women’s track and field and cross-country, men’s soccer, men’s swimming, women’s volleyball, women’s basketball and football were cut before the 1986-87 school year. All are back this year.

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So what brought the sports back? After the mid-decade crisis, the community college district began cost-saving measures that helped reinstate athletics. Garvin said the district did not fill vacant clerical and administrative positions. Dean Valles said East L.A. offered early retirement bonuses for teachers and that the college employs fewer gardeners and custodians. Connor added that enrollment has increased since the summer of ’87 and that “the state has become more generous.”

There was also a considerable amount of lobbying for athletics by administrators within the district and at the colleges. Dean Valles, citing a study conducted by a community college research panel, stressed the point of increased revenue through enrollment. Valles believed the only way to increase enrollment was to offer a full athletic program and--particularly at East L.A.--football.

“A football team adds to the image of the college. I think the student morale will be boosted here,” Valles said.

There was also support from the board of trustees. “I am a strong believer in the value of college athletics to the students, the college and the college community,” Connor said. “It gives the college a rallying point and a greater sense of identity that goes beyond the educational environment of the campus.”

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Valles estimated that up to 1,000 extra students would attend East L.A. because of the added sports. The college receives $3,500 for each student enrolled, which means the college potentially stands to gain $3.5 million in revenue from enrollment. Of course, that is an extremely high estimate, but, as Athletic Director Gilbert Rosadilla said, “The formula computes itself into a lot of money.”

That money would be rechanneled into the entire campus, but East L.A., like the rest of the district, is far from any sort of financial comfort zone.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” said Connor. “We’re being very thrifty.”

Valles knows all about being thrifty. He and his staff have been struggling to make a limited budget cover all of the reinstated sports as well as the existing ones. When East L.A. anticipated it would be able to revive football, Valles began to plan for this academic year. This year’s athletic budget at East L.A. is $253,000, an increase of $129,000 from last year.

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Valles said $100,000 is needed to start a college football team, but this year’s football budget is only $55,000. The rest of the funding came from last year’s budget. When the decision to bring football back became final, the college could finally start worrying about football issues, such as buying equipment. All equipment is new. Rosadilla said the college had to purchase 100 helmets at $100 each, practice and game uniforms and footballs. One thing about the program is not new: Coach Padilla.

Padilla was selected in December. He was head coach at East L.A. from 1973-77, an assistant in ’78 and ’79 and an assistant in ’84 and ’85. In 1974 the Huskies won the state championship under Padilla. He coached Mike Davis, Clarence Davis and Lynn Cain during that period. All became professionals.

Padilla does not expect a state championship this year. Before the season, he hoped to have enough uniforms. Padilla is his own secretary and receptionist. He mentioned that East L.A. lacks simple amenities such as a student worker to answer the phone or an equipment manager. Padilla had to call 60 of his players himself before school started to make sure they had registered for school.

A first-year program presents unique problems for a football team. For example, all of the players, with one exception, are freshmen who have no college football experience. The goal posts on the artificial turf field are badly in need of paint. But Padilla is happy to be there, answering phones and all. He sat in his office a few days before fall practice, surrounded by East L.A. memorabilia, and talked about the importance of football.

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“Students need to have pride in their school, and that’s what I think is extremely important about football, having pride in East L.A. College,” said Padilla.

Padilla is getting a little more help now in the football office, he now has an answering machine.

Last Saturday night a sparse crowd of 800 watched East L.A. lose its home opener to Chaffey, 14-6. The Huskies, resplendently clad in bright green uniforms with red piping, repeatedly hurt themselves with personal foul penalties and seemed to march backward every time they entered Chaffey territory. The only touchdown came on a 90-yard kickoff return by Adan Avina. Still, the defense played well, and the offense hinted at good performance. Athletic Director Rosadilla sat in the last row of the stands and cringed at every East L.A. penalty and mistake.

Rosadilla threw his hands in the air in disgust at a Chaffey completion against double coverage. “That never should have happened, there were two guys standing right there,” he said. Rosadilla may have been upset at the loss, but he and the entire East L.A. College community knows it’s better to worry about offense and defense than budgets and cutbacks.

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