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Whether It’s Football or Money, Titans Can’t Seem to Win

Cal State Fullerton football Coach Gene Murphy must have sold his soul in another life. Had to. Either that, or he swiped money form a Salvation Army Santa Claus, stole candy from a baby or didn’t help a little old lady across the street. Nobody has this sort of buzzard luck without a good reason.

THe latest calamity to sweep across Murphy’s football program is the 1989 schedule. Take a look at it:

Northern Illinois . . . Cal State Northridge . . . Colorado State . . . San Diego State . . . UNLV . . . Utah State . . . University of Pacific . . . Fresno State . . . New Mexico State . . . Cal State Long Beach . . . San Jose State.

“From a great schedule standpoint, this is the best we’ve ever had,” Murphy said. “But. . .”

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But what? For most coaches, that’s not a schedule, but a 9-2 season waiting to happen. Any softer and you send this thing to the pillow factory for more feathers. Coaches live for schedules like this. They hug their athletic directors for schedules like this.

Not Murphy. To his thinking, Murphy is caught between a rock and the hard facts.

The Rock :

Fullerton’s football program needs a season to remember, not another to forget. Nothing against Murphy, who tries, but 6-6, 3-9 and 6-5 records during the last 3 years don’t do much to quicken the heartbeat or pry open the wallets of potential boosters. If ever a program needed CPR, this is the one. This season, the Titans are 3-5, which is just good enough to get you ignored-unless, of course, you manage to lose to then-0-5 Long Beach. That turns a few heads.

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As for the newly named Big West Conference (formerly the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn.), it’s the same dog, just with a different color fur. Of the eight teams in the conference, only Fresno State has a winning record. The Big West? They should call it the Big Easy. Columbia could win this league.

Mind you this isn’t Murphy’s fault. Though his Titans have contributed to the odor of the Big West, Murphy probably would prefer a conference that included, say Michigan, Georgia, Florida State, Notre Dame, Nebraska, etc. Any major program would do. In fact, Murphy probably wishes on occasion that he were at one of those schools. Beats what he has in Fullerton, which includes. . .

The Hard Facts:

Fullerton is a commuter university.

Fullerton is without an on-campus stadium.

Fullerton won’t get an on-campus stadium (and that’s only if all goes as planned) until 1991.

Fullerton’s athletic department budget wouldn’t pay for one of Nancy Reagan’s gowns.

Fullerton’s football program lacks community support.

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There. That should about do it.

So Murphy and athletic director Ed Carroll improvise. At Fullerton, improvising means making yourself available to the highest out-of-town bidder.

Last year, it was LSU and Florida. This year it was Wyoming and West Virginia. In 1991, they travel to Georgia. You get the stuffing knocked out of you, but at least the $200,000-or-so guarantee helps pay some bills. And the Titans have lots of bills.

“LSU and Florida were done because of the need, because of the definite financial need,” Murphy said.

So were Wyoming and West Virginia this season. And had there been some big-name schools willing to pay the Titans to visit their campus next year--and, presumably, lose--Carroll and Murphy would have said, OK. They have no choice.

“We were certainly looking for such a game and payoff,” Murphy said. “I guess this year wasn’t one out there.”

That means Murphy is stuck with a 1989 schedule that belongs in the Catch-22 archives. The Titans finally get a list of opponents they can beat . . . and they end up paying for it.

“It’s a matter of cutting back now,” Murphy said. “You can’t afford to have the 1989 schedule. We’re going to have to cut back.”

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That’s like trying to mow a parking lot: There’s nothing there to cut.”

“There’s grants, there’s recruiting money,” Murphy offered.

Just what the Titan football program needs--less scholarship money, less opportunity to recruit.

Murphy offered several improbable solutions to Fullerton’s financial follies, beginning with the kindness of a millionaire sugar daddy and ending with national television appearance that features the Titans. Fat change.

My advise: Lotto tickets.

Then again, with Murphy’s luck, he’d win the jackpot but lose the ticket.


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