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McQuarn Exit Tied to Meeting : Coach’s Resignation Linked to Remarks of University President

Times Staff Writer

George McQuarn’s sudden resignation as Cal State Fullerton basketball coach came the day after a coaches’ meeting at the home of University President Jewel Plummer Cobb during which Cobb singled out McQuarn on issues of fund-raising and academics, sources said Friday.

Cobb repeatedly “needled” and “verbally attacked” McQuarn, said coaches who were at the Wednesday night meeting but who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"(Cobb) said, ‘George, you have to raise money, just like everyone else. You have to graduate players, just like everyone else,’ ” a coach said. “George left because of that meeting. You can take that to the bank.”

Another coach who was at the meeting and who spoke with McQuarn after he resigned called Cobb’s comments the “last straw” of McQuarn’s mounting frustrations.

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“It wasn’t just the meeting,” a source close to McQuarn said. “It was academics and fund-raising and having a 12-17 season and not having good expectations for this season. It was the unrealistic expectations at this school.”

McQuarn, 47, cleaned out his office Thursday morning and resigned before the team’s afternoon practice, citing only “personal reasons.”

He has refused to comment further.

Cobb, in a telephone interview Friday, called the gathering “a very good meeting” in which she “reaffirmed support for a strong athletic program . . . and stressed financial needs . . . and academics.”

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Asked if there had been any conflict with McQuarn, Cobb said, “I don’t know about that.”

Cobb said she and McQuarn had a “good” relationship, and that she had not spoken with him since his resignation.

Asked if the move surprised her, Cobb said, “I’m surprised that he decided to do that just a few short days before the basketball season.”

Fullerton opens its season Dec. 1 against Utah. Assistant John Sneed has been named acting coach for the season.

McQuarn, along with some other Fullerton coaches, had come under scrutiny recently because of poor graduation rates among athletes. Only 3 players McQuarn brought to Fullerton in his 8 seasons have graduated. McQuarn also has a reputation for disdaining fund-raising, which is required of all coaches in the financially strapped Fullerton athletic program.

Fullerton coaches, including McQuarn and football Coach Gene Murphy, have repeatedly expressed frustration with what they call insufficient funding, facilities and academic support.

But McQuarn asked associates not to discuss his reasons for leaving.

“I think the only thing that matters to George is that the people who are close to him know, " Sneed said. “I think the way it came out made the statement George wanted to make.”

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Said assistant coach Donny Daniels: "(McQuarn) is a proud man, and he stands up for things. What he did was very difficult.”

McQuarn resigned his position at Fullerton once before, saying after a loss in January of 1986 that he was quitting at the end of the season because of the “negative aspects” of coaching. But he reneged on the resignation less than a month later.

McQuarn’s teams were 122-117 in his 8 seasons, 5 of which were winning seasons.

Sneed, 40, who has been an assistant to McQuarn for all of McQuarn’s 8 seasons, held a 40-minute meeting with the team Friday before conducting his first full practice as head coach.

He inherits a team that has no starters returning from last year’s 12-17 club. And the team is down to 11 healthy players after William Allen, a community college transfer who was competing for a starting postion, left the team last week for personal reasons.

Cedric Ceballos, a community-college transfer, and Derek Jones, who is back after recovering from a drive-by shooting, are the only players who have earned starting positions so far, Sneed said. “The rest are wide open.”

Fullerton is predicted to finish near the bottom of the Big West Conference.

“I’m taking over under a lot of adversity,” Sneed said, “but I’m trying to handle all that in a very positive manner. . . . This is an opportunity, either to open a door for me here at Fullerton or somewhere else down the road. Maybe it’s not the best way to get a head coaching job, but there are very few in Division I in this country. It’s something I’ve waited and worked for for a long time. I’m going to try not to let it slip away easily.”

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