Fresno State the Solid Choice to Win Another Big West Title : Football: Two-time defending champions look strong again. San Jose State might pose the toughest challenge.


Several new faces graced the dais at Thursday's Big West Conference football media day, but coaches and media expect the same old mugs--those of the Fresno State Bulldogs--to be atop the conference standings in 1990.

Fresno State, the two-time defending conference and California Raisin Bowl champion, finished first in the media and coaches' polls, collecting 49 of 60 first-place media votes and five of eight first-place coaches' votes.

San Jose State was ranked second in both polls, and Utah State and Cal State Fullerton were ranked third and fourth, respectively, by the media and coaches.

Fresno State, which was 11-1, 7-0 in conference last season, returns seven starters from a defense that allowed the fewest yards and points in the conference in 1989. The Bulldogs also return two potent offensive starters in tailback Aaron Craver and quarterback Mark Barsotti.

Craver, a 6-foot, 215-pound senior, set a school record of 1,313 yards rushing last season, his first in Division I after transfering from El Camino Community College.

Barsotti, who will be a junior this fall, has started all 24 games in the past two seasons, leading Fresno State to a 21-3 record. He completed 138 of 262 passes for 1,987 yards and 15 touchdowns and rushed for 244 yards in 1989.

San Jose State has a new coach, Terry Shea--one of four first-year coaches in the Big West. The Spartans have plenty of returning starters, including junior running back Sheldon Canley, who rushed for 1,201 yards in '89. Canley was an all-conference, first-team selection last season.

The Spartans return seven starters each on offense and defense and should be especially strong on defense behind linebackers Lyneil Mayo and Everett Lampkins and safety Hesh Colar, whom Shea says may also play flanker. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Fresno State and San Jose State are the top teams in the conference," Cal State Fullerton Coach Gene Murphy said.

It also doesn't take a genius to figure out that, with the possible exception of Utah State, no other Big West team is capable of challenging Fresno State and San Jose State.

And the conference coaches are quick to point this out. A sampling of comments:

First-year New Mexico State Coach Jim Hess, who inherited an 0-11 team: "We're not a very good football program right now. Our president and athletic director are making strides to get better, but we're not there yet."

First-year Cal State Long Beach Coach George Allen: "I don't think there's a Division I team in the country that needs defensive linemen more than we do."

First-year Nevada Las Vegas Coach Jim Strong: "We may start eight or 10 true freshmen, but you've got to start somewhere."

Murphy, who is entering his 11th season as Fullerton's coach: "The strength of our team is our kicker-- really. "

Utah State's Chuck Shelton was about the only other coach, besides Fresno State's Jim Sweeney and Shea of San Jose State, to express optimism. The Aggies return eight starters on defense and five on offense and have six community college transfers who are expected to contribute immediately.

"We are welcoming the most veteran squad in terms of minutes played that we have had in the five years I've been at Utah State," Shelton said. "Our size and strength is good defensively, and offensively, the line is the best we've had in years and we've improved our running game."

Big West Notes

The California Raisin Bowl, which pits the winners of the Big West and Mid-American conferences, has signed a contract with the Big West through the 1993 season, Commissioner Jim Haney announced Thursday. Neale Stoner, executive director of the bowl, said 17,000 tickets already have been sold for the 1990 game--3,000 ahead of last year's pace. . . . Two former Orange County high school quarterbacks, Troy Kopp and David Henigan, will battle for the starting job at Pacific. Kopp, a Mission Viejo graduate who was drafted by the Montreal Expos in the 12th round of the June baseball draft, started nine games last season, completing 138 of 241 passes for 1,510 yards and 11 touchdowns. Henigan, a Fountain Valley graduate, started three games and played in eight, completing 86 of 159 passes for 835 yards and three touchdowns. However, a shoulder injury sustained in spring practice might hurt Henigan's chances. . . . David Chisum, who played at Sunny Hills High and Fullerton College, heads into practice as the starting quarterback on New Mexico State's depth chart. . . . The Pacific women's volleyball team received eight first-place votes and was picked by coaches to win the conference. The Tigers are expected to start two former county players, junior middle blocker Sharon Kasser of Huntington Beach High and junior outside hitter Heather Schoeny of Capistrano Valley High. Cal State Fullerton was picked to finish sixth in the conference.

Big West Conference Football Coaches Poll

Pos. Team Points (1st place votes)

1. Fresno State: 61 (5)

2. San Jose State: 59 (3)

3. Utah State: 434. Cal State Fullerton: 375. Cal State Long Beach: 276. Nevada Las Vegas: 257. Pacific: 198. New Mexico State: 17

Media Football Poll

Pos. Team Points (1st place votes)

1. Fresno State: 467 (49)

2. San Jose State: 425 (10)

3. Utah State: 3154. Cal State Fullerton: 2575. Nevada Las Vegas: 2476. Cal State Long Beach: 224 (1)

7. Pacific: 1418. New Mexico State: 84

Volleyball Coaches Poll

Pos. Team Points (1st place votes)

1. Pacific: 98 (8)

2. Hawaii: 89 (2)

3. Cal State Long Beach: 804. UC Santa Barbara: 735. San Jose State: 596. Cal State Fullerton: 427. UC Irvine: 408. Fresno State: 389. Utah State: 1610. New Mexico State: 15

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