Israeli Gymnast Will Join Titans : NCAA: Fullerton clears hurdles to bring Francine Garrett, the three-time all-around champion in her country, to the U.S.


A long and arduous recruiting process came to a fruitful end Friday when Cal State Fullerton women’s gymnastics Coach Lynn Rogers received final NCAA clearance for Francine Garrett, a member of the Israeli National Gymnastics team, to compete for the Titans this season.

Garrett, 20, placed seventh on the balance beam and 13th in the all-around competition at last July’s World University Games, held in Sheffield, England. She was the Israeli national all-around champion in 1986, ’88 and ’89.

“This kid is really good--she does some skills we’ve never had anyone on our team do before,” Rogers said. “If you look at her international experience, you expect her to come in and handle the pressure. She definitely improves our odds of making the nationals.”

Rogers said he first received a letter of inquiry from Garrett last August. According to Rogers, Garrett’s mother, Sandra, went to college in the United States and Sandra’s best friend from school, Ella Wing, is a counselor at Montebello Schurr High School.


Rogers said the Garrett family had asked Wing about colleges in Southern California and Wing recommended Fullerton. With Wing’s help, Rogers contacted Garrett and began recruiting her.

But there were several obstacles. Before Garrett could attend school in the United States, she had to receive an early release from the Israeli Army, to which all Israeli citizens are obligated to for two years after high school. But to start that process, Garrett needed a letter of admission from the university.

Transcripts were sent in Hebrew and had to be translated, but they looked good in English--Garrett was the valedictorian of her 1989-90 senior class at ORT Hof HaSharon High School in Natanya, which is just outside of Tel Aviv. Garrett was admitted to Fullerton on Oct. 14.

Next, to become eligible under NCAA rules, she had to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test. No problem. She scored 1,200 in early November. She received the release from the Army in November.


Rogers received signed scholarship papers from Garrett last week, and Friday he got the last piece of the puzzle: a foreign-student waiver from the NCAA, which will allow Garrett to compete this season.

Garrett is scheduled to fly to Los Angeles on Jan. 5, and the Titans open the season Jan. 11 at home against Stanford. Garrett will major in biochemistry at Fullerton and is expected to have four years of eligibility.

Though everything seemed to go smoothly, securing Garrett was anything but easy. Complicating matters was an NCAA rule that limits coaches’ phone calls to recruits to one a week.

“There have been times when we had to sit on something for a few days,” Rogers said. “And the mail is so slow it made it frustrating. They wanted answers to questions, and we’d have to wait a week to give them to them.”


Now, all the questions--and Rogers’ prayers--have apparently been answered.

“She’s going to be a real good addition to the team,” Rogers said. “We already have a couple of good kids, but I expect Francine to be near the top.”