Bob Hiegert, Cal State Northridge athletic director, went on the offensive Saturday in response to the latest volley of criticism directed at him by black-student organizations that have called for his resignation.
Speaking prior to the Northridge baseball team's second-round Midwest Regional game against Oklahoma State, Hiegert vowed not to resign and said he was considering legal action against those who have publicly made "false accusations and slanderous statements" against him.
Hiegert said claims of racism and racial insensitivity against the Northridge athletic program by leaders of the school's Black Student Union and Black Student-Athletes Assn. constituted "a well-orchestrated, planned campaign to use athletics as a media vehicle to gain attention to the real agenda of the BSU and its advisers."
He did not elaborate on what that agenda might be.
Hiegert said the charges of racism within his department were "unsubstantiated and totally false."
"I'm not a racist. I don't harbor racist kinds of thoughts and I don't think there's anyone on our staff that has either one of those convictions," he said.
A task-force study recently substantiated some claims of racial inequity within the Northridge athletic program. Hiegert said a response to that report is being formulated and should be available before the end of June.
The task force was highly critical of the athletic program's graduation rates that showed only 9.2% of black athletes earned degrees compared to more than 33% of whites.
In response, Hiegert issued a challenge asking that graduation rates for all minority students at Northridge be compared to those of the athletic program.
He also suggested that graduation rates of the school's Pan-African Studies Department be investigated.
"I have a very strong feeling that our graduation rates are going to be higher than both those two areas," Hiegert said. "They're not acceptable, but they're going to be higher.
"We're not accepting or happy about our graduation rates," he added. "We're concerned about them and (are) taking positive steps to make the situation better.
"But before you can make a valid conclusion on these things you might want to look at other samples."
Hiegert attacked the BSU and BSAA for their continued criticism of his department, going so far as to question whether the groups have a genuine interest in solving existing problems.
"They seem to want the problems to remain where they are and keep the issues alive without trying to help the individual student problems," Hiegert said.
Hiegert said he doubted that either the BSU or BSAA represented the views of a majority of Northridge athletes, saying, "Student-athletes . . . to a person, were surprised and shocked that their concerns were part" of a March 11 protest rally on campus in which the black-student groups brought charges of racism and demanded changes in campus policy.
The next day, Hiegert said, women's basketball player Bridgette Ealy and football player Cornell Ward, both of whom are African-American, met with him and Judy Brame, an associate athletic director.
"They apologized for the (call for Hiegert's resignation) and (said) they were unaware that the athletic issues were to be part of the rally," Hiegert said. "That was the first indication that either myself or Dr. Brame had that the black athletes had concerns."
Those concerns, Hiegert said, would be "addressed and taken care of as fast as we can with the resources we've got."
Nevertheless, Ealy has said that she remains sympathetic to many of the black-student groups' concerns; Ward is a graduate assistant on the Northridge football staff.
Hiegert also denied a BSU claim that he was overheard telling football Coach Bob Burt not to recruit any more black athletes.
"Something that is said in a public forum, the person who has said it is responsible for (documenting) it," he said.