CSUN Searched Far, Stays Near With Fenwick

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jim Fenwick, Valley College's head football coach the past six seasons, is expected to be introduced as Cal State Northridge's coach today, sources said Thursday.

Fenwick is the choice of the vast majority of members on three Northridge search committees, some of whom met Thursday night and passed on their recommendation to Paul Bubb, the school's athletic director.

During the day, committee members met with Skip Hall, associate head coach at Missouri, who was the last of three finalists to be interviewed. The other finalist was Chris Allen, who recently resigned as defensive coordinator at Wake Forest.

Fenwick would not comment Thursday night but Northridge sources said Bubb will announce his hiring at a news conference, probably this afternoon. Bubb, who is leaving Saturday for the NCAA convention in Nashville, Tenn., would not confirm that, saying, "There's no guarantees."

One well-informed source described Fenwick as "a really good fit" who is excited about taking the job. "I would be shocked if he's not hired," the source said.

A former Northridge assistant, Fenwick, 44, was a finalist for the Northridge job that went to Dave Baldwin two years ago. Baldwin, who last season guided Northridge to a 7-4 record and a third-place finish in the Big Sky Conference, was hired by San Jose State in December.

At Valley, Fenwick built a program that contended for the mythical national championship in 1995 and finished 10-1 in each of the past three seasons.

The Monarchs were 49-14-1 under Fenwick and are two-time defending champions in the Western State Conference Southern Division. That record included victories the past two years over perennial powerhouse Bakersfield.

"[Valley] has improved a lot over the last four or five years," said Bakersfield Coach Dallas Grider, whose only two losses since taking over the Renegades in 1995 came against Valley.

"Their offense is a lot more complicated now and he recognizes needs on defense. . . . He's an outstanding coach. Anything that can be done to get [him] out of [Valley] would be great."

Fenwick's Valley teams featured a highly proficient and entertaining passing offense similar to the one implemented by Baldwin at Northridge and favored by Bubb.

Two years ago at Valley it was directed by Aaron Flowers, who this season set several Northridge passing records.

Flowers, who was on one of the interview committees screening the finalists, would not talk about Fenwick on Thursday.

"I'd rather not until after he's hired," Flowers said.

Another member of the same committee described Fenwick's style of offense as "fun and dynamic," and said his knowledge of the region as a recruiter and fund-raiser helped put him over the top.

Valley played in bowl games the past four seasons, winning three, and finished ranked second in the state and third in one national poll.

"All of the things that made [Valley's program] first class we gave him the chance to do it, and he took the chance and made it one of the classiest junior college programs," said Chuck Ferrero, Valley's athletic director. "He worked his butt off at Valley."

Fenwick put Valley on the football map by recruiting shrewdly from high schools in the region, and particularly heavy at City power Kennedy High, where Coach Bob Francola is one of Fenwick's biggest boosters.

"[Hiring Fenwick] would be a good move," Francola said. "He wants to stay in the area and, looking down the road, that is something that is important to [Northridge]--somebody to put four or five years in.

"He's got everything they want. He runs the offense, high school coaches in the area love him and he's a great fund-raiser. The other guys [interviewed] are defensive specialists, which is fine. That wins championships. But if you want to entertain the people of the San Fernando Valley, he'd be a great fit."

Fenwick, who played running back at Pierce College and Wichita State, coached Valley's rival, Pierce, to a 35-18 record from 1981-85, before the program was discontinued for two years.

His teams won Southern California Conference titles from 1983-85 and Pierce was 10-0 and top-ranked in the nation in 1984 before losing to Taft in the Potato Bowl.

In 1986, Fenwick was an assistant at Northridge and afterward held similar posts at Miami (Ohio) and Pacific before taking over the Valley program.

Like Fenwick, Baldwin's only head coaching experience before Northridge was in junior college, at Santa Barbara from 1990-93 and at Santa Rosa in 1994.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Jim Fenwick's Coaching Career

How Jim Fenwick-coached teams have fared over the years:

*--*

Yr School Overall Conf. Finish 1996 Valley 10-1 6-0 1st WSC South; Won bowl game 1995 Valley 10-1 6-0 1st WSC South; Lost bowl game 1994 Valley 10-1 5-1 2nd WSC South; Won bowl game 1993 Valley 9-2 3-2 2nd WSC South; Won bowl game 1992 Valley 5-4-1 2-3 3rd WSC South (tie) 1991 Valley 5-5 2-3 4th WSC South 1985 Pierce 9-2 5-0 1st SCC; Won bowl game 1984 Pierce 10-1 5-0 1st SCC; Lost bowl game 1983 Pierce 9-2 5-0 1st SCC; bowl game 1982 Pierce 2-8 -- -- 1981 Pierce 5-5 -- -- Totals 84-32-1

*--*

Key: SCC--Southern California Conf.; WSC--Western State Conf.

Bowl games

1996, Western State Bowl, defeated Hancock, 37-25

1995, Strawberry Bowl, lost to Long Beach City, 59-49*

1994, Orange County Bowl, defeated Rancho Santiago, 36-28

1993, Western State Classic, defeated Moorpark, 21-19

1985, Brahma Bowl, defeated Moorpark, 27-14

1984, Potato Bowl, lost to Taft, 51-27*

1983, Mission Bowl, defeated Santa Barbara

* Game was for mythical national championship

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