Northridge Prepares to Spell It Out
It can’t compare to the Starr Report, but the findings of a Cal State Northridge investigation into alleged NCAA rules violations by the football program are sure to cause a stir.
Although, come to think of it, there might be references to pads (shoulder, not knee) and tobacco (chewing, not cigars) in the Northridge account, which is expected to be released today or Monday.
Ron Ponciano, who was fired as football coach on July 16, is looking forward to reading the report. He was dispatched because school investigators believe they have serious goods on him.
“I can hardly wait [for the report],” Ponciano said this week, as he sold his Northridge home and prepared to move with his wife and infant son to Rancho Cucamonga, to live with his in-laws.
Ponciano was unceremoniously dumped, after coaching the Matadors for only one season, on the strength of a Northridge inquiry launched after the school received an anonymous letter in May alleging rules infractions.
The investigation also targeted Rob Phenicie, the offensive coordinator, who resigned under pressure days before Ponciano was dismissed.
Northridge repeatedly has refused to release the incriminating anonymous letter until the probe was concluded, but these are believed to be among the allegations against Ponciano:
* missing or improperly prepared travel receipts from 1996, when Ponciano was the team’s defensive coordinator;
* illegal purchase of an airline ticket for a recruit;
* purchasing a car for a player;
* operating a slush fund;
* chewing tobacco at practices and games;
* giving money to players;
* video-taping practices in the off-season;
* barbecues for players.
From the outset, Ponciano has denied serious wrongdoing, refusing a $43,000 buyout from Northridge. He admits using poor judgment with some of the minor misdeeds--barbecues, chewing tobacco--but claims he is not guilty of any major violations.
Like the airline ticket purchased for recruit DeAndre Harris, a defensive lineman from Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls, Iowa. Harris was never academically eligible at Northridge and left after a brief stay during fall practice.
The ticket was bought with cash at a Riverside travel agency but not, Ponciano said, by him or his assistants. There’s no invoice for the ticket and the buyer can’t be traced, but suspicions abound about who purchased the ticket.
Funny thing is, colleges routinely sanction themselves or are penalized by the NCAA for far more serious violations, and coaches don’t get tossed out--especially when an investigation isn’t completed.
Northridge is finally getting around, after two months, to letting everyone see the skeletons it supposedly uncovered.
Let’s see if it’s trick or treat in July.
The story about the car given to a player is a beauty.
Turns out the player was Harris, who for a short time indeed had a car, or a semblance of one.
“I sold it to him for $200,” said Kenny Knoop, a former Matador linebacker. “It was an old ’83 Toyota Tercel hatchback. I bought it for $100.”
Knoop said he ended up losing money on the deal.
"[Harris] paid me [in cash] and I signed the pink slip over to him,” Knoop said. “Then I started getting letters saying I dumped the car after an accident. He dumped the car right across the campus and they impounded the car.
“I had to pay the storage fee and a bunch of parking tickets because he never registered the car. It cost me about $150.”
Ponciano said Harris bought the car after getting a job through a booster soon after arriving at Northridge. He said the employer dropped Harris’ money at the football office and the payment for the car was given to Knoop out of the envelope.
“It’s not the right way to [handle] it, but it’s not illegal,” Ponciano said.
Knoop is a walk-on defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Burroughs High, where his brother, Keith, is the coach.
“Right now we are running basically a 4-4 defense,” Knoop said. “I have a little bit of Northridge, a little bit of Glendale [College] in there.”
Knoop played strong safety, linebacker and receiver at Burroughs from 1991-95 and was a safety at Glendale in 1995-96, where he was an All-Western State Conference selection his last season.
Carl Ferrill, Valley College’s new football coach, is putting the school on the tube.
Ferrill, hired in June, will host a 30-minute weekly cable TV show in the fall.
“We’ll show highlights from games, previews of coming games,” Ferrill said. “We’ll have segments that will promote Valley College. It won’t all be about football. We’ll have some interaction of academics, athletics and the community.”
Ferrill replaced Gary Barlow, who left to become an assistant at San Joaquin Delta in his native Stockton, and is eagerly awaiting the start of fall practice on Aug. 13.
“There were 17 bodies when I took the job,” Ferrill said. “Notice I said ‘bodies,’ not necessarily players. We are up to 58-64 [at summer workouts]. When it’s said and done, we’ll have close to 90.
“We’re getting back our local [recruits] who were going other places.”