Titan Football Still a Fond Memory
It has been more than six years since Cal State Fullerton has had a football team, but that hasn’t kept some former players from organizing a reunion to remember the good old days.
And there were some good days before Fullerton dropped the sport after the 1992 season because of a budget crunch.
“A few of us were playing golf one day when we decided it would be good to get the guys together again,” said Scott Weller of Redondo Beach, who played for the Titans in 1983 and 1984.
The idea began mainly as a gathering of former players from that era. Those were glory days for Titan football: a team that won a Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. championship and played in the Cal Bowl in 1983, and another that won a conference title and was ranked in the top 20 nationally in 1984.
“But we decided to invite players from the 1970s and late 1980s as well,” said another former player, John Geiger of Fullerton.
So Weller and Geiger will join other former Titan players and their families today at Titan Stadium for an Alumni Football Club barbecue and picnic from 4 to 8 p.m. “We hope we can do it every five years or so,” Weller said.
There will be plenty of memories.
“I wonder if anyone will call me ‘Moondoggie,’ ” Henry Goebel of Corona del Mar said with a laugh. “That was my nickname in those days because I was from the beach.”
Goebel played at Corona del Mar High, then was an offensive tackle four years for the Titans. Goebel was good enough that he was drafted in the eighth round by the Rams and played two years in the NFL.
“That 1984 season was the kind of season you’ll always remember,” Goebel said. “It was probably the best year of my life. When I played in the pros, it became a job.”’
The Titans won 11 of 12 games in 1984, losing only to Nevada Las Vegas, 26-20. But Fullerton was eventually awarded a forfeit in that game by the PCAA, which later became the Big West Conference, because UNLV had used eight ineligible players.
Quarterback Damon Allen passed for 2,469 yards and 20 touchdowns that season, and cornerback Mark Collins and linebackers John Nevens and Weller sparked the defense. Coach Gene Murphy was chosen West Coast coach of the year by United Press International.
Collins has gone on to a long career in the NFL after being drafted in the second round by the New York Giants in 1986, and Allen and wide receiver Al Pitts are still playing in the Canadian Football League.
“In that one two-year period, a lot of those wins were on the road,” said Murphy, who now coaches at Fullerton College. “It was a great group. We brought most of them in as freshmen in 1981 and 1982 and they jelled in 1983 and 1984. I think 1984 was the only year I ever coached when I didn’t think anyone could beat us. We had some great assistant coaches during that time and great support from our athletic director, Lynn Eilefson.”
Geiger remembers how things changed while he was at Fullerton.
“In my first couple of years there, it seemed like we were playing in everyone’s homecoming game,” Geiger said, laughing. “I think some of those schools were having their homecoming in the third week of the season, just so it could be against us. They viewed us as a doormat, and I think that’s when we set out to become winners.
“It’s one of those times in life when you see a group of people really bond together for a common cause. And we knew how much what we were doing meant to each other.”
“Refuse To Lose,” became the Titan battle cry, Geiger said.
“It reminded us that everyone expected us to lose, and we weren’t going to have it happen, " he said.
The Titans went from one field to another for their home games in those days. In 1983, they played only three games at home, one in Anaheim Stadium and two at Glover Stadium. In 1984, they played four games at Santa Ana Stadium.
“But for about three years before that, we’d put up bleachers and take them down on an open field on campus,” Murphy said.
The Titans played only one season in Titan Stadium in 1992 before the program was dropped.
The players from the mid-80s say they regret the sport’s demise at the school, but in the last few years Fullerton was forced to play what Murphy called “body bag games” against overpowering opponents for guarantees that helped keep the program alive.
“Not having football is a travesty, but I guess that’s the brutal reality of economics now,” Geiger said. “If Fullerton ever is going to have football again, it would probably have to be on the Division I-AA level.”
“It’s disappointing to have to tell people you played football for a school that doesn’t have a program anymore,” Weller said. “I just know that those years playing football still help me now in everything I do in life. It’s hard to put a dollar sign on that.”