The Cal State Fullerton baseball team defeated Long Beach State’s “Dirtbags” 2-1 Sunday in a NCAA Super Regional to advance to the College World Series in Omaha. About 3000 fans were in attendance at the game at Blair Field in Recreation Park in Long Beach.
If you’re at all a local, you know that – athletically, at least –the Titans and 49ers have been the best of rivals. However, the one major sport in which they don’t meet is in football.
Long Beach had a football program from 1955 to 1991. Fullerton fielded a team from 1970 to 1992. Neither was a huge success on the football field or at the turnstile, although the 49ers did a bit better, posting a 199-183-4 record, compared to CSUF’s 107-150-3.
Every so often, discussion arises about bringing back football to the two colleges (UC Irvine never fielded a team in that sport). In 2004, students at CSULB voted narrowly (52 percent to 48 percent) against that prospect; in 1995 those at CSUF voted overwhelmingly (89 percent yes) in favor.
Both programs went into to the ditch for similar reasons. The cost of operating a competitive Division I program was skyrocketing at the same time that the California State University system was undergoing a financial crunch.
Both schools were very much commuter schools back then, and fan support was tepid. Long Beach didn’t have an on-campus stadium and Fullerton’s Titan Stadium only opened in time for the team’s final season.
Of course, both school’s football programs were overshadowed at the time by the two “big time” operators in the area USC and UCLA. They had legions of fans, TV exposure and traditions of success.
Has much changed since then? Well, the Rams and Raiders left. The Rams returned and so have the Chargers. USC and UCLA are doing fairly well, and the college football playoff “tournament” has injected new interest into the university game.
Still, it would be nice to see the two big local schools put on the pads again. On example to emulate might be Chapman University in Orange. The Panther football team plays at the Division III level, which allows no athletic scholarships. The home field is the attractive 2,000-seat on-campus Ernie Chapman Stadium.
It’s a much more modest operation than the two Cal States used to run, but perhaps its one more in line with reality. If you can get 3000 fans for a baseball game, you might well be able to get more than that for a football contest between two schools with a generation of hunger for gridiron glory.
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Last week we reflected on the outstanding local athletes of the 2016-17 high school year. We singled out Hagen Danner of Huntington Beach High.
Well, we’re not alone. The Los Angeles Times in its Sunday edition declared Danner – an outstanding pitcher and hitter – its Player of the Year.
Not only that, it also placed teammate Nick Pratto on its all-star team, and ranked the Oilers third, behind Division 1 and 2 champs El Toro and Etiwanda. Other Orange County teams making their final top 25 were El Dorado (sixth), Mater Dei (seventh), Mission Viejo (14th) and Orange Lutheran (21st).
Pete Zarustica writes Monday Morning Coach, even when it comes out on Monday Afternoon.