The Demise of CSUF's Gridiron Gangs

Part I: The Titans once had a football program that spawned pro stars

The college football season kicked off two weeks ago, but it's been more than a decade since Cal State Fullerton fielded a football team.

It seems odd that Cal State Fullerton has no collegiate football program, because a look through its past reveals that it was able to develop the talent that may have kept a successful program running.

Damon Allen, a former Titan quarterback, made history recently when he passed Warren Moon career passing mark of 70,553 as the all-time leader in professional football. While never playing a down in the NFL, the 22-year Canadian Football League star has enjoyed a career up North that has brought him both individual awards [2005 CFL's Outstanding Player] and team accomplishments [including Four Grey Cup Championships].

In his time with the Titans, Allen was a dynamo at quarterback, but also a good enough athlete to play on the baseball team.

Another former Titan who made his mark in Canada was Mike Pringle, a running back for the Titans in 1988 and 1989, who rushed for 2,223 yards in two seasons and led the nation in all-purpose yards with 2,690 in '89.

From there he was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons as the 139th player overall in the 1990 draft, but like Allen, never got the opportunity to play in the NFL.

Looking for his chance, he landed in Canada and went on to play 15 years and become the all-time leading rusher in the history of the Canadian Football League with 16,425 yards.

The CFL was a haven not only Allen and Pringle, but also wide receiver Allen Pitts.

Pitts held the all-time receiving mark in the CFL with 14, 891 yards until it was later broken.

For Pitts' career efforts, he was named to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

Place kicker Phil Nevin, better known as a star on the baseball team, who was a No. 1 overall selection by the Houston Astros in the '92 free agent amateur draft was on the Titans' football team for three seasons.

Nevin has enjoyed a solid Major League career and currently plays for the Minnesota Twins after spending time with the Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs during this past season.

Mark Collins, drafted by the New York Giants in 1986, set school records with 20 career interceptions and was All-American and Pacific Coast Athletic Association's defensive player of the year as a senior in '85.

Head Coach Gene Murphy, who coached the Titans for 13 years and now coaches at Fullerton College was named PCAA coach of the year in '83 and UPI's (United Press International) West Coast coach of the year in '84.

He led the Titans to two conference championships.

Murphy, who was instrumental in building Titan stadium with his fundraising efforts and community involvement, has bittersweet memories of his former team and program and is reluctant to speak of its current inexistence.

"It hurts that we don't have a football program [at CSUF]," Murphy said. "I have too many good memories. I really don't want to talk about it."

There are currently eight coaches coaching in the NFL that coached at or attended CSUF.

Former San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions Head Coach Steve Mariucci, who helped coach star quarterbacks such as Brett Favre, Steve Young and Jeff Garcia was a former Titan coach.

From 1980-82, he was the quarterbacks and special teams coordinator at CSUF.

A new stadium was built for the Titan football team as the program died in 1992, so what was the cause for the team's demise?

CSUF Associate Athletics Director of Media Relations Mel Franks says it was a lack of interest that eventually caused football to disappear at the Cal State Fullerton campus.

In the January of 1991 CSUF announced they were facing a budget crisis and that money would be tight for the college. CSUF left it up to the fans on whether or not they would want to keep the program afloat.

There was no fan response or influx of donation money for the program, so the college had to make a choice whether to allocate the little funds they had for classrooms and students or for the football program. It's obvious they chose the former.

CSUF's football program started in 1970.

For players and fans, it might have been a case of so young, so soon for the football program to come and go at Fullerton.

"The reality of it is [CSUF] doesn't have the infrastructure to support a football team," CSUF Associate Athletics Director of Marketing Steve DiTolla said. "To play at a Division 1 level you need 30,000 seats…we would need 85 scholarships and 10 full-time coaches on staff, plus money for equipment. We don't have the means to support that."