The Demise of CSUF's Gridiron Gangs

Part II: A new stadium is built for a program that never quite makes it

It's said "money makes the world go 'round," and the lack of it eventually caused the pigskin to stop rolling at Cal State Fullerton.

A lack of interest bred a lack of respect, which eventually led to a lack of funding, dooming the program.

Mel Franks, CSUF associate athletics director of media relations remembers 1984 as a one of the "Doomsday events" for CSUF's football program.

That year Titan Head Coach Gene Murphy led the football team to a 11-1 record, one of the best records in CSUF's young football program.

Franks said that same month the Marriott Hotel, which became neighbors with CSUF opened up for business.

That same year the NCAA decided to put on the Freedom Bowl, which was to be played in Anaheim, and in which Iowa was to play either Texas or CSUF, whic had identical records that year.

The game was to be televised and it was no coincidence that the general manager of the Marriott had an influential role on the television packaging.

Franks said that the general manager of the Marriott would much rather have two out-of-state teams play each other than have one of the teams play in their own backyard.

There would have been more money for the hotel if Iowa and Texas had played each other, Franks said.

"Iowa didn't want to play us," Franks said. "There was a television package deal and it was either Iowa versus Texas or Iowa versus Cal State who?"

No one thought CSUF would ever generate the same ratings that Texas could.

Franks recalls that Texas didn't care about the game and they didn't even bother to bring their band.

In the end Texas was blown out in a horrible game and the ratings were just as bad, Franks said.

Talk about lack of interest and lack of respect.

Another problem for the program was that the Titans never had a legitimate place to call home and were constantly bounced around.

Sometimes they played in Angel Stadium, then known as Anaheim Stadium, which they shared with the Los Angeles Rams and nearby high schools with less than marginal fields.

Coaches even built makeshift "erector" stadiums in order to play games like when they played Fresno in September of 1980.

One incident in particular, Franks said, was Nov. 12, 1983. The Titans were playing UNLV for the Championship game and the teams were kicked out of Angel's stadium the morning of the game.

"CSUF had a deal with the stadium that if it rained we couldn't play there because we would mess up the field for the Rams on Sunday," Franks said.

The game was relocated to Glover Stadium in Anaheim and UNLV beat the Titans 13-0.

The late comedian Rodney Dangerfield and the Titans must've

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shared the same feelings - no respect.

Regardless of how they were treated, the coaching staff and the players were determined to stay resilient and keep the program going by playing what they called "body bag" games.

In these games the Titans would travel to places like Miami or Georgia where they would be completely overmatched.

These colleges, well-known for their outstanding football programs would pay CSUF $300,000 to $400,000 to come and play on their home turfs.

Once there, these teams would bully the Titans the entire game. They would make the Titans look more like pachyderms.

The Titans even played Miami the first year they had Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith.

"We lost 65-0," Franks said.

They would play more of these games, regardless of the beatings, and the coaching staff would take the money for scholarships and stadium costs.

In fact some of the "body bag" money went to construction of the current Titan stadium, which was to be built for the football program before its 'too soon' demise.

In the end, it all came down to money and lack of support.

"All in all the cost would probably run upwards of $5 million or so," CSUF athletic directed Brian Quinn said. "Our entire athletic budget for the 17 current sports is about $7 million."

For these reasons, Quinn said, Long Beach State, Cal State Northridge, University of Pacific, Santa Clara and St. Mary's all have dropped football.

Football is very expensive to operate these days and it is up in the air as to whether or not there football will make a comeback at Cal State Fullerton as a collegiate sport.

"We don't have the infrastructure to support a football program," CSUF Associate Athletics Director of Marketing Steve DiTolla said. "But never say 'never.' I'm a big proponent of football."