1972 Cal Poly Pomona football team-The 1972 Cal Poly Pomona football team.

Three decades, three deceased CPP sports programs

By Jose Herrera, Feb. 23, 2021

In 1982 CPP announced it would discontinue its football program after 35 seasons of play, followed by the disbanding of the women’s softball program in 1993 and the men’s tennis team in 2010. Although the elimination of these programs were decades apart, their absence continues to be felt on campus.

From financial shortages to lack of stellar performance, there are many reasons these sports programs were discontinued.

Football at CPP was a victim of budget cuts and financial difficulties. According to the CPP website, cutting the football program in 1982 saved the school $200,000.

Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Brian Swanson emphasized the hefty price tag a football program at a Division II level carries.

“If we were to have a football program, we would have to fund it with about as many scholarships we have for our entire department,” Swanson said. “You have to add about four programs to offset the men’s and women’s participation, coaches on both sides and trainers. It’s not just a $2 million fund for football, it’s now about 5 million more for everything we have to add.”

The 1972 CPP football team pose for team photos. (Ernesto Rodriguez)

Assistant Athletics Director for Communications Tyler Lobe suggested that football would be the sport least likely to be revived at CPP. Lobe highlighted the program’s past lack of success, sporting only 13 winning seasons in 35 seasons of play.

“Bringing back a football team to CPP wouldn’t make much sense financially,” Lobe said. “The NCAA Division I football teams at USC or UCLA are funded differently because they have the luxury of bringing in money from the television contracts they sign.”

In a situation that involved less finances and more of a program decision, CPP’s women’s softball team faced some unfortunate circumstances at the peak of its program.

CPP alumnus Kevin Gilmore (‘89, communication) is now the assistant athletics director for communications at Cal State Monterey Bay, but during his time at CPP he served as a student assistant in CPP’s sports information office.

CPP football defensive back Louis Perez gears up for 1972-1973 season practice.

According to Gilmore, the biggest reason women’s softball was discontinued was because the Big West Conference CPP was playing in at the time was not going to allow any more affiliate members. CPP’s options then were to play as “independent” or go down to Division II competition.

CPP softball coaches Carol Spanks and Shirley Topley were considered some of the best in the nation at the time. Spanks was an Olympic gold medalist as a head coach for the U.S. national team in 1987 at the Pan American Games and Topley was an Orange County Sports Hall of Famer who also led the

U.S. national team to a gold medal at the Pan American games in 1991. Gilmore believes their high profiles influenced the decision to simply discontinue the successful program.

“They weren’t Division II coaches, they were higher level coaches,” Gilmore said. “If the team was going to go Division II, they were not going to be around for it.”

Men’s and women’s tennis was dropped in 2010, mostly due to budget cuts and lack of competition.

According to Swanson, men’s tennis was considered a non-conference sport due to the shortage of teams in the league. Swanson explained that to compete for a championship and qualify for playoffs, the league needed at least six teams. With the league only having four teams, the program ran as “independent.”

“We were having a hard time getting schedules together every year,” Swanson said. “We were very reliant on maybe a team from Colorado maybe coming out to play a few matches during their spring break, or Hawaii schools coming to the mainland.”

Swanson attributed budget cuts during the 2010 recession as being the nail in the coffin for the tennis programs at CPP.

“We were in a recession where we had to make some budget cuts. I never thought I’d have to be part of that.” Swanson said.

As for the revival of any of these sports, tennis is currently active, being played at CPP by the Tennis Club on campus. With scheduled practices and participation in United States Tennis Association sectional tournaments, the club has taken the place of a standard tennis program at CPP.

The 1980 softball team, with CPP 1994 Hall of Famer Suzy Brazney, number 25, front row, third from left.

Considering the past success of CPP’s softball team, and teams like Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Northridge actively participating in the Big West Conference, Swanson doesn’t rule out a softball team comeback.

“Most teams in our league do play softball,” Swanson said. “That’s something down the road that could possibly happen.”

Football is the program with a slim to no chance of returning to CPP. With a shortage of teams and a high cost, Lobe and Swanson both believe that a football at CPP will remain a memory.

Whether it was a financial obstacle or a coaching decision, the reasons these sports programs are missing at CPP are not by choice but by circumstance.

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