From modest beginnings and never with abundant resources, the Cal State Fullerton Titans have achieved successes that are the envy of many older and larger institutions across the country.
"Titan Pride" has been the rallying cry for 12 national team championships in seven different sports, hundreds of individual All-Americans, dozens of eventual professional athletes, numerous national coach of the year award winners, Olympic basketball players, a Miss America candidate and the subject matter of a Walt Disney film.
The tenor was set by the first intercollegiate team - men's basketball. In only his second season, the late Coach Alex Omalev advanced the Titans five rounds into the NAIA playoffs in 1961-62. Sixteen seasons later, the nation watched another "Cinderella" Titan Five advance to within one victory of the "Final Four" as Bobby Dye's 1977-78 team won the Pacific Coast Athletic Association postseason tournament and then beat nationally ranked New Mexico and USF to gain the finals of the NCAA Western Regional. The Titans returned to the NCAA Tournament 30 years later by winning the Big West Conference Tournament in Anaheim in 2008.
The basketball tradition began even stronger on the women's side. Recent Naismith and Women's Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Billie Moore coached the Titans to the national championship in 1970 and star forward Nancy Dunkle was one of her players on the women's 1976 silver-medal winning Olympic team. The most recent Titan All-American was center Genia Miller-Rycraw in 1991 and she led the Titans to two NCAA appearances (1989 and 1991).
The Titans earned gold in 1984 when point guard Leon Wood directed the men's Olympic team to victory in Los Angeles. The first-round draft pick of the Philadelphia 76ers went on to a 6-year National Basketball Association career and is now a veteran NBA referee, only the second former NBA player to make that career switch.
Future NBA performers Richard Morton, Henry Turner, Cedric Ceballos and Bruce Bowen (a starter for the three-time NBA champion Spurs) were some of the stars of the 1980s and 1990s, when the Titans made NIT appearances on both the men's and women's sides. Ceballos gained notoriety for winning the NBA Slam-Dunk contest one year while the women can point with pride to Autumn Hollyfield, the nation's top 3-point field goal shooter in 1993-94, and Koko Lahanas, the nation's scoring leader in 1994-95. Rycraw still holds NCAA records and came back from a career in Japan to earn a spot with the Los Angeles Sparks before returning to Fullerton as an assistant coach. Bowen was joined in the NBA by former Titans Pape Sow, who played three seasons with the Toronto Raptors, and Bobby Brown, who played with four NBA teams.
Gymnastics has brought Fullerton considerable fame. Former men's Coach Dick Wolfe won three college division NCAA titles (1971, 1972 and 1974) and had subsequent teams in the Top Ten at the Division I level while winning 10 PCAA titles in a row. His 1987 squad was ranked No. 1 in the nation. Coach Lynn Rogers began the women's program in 1976 and the Titans have finished sixth or better in the nation 12 times and won the national title in 1979. One-armed Carol Johnston was an All-American and star of the Disney film, "Lefty," while Tami Elliott (1984-86) won 10 All-American awards before becoming Miss Virginia and competing in the Miss America pageant.
Baseball exploded onto the national scene behind former Coach Augie Garrido by breaking the USC monopoly in the NCAA western regionals in Fullerton's first Div. I season in 1975. The Titans have gone on to win four national championships and establish a remarkable winning tradition over four decades. The Titans captured their first NCAA title in 1979 behind Tim Wallach, who would go on to play 17 major league seasons. They won again in 1984 behind College World Series MVP John Fishel, in 1995 behind national player of the year Mark Kotsay and again in 2004 behind All-American pitcher Jason Windsor, who won two games and saved a third in Omaha to cap a two-year, 8-0 post-season record. Coach George Horton won national coach of the year honors in both 2003 and 2004. In 2011, the Titans made their 20th CONSECUTIVE NCAA Tournament appearance. In June, infielder Blake Davis became the 50th former Titan to play in a major league game when he debuted with the Baltimore Orioles.
Women also have sparkled on Fullerton diamonds. Hall of Fame Coach Judi Garman founded the softball program in 1980 and won more games (913) than any previous coach. The Titans have made eight trips to the College World Series and 27 regional appearances. They brought home an NCAA Championship in 1986 and boast three national players of the year in pitchers Kathy Van Wyk, Susan LeFebvre and Connie Clark.
The now-defunct football program made great strides in Division I-A after its humble Div. II beginnings in 1970. Coach Gene Murphy guided the Titans to two conference championships and four runner-up finishes between 1983 and 1989. Titan products included Super Bowl rookies Bobby Kemp (Cincinnati in 1982) and Mark Collins (New York Giants in 1987). Titans have had remarkable success in the Canadian Football League. Quarterback Damon Allen, who was still active in his 40s, is the all-time leading passer and Mike Pringle became the career rushing leader during the 2004 season. And Allen Pitts was the CFL's all-time leading receiver before Darren Flutie passed him in the 2003 season. Pitts and Pringle were later inducted into the CFL Hall of Fame and Allen is a lock when he becomes eligible.
With the loss of football, the men's soccer program filled the void in Titan Stadium. A women's squad was launched in 1993 and it coincided with a memorable men's season that saw the Titans climb as high as No. 3 in the national rankings. They were led by All-American forward Eddie Soto and competed at the NCAA Final Four, placing third. There have been three subsequent trips to the playoffs and a No. 2 national ranking in 1996. On the international level, former Titan Brian Dunseth captained the U.S. Olympic team in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and several former Titans are playing in the MLS.
The women's squad has won consecutive Big West Conference titles and in 2005 advanced to the "Sweet Sixteen" of the NCAA Tournament after winning the Big West post-season tournament and two NCAA playoffs matches vs. UNLV and USC. No other Big West program had ever advanced beyond the second round.
There have been national titles in men's cross country (1971) and women's fencing (1974) and individual standouts such as golfer Martha Wilkerson, runner Mark Covert and wrestler Laszlo Molnar, who finished second in the nation in 1994 at 167 pounds. Heather Killeen became the Titans' first Div. I cross country All-American in 1994, won three events at the 1995 Big West Conference track championships and was one of 10 finalists for 1995 NCAA Woman of the Year Award. Brandon Campbell was the Big West track and field male athlete of the year in 2001 after starring in the high jump, long jump and quarter mile. He also was a starter on the basketball team. Sprinter Ciara Short one-upped Campbell by earning BWC Female Athlete of the Year honors twice, in 2010 and 2011, and also placed in the NCAA indoor and outdoor championships. Teammate Lauren Williams became only the second BWC athlete to win the same event four times when she again captured the 100 meter hurdles in 2011.
Several current and recent Titans have garnered international attention including appearances in the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Catcher Jenny Topping played for the gold medal-winning U.S. softball team while outfielder Lindsey Bashor was on the Greek team. Competing for Mexico were pole vaulter Giovanni Lanaro and soccer player Marlene Sandoval.
Nickname and Mascot...
What exactly is a Titan?
"Why do you have an elephant for your mascot?"
Those are two of the first questions that arise when a Cal State Fullerton athletic team makes its inaugural visit to an area. While the relatively young institution carved out of the Orange County citrus groves may be too new for many traditions, there are some recognized legends.
"It was the students' decision in a vote," explained Dr. Ernest Becker, founding Dean of Students, of the nickname "Titans." "More than a hundred names were suggested, and the Student Council took on the job of narrowing the list down to a few for the purposes of an election. The vote was close, with Titans narrowly prevailing over Aardvarks and Rebels."
It was a unique student body, all upper division students until 1963. There were 453 of them, mostly female, in 1959, the first year of classes at what was then known as Orange County State College.
"Even when it was decided that `Titans' would be the nickname, there was confusion as to what it represented," said Becker. "I was thinking of a large mythological figure from Greek history, not unlike Tommy Trojan, but with perhaps straighter, more modern lines. In the same vein, the original dormitories were named Othrys Hall. There were others, however, who related the name to the Titan missile then in prominence."
Nothing official was done but then along came the "First Intercollegiate Elephant Race in Human History."
What began as a practical joke attracted elephants from universities around the nation and even Oxford from England. A crowd estimated at more than 10,000 people turned out on "Dumbo Downs" as the hastily graded field became known that spring afternoon in 1962.
To publicize the event, a circus-like elephant called Tuffy the Titan was used and it began appearing on sweaters and notebook covers around the campus. With no other mascot, the elephant was unofficially adopted. Several revisions of the caricature have been made to create a more tenacious Tuffy, or Titus as he also was called in an attempt to make him Greek. The costume that brings the mascot to life also has changed. Tuffy even attracted a female Tiffy in 1992.
The origin of the school colors also bears discussion. The students voted for royal blue and white, but the athletic equipment manager at the time thought orange was appropriate on uniforms for a school known as Orange County State College. The unofficial color was "adopted" and finally was formally acknowledged by the Athletics Council in 1987. A change to a navy blue was initiated in 1992 with a de-emphasis of the orange.