History of Jay Berman's Advisership

By Jay Berman

There were stories about hotels and homicides, about gaining a football stadium and losing a football team.

There was talk of "the golden era" before we knew just how golden it was, there was an entertainment section called "Back Pages" after a Bob Dylan song, and there was an iguana named Terry who graced Page 2. The Daily Titan occuped Room 213 of the Humanities Building in the 1980s and '90s. As it is now, it was published four days a week. But in the early '80s, we still used typewriters, and photographers took pictures with film, which they developed in a darkroom with chemicals and trays.

The Daily Titan and student government had the sort of adversarial relationship that exists on many campuses: A newspaper that thought Associated Students was misusing student funds and an AS board that didn't like having its activities questioned.

We covered the 1983 football team which won the PCAA championship and played in the California Bowl. We covered the baseball team which won the 1984 College World Series. And we covered basketball heroics when the Titans upset heavily favored UNLV. On Feb. 24, 1983, the Runnin' Rebels were undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the country when CSUF knocked them off, 86-78, in Titan Gym.

Along the way, the Titan also covered campus police, parking problems, the Arboretum, whatever came along.

Then, on May 3, 1984, a man named Donald Lee Matters was killed, and philosophy professor Richard Smith was arrested. It was a classic love triangle, and Matters' ex-wife, Consuelo, was its third corner. Smith's attorney testified that the crime was committed "on behalf of God." He entered an insanity plea, but Smith was convicted of murder and was sentenced to 17 years in prison.

A side note: Dressed in women's clothing, Smith once tried to take Consuelo Matters' state teaching exam. He was caught.

On Oct. 16 of that year, a student named Minh Van Lam shot science professor Edward Cooperman to death in his campus office and then went to see a movie. Some thought Cooperman's death was the result of a right-wing plot because he was providing scientific aid to Vietnam. Lam was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in a case that was as bizarre as it sounds.

The hotel was proposed in 1984. Titan editorials opposed it because it was going to be a privately owned business on state university land, taking more than 1,000 scarce parking spaces. A student group opposed the hotel and filed a suit, which delayed things for a while. But Marriott was given the contract to build the hotel in 1985, construction began in 1988 and it opened in 1989 as we all knew it would.

In the spring of 1986, Titan reporter Dollie Ryan learned that Tom Metzger, a television repairman who had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan and a group called White Aryan Resistance, was taping a public access cable show on campus. The show, "Race and Reason," held white supremacist views. After the Titan broke the story, student protests forced him to take his show elsewhere. "We didn't even have to think," longtime Titan Walt Baranger pointed out recently. "We had major stories coming at us from everywhere."

It was also in 1986 that the Titan ignored a state law which prohibited student newspapers from making an endorsement in national or state elections by endorsing Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley for governor against incumbent George Deukmejian. "We did it for First Amendment (freedom of the press) rights, pure and simple," Editor Joyce Garcia said. Then-President Jewel Plummer Cobb threatened "an appropriate response" to the endorsement, saying the Titan "exercised extremely poor judgment." Nothing came of it, and the issue died a quiet death.

Baranger, managing editor in spring 1985, recalled recently that an accreditation team, visiting the campus in the mid-'80s, had talked with several Titan editors and reporters and noted that many were working part-time at the Times, Register and other newspapers. "We could put together quite a paper with this staff," Baranger told me at the time. He was right.

In 1985 and 1986, the Daily Titan won more awards than any other college paper in annual California Intercollegiate Press Association competition.

Reporters who joined the paper toward the end of that period jokingly -- almost mockingly -- referred to that period as the "golden era." In 1987, construction began on the Gerontology Center, the first building on campus funded solely by contributed funds. It opened the following year.

It was also in 1987 that two CSUF football players were involved in a brawl at a nightclub near campus which resulted in the death of an El Toro Marine sergeant. The Orange County District Attorney said there was insufficient evidence to file charges against the players.

Campus construction continued. The first on-campus dormitories opened in 1988, and work began on the Computer Science Building. At the same time, the departments of Communication and Speech Communication merged to create the School of Communications, Cal State Fullerton's seventh school.

In the spring of 1989, when Andre Meunier was executive editor, the Titan ran a four-part series detailing how the School of Business -- now the College of Business and Economics -- had nearly lost its accreditation. The series was a CIPA winner that year.

That was also the year the Mission Viejo campus opened and the Computer Science Building was completed.

No reference to 1989 would be complete without mention of the basketball team's Feb. 5 93-92 overtime win over Jerry Tarkanian's heavily favored UNLV team.

The Daily Titan was on top of countless other stories during those years:

Campus suicides which led to the addition of metal gratings on outside stairwells; allegations of a golf team fundraising effort for a tournament that was never held; an alcohol-related fraternity suspension; a gymnast stabbed to death by a teammate; countless features on students, faculty members and administrators.

During the 1980s, football coach Gene Murphy was forced to take his team to distant locations in what became known as "body bag" games to raise money to support the rest of the athletic program. The Titans lost to No. 5-ranked LSU in Baton Rouge and then, the same year, also lost at Florida. Scores in such games were usually of the 56-10 variety.

Cobb, the university president, had said revenues from the Marriott Hotel would, in part, be used to pay for construction of a new football stadium on campus. Finally, in 1990, construction began. It was completed in 1992, with alumnus Kevin Costner throwing out the first ball at the baseball facility which was built at the same time.

Murphy coached the 1992 team in the new Titan Stadium -- the first true home stadium it had ever had -- and then left Cal State Fullerton after the season when the university eliminated football, ostensibly to save money. Murphy went on to coach at Fullerton College, which plays most of its home games at Titan Stadium. Ex-Daily Titan reporter Ryan Blystone noted recently that Murphy "finally got what he wanted (an on-campus stadium). "Only he had to be a JC coach to enjoy it."

I mentioned an iguana named Terry. "Terry the Mighty Iguana" was a daily comic strip drawn by Rich Nicholls from 1984 through 1986. At various times through six semesters, Terry worked as a lounge lizard, encountered his evil twin, thought he was disco performer Tony Orlando, interviewed God on a TV talk show and used his own strip to pitch "Terry the Mighty Iguana" T-shirts.

Several hundred were sold.

Once, while watching unsuccessful television pilots, Terry saw "Four's Company," whose premise was that Charles Manson, Sirhan Sirhan, Mark David Chapman and John Hinckley had been paroled and shared an apartment in New York.

Perhaps surprisingly, that strip -- unlike the one in which Terry interviewed God -- drew no angry calls or letters.

I was faculty adviser to the Titan from July 1981 until October 1992. It was a good, long run, one that continues through many close friendships today.