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
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
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
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
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
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