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Chico State football and swim teams remembered

Angelo Boscacci

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From left to right: Gene Fournier, Clint Lancaster, Tony Bertuca and Doug Guillon smile after practice during the 1981 season. Photo courtesy of Doug Guillon.


Sports come and go, but the memories of them last a lifetime. In the past, a football and swim team once called Chico State home.

Swimming

Chico State was once home to a swim team until it was cut in 1991.

“We didn’t know it was going to be our last season,” said Debra Roth, former swimming head coach and current kinesiology department professor. “We were in New York for nationals and they didn’t want to tell us while we were out of town. We were very pissed off.”

Roth recalls the good times she had as a Wildcat swimmer.

“When I was a freshman at Chico State, I won the 25 (meter) freestyle and I was the fastest freshman in the conference competing against schools like Stanford and San Jose,” Roth said. “I look back at it and my time was 11.2 seconds.”

At that same event, Roth remembers the moment when she thought the relay team had won the event, she said.

“On the 4×100 relay, I was the anchor on the team,” Roth said. “I was running around thinking we had won and I thought I was the hottest thing ever. But it turned out our third swimmer false started and we had been disqualified.”

The experience taught Roth a valuable lesson she still applies to her life today, she said.

“I learned the huge lesson of taking advantage of the situation and not thinking you’re hot shit,” Roth said.

The swimming program was cut because of budget issues, she said.

“We came back to chaos and our team was cut without really any warning,” Roth said. Roth, who teaches Chico State swim classes at In Motion Fitness, has been wanting to jump-start a swim program at the Wildcat Recreation Center.

“We would be happy to pay the WREC to have our two lanes over there and it would be easy for our students,” Roth said. “The WREC won’t even compromise about having any kind of instruction.”

The differing money streams from the state and student affairs sides do not allow for academic classes, said WREC director Rick Scott.

“If we allowed an academic class, it would displace the recreational users,” Scott said. “The recreational users paid $63 million for this and the state is supposed to pay for academics.”

Football

About five years after the swimming program ended, Chico State also cut football in 1996 after lasting for 75 years.

Doug Guillon played football for Chico State as a defensive end. He played three seasons, one of which included the historic 1971 team that went 9-2.

“At the time when you’re 19 to 21 years old, the only thing you care about is football,” Guillon said. “Saturday nights, the stadium was full of people and the whole community turned out. We represented Chico.”

Guillon was part of the effort in 1996 to continue the football program and was ready to contribute a large sum of money.

“As I remember, it was half a million dollars that I and Dan Dutton were either going to give or raise,” Guillon said. “I sat down with the athletic director at the time, Janet Kittell, and it became obvious to me that all they wanted was my money. They really didn’t care about our input and how the program should be ran.”

If Chico State had a football or swimming program again, finding opponents to participate against would be difficult, said Anita Barker, campus athletic director.

“Times were very different when we had those sports,” Barker said. “The issue now is who we would play against and west of the Rocky Mountains there is not adequate competition in either swimming or football at the Division II level.”

Teams nowadays build their schedule according to division level. One of the key reasons why the old swimming and football programs were able to survive was because the bulk of the schedule could be played against other divisions.

“If Chico had a football team, we wouldn’t have anybody to play and there’s only four schools that have football west of the Rocky Mountains,” Barker said. “It would be a huge budget issue with traveling. If we were able to add a sport we would first look to see if we had the resources to be able to do that and then look at the competition.”

When Guillon came to Chico he “didn’t have two nickels to rub together,” he said.

“Today, I enjoy a great life and football provided those opportunities,” Guillon said.

He sees football as an outlet for the community, Guillon said. He thinks a football team would have a positive effect on Chico State.

“If you had football going on right now you may not have some of the stuff that’s going down in downtown Chico right now,” Guillon said. “People would be at the games and doing things that they ought to do. Its a great outlet for young kids.”

Angelo Boscacci can be reached at [email protected] or @Boscacci6 on Twitter.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Chico State football and swim teams remembered”

  1. Chris Murphy on August 27th, 2017 12:19 pm

    Swam for Chico early 80’s. It was a blast. Everyone in the team was great. Lots of friends made even to this day. Ridiculous it was cut. We were a very strong team

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Chico State football and swim teams remembered