By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletics Director, Strategic Communications
Northridge, Calif. – The date – 1975. The event – the NCAA Division II Track & Field Championships in Sacramento.
Then head men's coach Cliff Abel felt confident about a team victory and a national championship for Cal State Northridge.
"When we found out the NCAA's were going to be within driving distance in Sacramento, we knew we could take all our athletes who qualified. We recruited heavily for that year (1975). We were prepared to win the championship. We had a lot of good athletes on the team."
Abel and his assistant coaches had doped out the meet. They had the Matadors winning the meet. The prediction became a reality.
Cal State Northridge captured the NCAA Division II national men's track & field championship with a 57-50 victory over runner up Southeastern Louisiana.
Ed Chaidez won the 6-mile run while Steve Albright won the shot put to help propel the Matadors to victory. Seven Matador athletes captured All-American honors.
"We had a lot of talent on the team," said Abel. "We performed well. You have to peak at a certain time. Some of our athletes exceeded their expectations. Overall, we were pleased with the performance of the men's team. We rose to the occasion."
Abel was named the National Coach of the Year in 1975 by the NCAA Division II National Coaches Association.
From 1971 to 1976 as head coach of the Matador's men's track & field team, Abel coached CSUN to four NCAA Top-5 national finishes. That included a third place showing in 1976, and a fourth place showing in 1974, only 2.5 points behind the national championship winners, Eastern Illinois and Norfolk State.
"That was a highly competitive meet in 1974," recalls Abel. "We were a little surprised we were that close to the winning school. That encouraged us to possibly win the following year."
Abel's coaching efforts that helped the Matadors achieve national prominence has earned him induction into the Matador Hall of Fame on February 9. Abel, who is 84-years-old, resides part of the year in Colorado and in California.
"I'm really thrilled," said Abel, who is the father of the Northridge Relays. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime event for a coach. I certainly appreciate being recognized."
More than 65 Matador student-athletes that Abel coached still remain in the CSUN Top-10 record book. Four of his athletes are in the CSUN Hall of Fame.
"We were able to build a program," said Abel. "The first year I was there we had two football players (Doug Jones—high hurdles & Sylvester Marshall--discus) that helped build a foundation of an outstanding track & field program. We worked hard and recruited hard."
After coaching at Cal State Northridge, Abel was later the head coach at Long Beach State.
Abel came to the Matador campus after being an assistant coach at Sacramento State. Abel applied for both head coaching jobs at SFVS and at UC Irvine. The Matadors offered him the head coaching position first. Abel said yes. Abel also coached at Shawnee Mission West High School in Overland Park, Ks.
Abel graduated from Perry Rural High School in Perry, Kansas, where he won the state championship in the mile run in his senior year in 1947. He later enrolled at the University of Kansas. As a senior in cross country at Kansas, Abel gained All-American honors in 1950. He graduated in Physical Education from Kansas in 1951.
"I am really looking forward to the CSUN Hall of Fame ceremony," beamed Abel. "That is going to be the greatest. You always remember an honor like this. The athletes, all the assistant coaches and everybody involved helped me get here. I am so grateful for their support. I am extremely honored to be inducted into the Matador Hall of Fame."
Hall of Fame Hoopla …
The 2014 Hall of Fame reception at the Warner Center Marriott Hotel in Woodland Hills is scheduled for Sunday, February 9, at 11:00 am followed by Lunch and the Induction Ceremony at Noon … Tickets are $60 person and $600 table of ten … For more information, contact CSUN Special Events at 818-677-1300 or firstname.lastname@example.org … Hotel reservations at the Warner Center Marriott Woodland Hills (Ca) are available by calling 800-228-9290 … Mention the CSUN Hall of Fame to receive a CSUN special rate of $99 per night … During the Matador Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame induction weekend, CSUN Athletics and the Alumni Association will host an Alumni Fan Day on Saturday, February 8 … The event includes a pre-game reception for Hall of Fame inductees and Lifetime Alumni members before the CSUN men's basketball game against Cal State Fullerton at 5:30 p.m. … The HOF inductees will be honored at mid-court at halftime of the basketball game … Tipoff is 7:00 pm.