Remembering Matador Football

Malik Basurto

Maybe you have seen the CSUN Football shirts for sale in the bookstore and thought it was a joke. ‘CSUN doesn’t have a football team,’ you thought to yourself. ‘Why the shirts?’

Once upon a time CSUN did in fact have a football team. They played their last home game Nov. 3, 2001 before 5,286 onlookers at North Campus Stadium. For their final performance in Northridge they beat Sacramento State 49-36. The final home game after the team played its first game in 1962.

There are little reminisces of the football team on campus except for a few pictures in Redwood Hall. Or another indication that the football team ever existed is found in the few football players who are in the Cal State Northridge Hall of Fame. Other than the few die-hard CSUN sports fans know that the football program gave opportunities to many coaches and players who went onto careers in professional football.

A current success story from the CSUN football team is quarterback Sherdrick Bonner, who led the Matadors to a 1990 season NCAA Division II playoff game. Bonner was inducted into the CSUN Hall of Fame in 1998 for a collegiate career that included completing 319 of 637 passes for 3,533 yards and 18 touchdowns in 37 career football games.’

‘We had a lot of talent there (CSUN), we struggled and struggled until my last year we made it to the playoffs,’ said Bonner. ‘Getting into the playoffs was pretty awesome for us. We got real close to winning that game and that was pretty awesome.’ Bonner and the Matadors tied with Cal Poly SLO for the conference title after losing to them in the regular season and then again in the playoffs to end their magical season.

‘It was unfortunate we were not able to win that playoff game, we had to go to San Luis Obispo, but it was a good run for us,’ said Bonner, reflecting on a year that was one of a last few highs for CSUN football. ‘We had some press, the Daily News covered us well. It was a good run for us.’

During Bonner’s last season he could recall big crowds that would come and support the team during their run to the playoffs. ”Devonshire Downs’ as we used to call the (North Campus Stadium), a nickname I knew it by because it looked like a little horse track,’ said Bonner. ‘We had some pretty good crowds. We were playing good football. We probably averaged between six and eight thousand, which was pretty good for us.’

The football program left Bonner full of fond memories of looking up in the packed stands and seeing his friends, family and fellow students out supporting the team. ‘For as many students as there was it was always a good situation for people knowing each other,’ said Bonner. ‘It had a small town feeling to it (CSUN) even though there were over 30,000 students. It felt like you knew everyone and you recognized everyone.’

The football program was cut in 2001, after recommendations to President Koester that the program’s demise would save the university from its athletics programs budget crisis as well as make gender diversification among sports easier. At the time, football was cut it was also recommended that Koester and the university must have a commitment to improving athletic fundraising.

‘It was very disappointing that they cut the program at a time (when it) looked great and I had just reconnected with the head coach at the time along with some other people from the program,’ said Bonner. ‘I mean (CSUN Football) was on the way up and to lose the funding was very disappointing with all the talent right there in the area. The program was on the rise.’

Bonner is entering his 16th year in the Arena Football League, No. 8 on the 20 greatest players in AFL history. He will be playing for the Chicago Rush this season. While playing 14 seasons with the Arizona Rattlers, he went to five Arena Bowls, winning two.’

‘This will be my last season,’ said Bonner on his AFL playing days being numbered. ‘I’m busting my tail right now to get that going so I can get in another championship game and another ring before I get done.’

Not only the AFL but also Bonner saw time in the NFL as well, playing for the Atlanta Falcons, Arizona Cardinals, and San Diego Chargers. While playing for the Chargers he ran into a familiar face from his CSUN football days.

‘Our defensive coordinator and strength and conditioning coach when I was at CSUN was Mark Banker,’ said Bonner. ‘When I was with the Chargers, Mark was the Chargers Defensive Backs coach. It was interesting seeing him there.’