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Tarkanian's third season was more of the same except that there were, so to speak, seconds on the hamburger; aid for the needy was beginning to trickle in. Some players, taking advantage of a booster's cut-rate rental offer, were living in an oceanfront apartment house called the Pacific Holiday Towers. A $50-a-plate dinner on the Queen Mary raised $7,500 for the Jerry Tarkanian Fund. And a group of 20 supporters founded the Hoopster Club and rallied round, impressed as much as anything with Tarkanian's obsession with basketball. At Hoopster luncheons he was introduced as "a guy who does not know there is a war in Vietnam, but he does know where the best forward in the country is."
They weren't kidding. Once when UCLA fans, in a timely reflection of the headlines, held up a sign saying JERRY TARKANIAN, WORLD'S GREATEST COACH, BY CLIFFORD IRVING, the World's Greatest turned to a reporter and said, "Who's Clifford Irving?"
In 1971, as Tarkanian's team crept into the national rankings for the first time, people began asking, "Who's Long Beach State?" With sophomore Ratleff flashing his Ail-American form, the 49ers were 22-4 when they qualified for the Western Regionals in Salt Lake City. When Tarkanian found to his horror that UCLA was booked on the same flight, he quickly switched planes lest his players see that the Bruins were flying first class while they were going tourist. Nonetheless, UCLA got in its intimidating licks. Recalls Lois Tarkanian: "When Curtis Rowe walked through the airport, he was wearing a cashmere coat, alligator shoes and a hat that must have cost $100. And there was Eddie Ratleff, an All-America, in his Long Beach windbreaker, jeans and basketball shoes. I was so ashamed."
On the court, however, the 49ers dressed down the Bruins long enough to give them one of their biggest tournament scares in years. While Mrs. Trapp was buried in her Bible and Lois, eyes tightly shut, was fingering her rosary beads, Long Beach State surged to an 11-point lead in the second half. But Ratleff fouled out for the only time in his college career and UCLA escaped with a 57-55 win.
Football Coach Jim Stangeland first gained notice in the Long Beach area as a standout high school end. Skipper of a B-24 bomber crew during World War II, he won three successive Border Conference pole-vaulting titles while at Arizona State. The "Colonel" was well connected in the community, having spent eight years at Long Beach City College compiling a 60-14-2 record and three national JC titles. Then it was on to USC where for four years he was John McKay's offensive line coach and, or so he has said, chief West Coast recruiter.
When the Colonel assumed command at Long Beach State he found, like Tarkanian before him, that operating capital was meager. His teams, too, had to endure debilitating inconveniences. Once, unable to stay overnight after an away game because of the added expense, the players had to check out of their rooms at noon on the day of a night game and loll around the gym for five or six hours before getting into uniform.
Given a $12,000 budget that might be mistaken for John McKay's cigar money, Stangeland set out to "get some dough into the program" by founding a Touchdown Club: "Provide a scholarship for a hard-nosed youngster who is dedicated to build and not tear down."
In its first year, with Stangeland giving it the old go-team-go from the sidelines, the club raised a munificent $30,000. "In basketball all you need is one or two supers and you're on your way," says Stangeland. "In football you need a lot more. That's why I was spending 70% of my time recruiting boosters."
He did a good job, fielding a team of businessmen who enjoyed having their pictures taken with the players and wearing their yellow coach's jackets and caps on the sidelines. There were, for instance, "Coach" Russell Guiver, president of Signal Mortgage Co., "Coach" John Read, a wealthy Long Beach realtor, and City Councilman Don Phillips, proprietor of Phillips' Original Chicken Pie restaurants. "Coach Chicken Pie," the players called him.