Cal State Fullerton won the Big West Commissioner’s Cup during the 2017-18 school year for the first time in school history, while owning one of the lowest funding budgets in the entire conference.
Despite its recent success, Cal State Fullerton athletics has not lost its underdog identity, said Steve DiTolla, senior associate director.
“If you were to look at the overall budget in the Big West conference alone, we are eighth out of nine (teams) and we finished first in the Commissioner’s Cup. We are still David vs. Goliath, except we are doing it in everything, not just baseball,” DiTolla said.
DiTolla started on campus in 1985 and served as the associate athletics director/business affairs (CFO) until 1992, with a small interim role as the athletic director in 1991.
He returned for his second tenure during the summer of 2001, and now serves as the senior associate athletic director within the department, handling the day-to-day activity of the athletics department.
“The NCAA doesn’t give us very much money … the small amount that they give us, that would be considered self-generated revenue. They give us a check for being a Division I program that is based on the number of sports we sponsor, which is 15,” DiTolla said.
The funds that the athletics department obtains equals about 17.5 million dollars, DiTolla said. He said about 43 percent of that money comes from the state of California, and the rest is made up of six different income sources.
The biggest difference from 30 years ago is that the program now has tremendous leadership, tremendous collaboration on campus and enough money to recruit through the Student Success Initiative, DiTolla said.
He said the Student Success Initiative lets CSUF award full scholarships to student-athletes and makes sure the athletic programs have the appropriate number of coaches.
“It takes about four to five years for a student-athlete to get involved and get to their senior year, so we are finally feeling the fruits of the (Student Success Initiative), which came in about four to five years ago,” DiTolla said.
John Elders, who is the longest tenured head coach in Cal State Fullerton history, coached the men’s track and field team to its second straight Big West championship this year. Elders also credits the Student Success Initiative as one factor for the school’s Big West Commissioner Cup win last year.
“The students passed the Student Success Initiative and that increased our athletics’ budget dramatically. We were one of the major beneficiaries of that because we went from like 30 percent scholarships to 100 percent,” Elders said.
Before Elders became the head coach of the cross-country team in 1988, he was on the cross-country team at CSUF.
“When I came here as a student-athlete in 1984, the men’s cross-country budget was zero. There was zero funding from the university for cross-country. We had to raise money for uniforms and to travel locally,” Elders said.
DiTolla said the baseball program generates the most revenue at the school, mainly attributed to its success this century.
Since 2000, the baseball team has won one NCAA Division I National Championship and seven Big West conference regular season titles since 2010.
Head coach Rick Vanderhook began his coaching career as an assistant coach in 1985. The 2018 season marked his 28th season as a Titan, and his seventh year as the head coach.
With such a prized program, the team is able to bring in money from those who used to attend the university.
“Our alumni in the baseball program help us function within our budget to give us extra money to be able to have extra things that we need,” Vanderhook said.
The baseball team, along with the softball team, men’s track and field team, men and women’s soccer, and men’s basketball were crowned Big West champions during the 2017-18 school year.
“We get a lot of bang for our buck, and we hope that we make the campus as proud as we are,” DiTolla said.