For the first time since 1982 Ñ and for the first time ever at the high school level Ñ Craig Fertig is coaching football.

The one-time Oregon State coach, an assistant for John McKay and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the early '80s, has accepted the head coaching job at Estancia High in Costa Mesa, Calif.

Fertig, 60, was 8-36-1 at OSU from 1976-79. After stints as an assistant athletic director at Southern Cal and Cal-Irvine, Fertig had been working in the administrative office at USC. He also was a TV analyst for Trojan games.

Fertig's path to Estancia is reminiscent of how Dennis Erickson became the coach at OSU.

'We were having Christmas dinner at my son's house, and his wife teaches at Estancia,' Fertig says. 'She mentioned the football coach was fired Ñ they were 1-19 the previous two seasons. Not long after that, the principal called me and asked if I could help him select a coach. After I made a list of candidates, I looked at it and said, 'You're better than any of these guys.'

'So I called the principal and told him I was the man for the job. And he said, 'I was hoping you were going to say that.' '

Fertig says the challenge has recharged his batteries.

'I'm pretty excited,' he says. '(Former SC tailback) Charlie White asked me, 'Aren't you going about this backward?' But I've always thought the best coaching goes on in high school. It's like getting a pound of clay and molding a football player.'

• The high school basketball player of the year in Arizona this year is Ryan Toolson, a 6-2 guard from Gilbert High who averaged 18 points, shot 58 percent from the floor É and happens to be the nephew of Danny Ainge.

'As mature a high school player as I have seen,' Ainge says. 'He is very patient. Except for big guys inside, I have never seen a guard shoot that high a percentage. He is a very efficient, high-percentage shooter.'

Toolson has signed a letter of intent with Utah Valley State, which is making the transition from junior college to NCAA Division I ranks next season. Oregon State assistant Jeff Reinert once coached there. Beaver signee Jim Hanchett played there last season, and Portland State big man Seth Scott also came from there.

• Tonya Harding will fight Alejandra Lopez of Tulsa, Okla., in a super bantamweight bout tonight in Tulsa. The 5-5, 110-pound Lopez will be making her pro debut. Harding is 1-1 after scoring a unanimous decision over Shannon Birmingham March 15 in Gulfport, Miss.

'Tonya calmed down and fought a smart fight against (Birmingham),' trainer Jeff Hargis says of the Vancouver resident. 'I'm hoping this fight goes the same way Ñ that she takes her time and does what she has learned to do in the ring.'

Hargis says Harding's next two fights will be May 2 in Tulsa and May 9 in Iowa.

• Free is a very good price, and that is what it will cost fans to watch Portland State softball games this spring.

Coach Teri Mariani's team had been expected to generate nearly $3,000 in ticket sales to meet her budget, with tickets for the Vikings' double-headers priced at $8. Showing ingenuity, Mariani found seven sponsors at $500 each, exceeding her revenue goal and allowing her to make the games free for all.

Portland State is one of the favorites in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference. 'I wanted to maximize our crowd size in those conference games,' says Mariani, who begins her 27th season with more than 600 career victories. 'I was trying to see how I could ensure good crowds, and free is a good draw.'

The Vikings' home opener is at 2 p.m. Saturday against Seattle University at Erv Lind Stadium. On a balanced PSU team, freshman right-hander Michelle Hext and junior shortstop Erin Stokey already have won conference player of the week honors.

•ÊSomething you don't see every day in the NBA: Dallas Mavericks guard Tariq Abdul-Wahad, in town for tonight's game against the Trail Blazers, took some 20 children from Doernbecher Children's Hospital Pediatric Hematology/Oncology division on a private tour of the Portland Art Museum on Thursday night. Abdul-Wahad, who is close to receiving an art history degree from San Jose State, gives these kinds of tours across the country during basketball season. At the end of every tour, the first French-born and -raised player in the NBA gives each child an age-appropriate art book.

Contact Kerry Eggers at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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