Monday, September 29, 2008

See? I told you so. The trends were in favor of Hofstra limiting Stony Brook to a field goal.

Nobody's umbrella ended up two miles away inside out Friday. Thanks, local weathermen!

Before we get chatting about what will almost surely be the most lopsided victory of the year for the Flying Dutchmen football team, I’d like to give a big shout out to the weathermen who scared the wife and I into sitting home Friday instead of actually seeing the 43-3 win in person.

As a member of the media, I’ve always hated it when the public uses a negative experience—or a negative perception—to broadly and unfavorably paint the rest of us with the same stroke. But, you know, I’m already over blasting all weathermen.

I know, I know: You can’t predict the weather and its various quirks and hiccups. Well, if it’s unpredictable, then stop gushing over your super duper new awesome Doppler 92,000,000 and how it’s going to make my life so much more awesome. You never hear media members prattle on about how the newest digital recorder is going to bring you your news in a more accurate and timely fashion, do you?

Plus, I don’t mind criticizing weathermen because they’re not like cops. You’re not going to be sitting there during a downpour or a blizzard going “Damnit! Where is a weatherman when I need one?” and wishing you’d never said anything negative about their entire species.

Where was I? Oh yeah. My wife and I sitting home and watching MSG-Plus (how can MSG have a Plus when they’re so bereft of programming they aired MSG, NY or MSG Vault for 13 hours on the flagship between 8 am Sunday and 4 am Monday?) because we feared we’d end up watching the game in a Charleston Southern-type end-of-the-world monsoon. Instead, LaValle Stadium was blanketed in a gentle mist.

Apparently, we weren’t the only ones scared off by lousy weather reports. The listed attendance of 2,105 seemed quite generous judging by the acres of empty space.

What we missed was a final score that did indeed evoke nostalgia, though not the type I was imagining last week. One trend I forgot to mention Friday was Hofstra’s 3-1 mark and razor-thin average margin of victory (6.5 points) in its last four games against non-scholarship programs.

But instead of providing a reminder of the days when Hofstra was the non-scholarship team scaring the bejeezus out of the Big Dogs, the Flying Dutchmen harkened back to the old-fashioned beatings they would administer to undermanned opponents—like in 2005, when they beat Albany and Stony Brook by a combined score of 91-7. Or, if you’re like me, it was reminiscent of 1995 and that 56-6 Homecoming thrashing of Charleston Southern that felt as if it easily could have been 156-0.

It was a victory whose dominance was not in the stats but in the details. Hofstra had only two more first downs than Stony Brook (18-16), outgained the Seawolves by just 105 yards (316-211) and held a narrow advantage in time of possession (32:03-27:57).

But the Flying Dutchmen did what a scholarship program is supposed to do against a Stony Brook-type program: Take advantage of mistakes, put the proverbial foot on the proverbial throat (as opposed to the Mets, who put their actual hands on their actual throatstwo years running!) and don’t give the non-scholarship opponent a chance to believe it can pull off a miracle.

Stony Brook’s one chance to create some momentum on its first possession evaporated when a wide-open Dwayne Eley dropped a sure touchdown pass on second down. The Seawolves turned the ball over on downs and didn’t move back into Hofstra territory until they were down 31-0.

Leslie Jackman made the play of the night—and, according to ESPN, the 10th-best play in America; he’s still no Chris Parsons—when he stripped Edwin Gowins of the ball near the sideline and raced 60 yards for the touchdown. Two other interceptions led to touchdowns.

There was no need to fill up the stat sheet up 17-0 a minute into the second quarter, 24-0 midway thru the period and 31-3 at halftime. By that point, the only objective was to get out healthy heading into this weekend’s game against a far more formidable foe: James Madison, which is ranked no. 1 in the I-AA coaches’ poll and no. 2 in the writers’ poll.

The only remaining suspense Friday was provided by the Dutchmen’s quest to keep the Seawolves out of the end zone and an impressive third quarter punt by Roger Williams, who ran 20 yards to chase down an errant snap, turned around and managed to boot the ball inside the Seawolves’ five-yard-line.

Good thing he didn’t pay any attention to the weathermen. Otherwise he probably would have fallen to the ground and conceded the lost yardage, because who could possibly punt in that monsoon?

(Note: Posts may be sporadic as I finish another writing project over the next couple days)

Email Jerry at

Friday, September 26, 2008

Schmitt's Hofstra Status Long Ago Cemented

Below is the first-ever Defiantly Dutch feature story, which was culled from an interview with John Schmitt after his number was retired at Shuart Stadium last Saturday. This is the type of occasional feature I had in mind when I started the blog—something interesting, I hope, that you’re probably not going to find anywhere else—so I’m curious for any feedback the Loyal Readers may have. Stay tuned to Defiantly Dutch for another (hopefully interesting) feature next week. Thanks to Schmitt for taking the time to chat last weekend and to Jim Sheehan, the MVP of sports information directors, for facilitating the interview.

Long before Shuart Stadium, hopes of a national championship in Division I-AA and retired numbers displayed on Margiotta Hall, there was the Cement Bowl, flowers in cement and one very sick newlywed in November 1962.

“We had a wedding date set for November 24 and about November 15 or 12 or 10 we got invited to the bowl,” John Schmitt said. “So I said to coach [Howdy] Myers ‘I gotta get married that weekend, it’s two weekends before the bowl game.’ He says ‘How long you gonna be?’ I said ‘Well, I’d like to take five or six days.’

“So we got married and we went up to the Concord Hotel for our honeymoon. And I got sick—I was taken to the hospital. I had a virus [and] I was sick almost my whole honeymoon. I came back, I was 20 pounds lighter and everybody wanted to see what my wife looked like because I worked off 20 pounds. They didn’t know I wasn’t even with her.”

Before the stomach-churning honeymoon, though, the Schmitts made their contribution to the construction of what is now Shuart Stadium. “They took her flowers from our wedding and put it on the 50-yard-line,” Schmitt said. “One of the contractors building those stands was pouring the concrete. So he put the flowers in there. It was immortalized.

“See where that CAA [sign] is? Right behind that CAA, about eight rows up, are the flowers.”

Schmitt, of course, can now point to something much more tangible after his number 77 was retired at halftime of the Flying Dutchmen’s 23-20 win over Rhode Island last Saturday. It was the latest honor bestowed upon Schmitt by Hofstra, which previously awarded him a trio of alumni awards as well as made him one of the inaugural inductees into the school’s Hall of Fame.

“It was really, really exciting and such an honor,” Schmitt said. “And then to see my jersey up on Margiotta Hall—I had no idea that that was happening. When I looked around and saw that, I couldn’t believe it. That was fantastic. That really was fantastic.”

Schmitt had plenty of football left to play after graduating from Hofstra following the 1963 season. He parlayed a free agent tryout with the Jets into 11 seasons as the anchor of their offensive line. He started at center Jan. 12, 1969, when Joe Namath followed through on his guarantee in the Jets’ shocking upset of the Colts in Super Bowl III.

“This is my third ring,” Schmitt said as he fiddled with the jewelry. “My first one I lost surfing in Hawaii, believe it or not. I came in at the end of the day and there was no ring on my hand. I almost died. I had it insured so I bought a new one and then wore it out because I take it off so much to show people. A year ago Christmas, I had a new one made and I had ones made for my two sons and son-in-law.

“This is brand-spanking new. I wear it every day. I never leave home without it.”

Schmitt wouldn’t trade the ring—or the experience of being a part of the Jets’ only championship team—for anything. But that doesn’t mean he’s completely over the Cement Bowl loss to West Chester (known back then as West Chester State College), either. Schmitt took great—pardon the pun—pride in playing both sides of the ball during his career at Hofstra. But he was so weakened prior to the Cement Bowl that he could only play defense in the 46-12 loss.

“They don’t do that today,” Schmitt said with a laugh, talking as much about his in-season honeymoon as playing on both lines. “That was a long time ago. Long, long time ago.”

Nobody’s going to go two ways any time soon in the NFL—especially now that this guy is retired—but Schmitt’s throwback lessons about preparing for life after football are even more relevant today. As an undrafted free agent playing in the days before salaries exploded, Schmitt feared every year would be his last, so he worked multiple jobs during his career and founded an insurance firm in 1973 that remains wildly successful today.
“My best year, 1975, I made $55,000,” Schmitt said. “Kevin Mawae was my best friend on the Jets…a few years back he was making $4.3 million. He made more in one game than I did in 12 years.

“But the average [career] is 3.7 [years]. If you’re fortunate enough to play six or seven or eight or nine years, if you use your head and invest your money wisely, you can be very much set up for the rest of your life.”

Of course, it doesn’t always work that way—then or now. Yet Schmitt wasn’t surprised when he spoke to a group of Jets and found his message falling on deaf ears.

“The guys think that football’s never going to end—and I did too, by the way,” Schmitt said. “After 12 years I thought I could play three more. But your body wears out and things happen and situations change. And it’s really, really tough. A lot of guys just never think that it’s going to end and never prepare for the time when they’re not a football player.

“It’s sad, you know, because I see a lot of my friends. Granted, they had a better time when they played football than I did, because they were out every night enjoying themselves and I was working every night.

“But in the long run, what I did paid off a lot more.”

Email Jerry at

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Brother, Where You Bound?

(This is almost certainly the only Supertramp reference I will ever make. Unless It's Raining Again next time I blog)

Thirteen days after they got a little too nostalgic for comfort against Albany, the Flying Dutchmen face another program with a familiar background Friday when they visit Stony Brook in what promises to be a soggy affair.

(Sidebar: Of course, I realize the current Dutchmen have no connection to Hofstra’s Division III or non-scholarship I-AA days. In fact, the star freshman running back was born, I kid you not, the same day Hofstra beat Stony Brook 48-0 in 1990. That was during my first month of my senior year of high school. I think I was listening to this. I am so very depressed now. Let’s move on.)

Anyway, the good news from the creative math department: Hofstra has won its last four football games against Stony Brook by an average of more than 27 points!

And now the bad news from the old-school math department: The Flying Dutchmen’s margin of victory, in order, since the series resumed in 2004: 40, 55, 9, 5.

So, you know, the trends aren’t exactly in Hofstra’s favor as it prepares for the now-annual No-Win Situation Bowl (not presented by State Farm). The Dutchmen are supposed to win, because beating the Seawolves (am I the only one tempted to type Patriots when referring to Stony Brook? And is there a blog out there called Persistently Patriotic?) is the one thing that links Hofstra football eras.

The Dutchmen were 7-0 against Stony Brook from 1984-90, when both schools were in Division III. And they’re 4-0 since the series resumed in 2004, five years after Stony Brook made the leap to I-AA. Overall, Hofstra has outscored Stony Brook 349-87.

A loss to Stony Brook would be more difficult to absorb than the loss to Albany, and not only because Hofstra’s supposed to be long past the days of losing to programs with less than 63 scholarships. A win for the Seawolves would be historic and, perhaps, a building block as they look to emerge from the shadow of big brother.

Stony Brook moved from Division III to Division I in 1999 and legitimized itself by moving into the America East following Hofstra’s defection in 2001. Like Hofstra, Stony Brook eased into I-AA football as a non-scholarship program before gradually phasing in the full allotment of scholarships.

Athletic director Jim Fiore, who played on the Flying Dutchmen’s final D-III team in 1990, dreams of the day when little brother is the top D-I program on Long Island. Anyone who saw last season’s incredibly physical Hofstra-Stony Brook men’s basketball game at the Arena—in which the Seawolves held off a late rally to earn just their fourth win in the 21-game series—knows it’s not just the decision-makers who want to beat Hofstra.

Fiore is not shy about talking about his plans for global—or at least regional—domination in the America East. It’s already outgrown the Northeast Conference in football and Fiore won’t rule out an eventual move to Division I-A. And basketball coach Steve Pikell has spoken of turning Stony Brook into a George Washington-type powerhouse.

There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big, but evidence suggests Fiore’s trying to run a marathon with a program that’s barely begun to crawl. (And with Stony Brook president Shirley Strum Kenny planning to retire at the end of the school year, it’s fair to wonder if he’ll even get a chance to finish the race under the new head honcho)

The men’s basketball program is 20-66 under Pikell and has yet to make a dent in the America East, which is one of the lowest-ranked conferences in the country. The football team plays at an impressive stadium and has a pretty loyal following on eastern Long Island, but its average crowd last year was just 4,601. On the field, the Seawolves opened the season with a 42-26 win over Colgate, but have scored fewer points in each of their three subsequent losses.

Hey, I like that trend. It says Hofstra will win, even if it’s 6-3, and fend off little brother for at least another season. Weather-permitting, the wife and I will be there to watch. I’ll be the guy yelling about Jimmy Jones.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I don’t know what it is, but Cory Christopher has it

For his next trick, Cory Christopher will nail "Poison" in Air Band...even though he was just three years old when Bell Biv Devoe released the song. That's very depressing, BTW.

Did you think Cory Christopher played well in the fourth quarter Saturday? Well, take a look at the play-by-play. He was even better than you thought—in fact, Christopher was just about perfect in the fourth as he directed three scoring drives to lead the Flying Dutchmen past Rhode Island, 23-20.

Christopher was 10-for-13 passing for 113 yards in the fourth. All three incomplete passes were intentional spikes to stop the clock during the frantic 58-yard, 49-second drive that resulted in the game-winning 38-yard field goal by freshman Roger Williams. He also rushed five times for negative-1 yard—a nine-yard sack dropped him below zero—and a touchdown.

It was no fluke for Christopher, who has thrived in the 15 (or more) minutes that separate the caretaker quarterbacks from the difference-makers. Christopher did his first John Elway impersonation Sept. 13 against Albany, when he presided over an 18-play drive that ended with Brian Hanly missing a 34-yard field goal with nine seconds left. Christopher also put the Flying Dutchmen in position for another field goal on their lone overtime possession.

In the fourth quarter and overtime of the last two games, Christopher is 21-of-31 for 214 yards and has rushed 13 times for four yards and a touchdown (the four sacks he incurred are counted as carries). In those fourth quarters, Hofstra held a 21:29-8:31 advantage in time of possession.

Christopher’s fourth quarter performances are symbolic of his revelatory emergence as the center of the Hofstra offense. Nobody knew what to expect when Christopher was thrust into the starting lineup at the last minute against UConn Aug. 28, and his understandably inconsistent performance against the potential Big East champs further tempered expectations for 2008. But while the Flying Dutchmen were more prolific against Albany and Rhode Island last year—when they scored 65 points in a pair of wins—Christopher has generated the type of consistency and chemistry Bill Belichick would love to get out of a backup quarterback.

Bryan Savage—a pretty good dual threat himself and someone who appeared to be in no danger of losing playing time to Christopher before his season-ending injury—accounted for 62.7 percent of Hofstra’s offensive plays last year (367 passes, 118 rushes).

Christopher is on pace to obliterate those totals. Through three games, he’s had a hand in 72.5 percent of the Flying Dutchmen’s offensive plays (99 passes and 62 rushes). That puts him on pace to throw 363 passes and rush 228 times. The latter figure, remarkably, would place him within shouting distance of the school record for carries in a season, set by Trevor Dimmie (265) in 2000.

It’s also impossible to underestimate the confidence a player like Christopher can create amongst his teammates with those cool-under-pressure fourth-quarter drives. A leader is hard to describe but immediately identifiable. And there’s no teaching what Christopher has displayed the last two weekends—nor any doubt now that he’ll be “that” player for the Flying Dutchmen the next two seasons.

Email Jerry at

Monday, September 22, 2008

We just witnessed a miracle and I want you to [TV edit] acknowledge it!

I was a sophomore in high school the first time I figured my procrastination had done me in. I had a research paper due in English class on a Wednesday, and as that week began I realized I was completely screwed. The research wasn’t done, the writing wasn’t done and none of it was close to done. And worst of all, there was no way to keep this from my mom, who had to decipher my chicken scratchings and type the paper for me on a typewriter (click the links, kids, so you can appreciate how good you’ve got it).

I staved her off for a while on Tuesday, but it was getting to be the time of night where I could no longer tell her it was coming soon. Pretty soon she’d realize it wasn’t done and pretty soon she’d realize she’d be up all night first helping me finish the paper and then typing it. And it would get ugly. Real ugly. Ugly as in my dad’s going to tell me he’s disappointed I’m making my mom cry ugly.

Then the news came: Power outage at the school. No school Wednesday.

I felt a sense of abject relief I never knew possible. There was no way out, yet I’d escaped. I was headed for certain doom, yet Clarence and Miriam apparently took time out from saving buses full of bickering, Christmas caroling kids to spare me a big fat F and a summer-long grounding. I was lost in the middle of the desert and I magically found a Comfort Inn.

I mention this nearly 20-year-old memory not to upset my mother but because I figure the Flying Dutchmen felt a similar sense of pardoned-at-11:59-p.m. relief right around 4 pm Saturday, when Rhode Island kicker Louis Feinstein pulled a John Carney (the one with the Saints, not the 76-year-old man who keeps nailing field goals for the Giants) and replaced Hofstra’s Brian Hanly as the sickest man in America by missing a PAT that would have given the Rams a one-point lead with less than a minute to play.

Of course, maybe the Dutchmen would have won anyway thanks to quarterback Cory Christopher, who, for the second straight week, directed an Elway-esque length-of-the-field march to put Hofstra in position to win the game. This time, walk-on kicker Roger Williams booted a 38-yard field goal with three seconds left and then made the game-ending tackle on the subsequent kickoff to end a frightfully good Cal-Stanford impersonation—albeit without the band on the field—at the Hofstra 20-yard-line to seal a thrilling 23-20 win.

However it happened—a Jules-esque miracle or an Elway-esque drive—it had to happen, because after 59 minutes and 13 seconds Saturday, it was abundantly clear that Hofstra could not afford to lose to Rhode Island. Losing to Albany seven days earlier was disappointing because the Flying Dutchmen should be long past the days of losing to a non-scholarship program (sorry…one-scholarship program).

But a loss Saturday would have been demoralizing because it would have been the most obvious sign yet that it’s just not meant to be this season. Sure, it’s easy for those of us over here to say stuff like that, and football coaches thrive on getting their players to forget the past and ignore the long-term view in favor of focusing only on the next game on the schedule.

Still, to lose that game in the last minute would have been crushing. For much of Saturday, it looked as if Hofstra had completely rebuilt itself in the seven days following the Albany upset. Rhode Island racked up 43 points and 517 yards the week before, yet a defense that had trouble wrapping up Albany’s Dave McCarty quieted the Rams following a quick first score (it’s rare you can truthfully use the phrase “before the fans even settled into their seats,” but the Rams drove 73 yards in 97 seconds and were up 7-0 as my wife and I were still filing in), forced three turnovers and, at one point, held them to one first down or less on seven straight drives.

The Flying Dutchmen dominated the Rams in just about every offensive category, including total yards (476-341) and time of possession (37:22-22:58), rushing yards (211-93) and first downs (25-15). Hofstra held the ball for at least nine minutes in each of the last three quarters.

A month ago, Christopher was slotted for backup duty and Brock Jackolski was headed for a redshirt, but they once again proved eminently qualified for their starring roles by combining for 531 all-purpose yards.

Even the special teams emerged, albeit after halftime: The struggling Hanly, who missed a PAT and a field goal before suggesting to Dave Cohen at intermission that he be benched in favor of Williams, threw a perfect touchdown pass to Ottis Lewis off a fake field goal attempt early in the third quarter.

Alas, that was called back due to penalty, and as the fourth quarter progressed it appeared as if Hofstra would be done in by ill-timed mistakes and failures to capitalize. Jackolski’s 64-yard run gave the Dutchmen, up 17-14, a first down at the one with less than six minutes left. But Hofstra gained no yardage on first or second down and Christopher was sacked on third down, forcing the Dutchmen to use their last timeout (they called three timeouts in a span of three minutes in the fourth) and to send Williams out to kick a 33-yard field goal.

A personal foul on the kickoff gave Rhode Island a first down at its 46, and Anthony Ferrer rambled 21 yards on fourth-and-one to give the Rams a first down at the one with 51 seconds left. He scored on the next play, setting up the Miracle on FieldTurf.

Never mind how crushing it would have been to lose on a day when Hofstra did so much right. It would have been soul-sucking, too, to lose on a Homecoming straight out of central casting. Back in my day, Homecoming was played in monsoons (anyone else remember how Homecoming ’95 was nearly postponed because of torrential rain and lightning?) and in front of sparse crowds.

So I didn’t recognize what we saw at Hofstra Saturday: Brilliant skies, folks tapping kegs, tailgating and playing touch football in the parking lots and several thousand fans actually standing, screaming and hugging one another in the game’s final seconds. Who are you and what have you done with my apathetic Hofstra?

I long ago gave up on the idea that Hofstra could ever build a fan base on the momentum generated by its sports teams. But still…it was nice to see. And it’s a lot easier to lure a giant chunk of the 6,107 who showed up Saturday—and that was a legitimate number—back to the Stadium in five weeks fresh off a dramatic win rather than an agonizing loss.

As for the football team itself: The schedule is still brutal—the Dutchmen, who visit Stony Brook Friday, still have to face five of the top 12 teams in the current I-AA poll, including top-ranked James Madison Oct. 4—and who knows what kind of shape Hofstra will be in by the time it hosts Delaware Oct. 25. But a last-minute power outage—pardon me, miracle—means the worst-case scenario isn’t as bad as it looked a week ago.

Jerry Beach can be reached at

Friday, September 19, 2008

C’mon TP. I know what you have to say to everyone else, but I’ve been there from the beginning. All I want is one ticket.

“It’s a two-party system! You have to vote for one of us!”

Here’s something you don’t get everyday: Multiple Hofstra news links. The men’s hoops team gets some national pub from Gary Parrish of (am I the only one who still writes into the address window at Internet Explorer?), who writes about the presidential debate displacing the Flying Dutchmen starting next week. Some amusing stuff from Tom Pecora about being housed at Margiotta Hall, practicing at Adelphi and fielding phone calls from friends who want one of the golden tickets wrapped in a chocolate bar Hofstra was allotted. (Seriously, only 200 tickets? That’s a joke)

Bryan Savage’s hometown newspaper has an interesting and extensive piece on the former Hofstra quarterback, who had big hopes for the UConn game as well as his senior season but was instead sidelined with a career-ending injury mere moments before kickoff.

And thanks to loyal reader Anonymous, who sent along a feature from the Albany Times-Union in which Albany coach Bob Ford ranks the win over Hofstra as one of the top 10 games he’s ever experienced in his 36 years at the school. I also learned I was wrong earlier this week when I wrote Albany does not have 30 scholarships. It has one. Seriously, one scholarship? Why even bother at that point? And how do they determine the recipient? Albany Idol? And do they have someone who is barely lucid consoling those who fall short?

Also got some entertaining comments and/or emails recently from Loyal Readers, including Rob, who chimed in with memories of Wednesday night dining at Hofstra. “The sad truth about Steak Night was that the Chicken Cordon Bleu was actually better than the steak—the only two good meals they serve all week, and they served them on the same night? WTF?”

I don’t even remember the chicken cordon bleu. That’s how much I loved steak night: I wouldn’t even ponder another entree. But that sums up Lackmann, doesn’t it? Feed us crap six days a week and then make us choose from two glorious selections on the seventh.

Sully Ray writes in and wonders if the chipped tooth that I referred to Wednesday was the “…same chipped tooth that took a backseat tour of the southeastern US and wound up at 50 cent wiener night in NO?”

Yes it is. In the spring of ’95, Sully Ray, Rob and fellow Chronicle alum Adam asked me to join them on a cross-country spring break road trip…a decision they regretted by the time we reached the George Washington Bridge, I am sure. I don’t travel well, at all…especially when the car is a stick shift and I failed Manual Transmission 101, as taught by my mom (it’s not her fault, my sister aced it).

So I sat in the back, read newspapers from around the country, listened to a mix tape (it’s like the iPod shuffle, except with careful attention paid to the ebb and flow as well as a handwritten song list…you kids these days have no idea what you’re missing) generally acted like a grump and slept a lot. I also apparently snored every sleeping moment, something my so-called friends were only too happy to capture via dozens of shots of me, my agape mouth and my chipped tooth deep in REM sleep.

It’s OK though. I’m the one with the blog. And I’m the one with photos of Sully Ray wolfing down hot dogs at 50-cent hot dog night in New Orleans as well as shots of Sully Ray, Adam and I keeping score during the game. If I could only be the one who also had a working scanner, those photos would be up here. So revenge—for the sleeping shots as well as all my losses in T-Shirt Derby—will eventually be mine, Sully Ray.

And any T-shirts that are fired my way tomorrow will be mine, too, since Sully Ray once again has better things to do than join us. Sniff. So if you see the wife and I, stop by and say hello. I’ll be the guy yelling about Michael Doto.

Jerry is still waiting to hear from Rick, Ted and the rest of the Loyal Readers at

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Does the OOC sked suck like a fox?

(I was looking for a picture of Bart keeping score at the alley as Homer keeps bowling gutter balls filled with booze to Moe’s, but this is the closest thing I could find. I guess one gift a week is all I can expect from the Gods of the Internet)

I admit I was skeptical Monday when the out of conference schedule was released and featured six teams coming off sub-.500 seasons as well as a game against Division III Old Westbury. But that 20-win season I riffed about may have a better chance of occurring than initially thought.

Hofstra’s best seasons since 2002-03 were the ones in which its OOC didn’t impress anyone upon its release. When the Flying Dutchmen went 21-9 and made the first of three straight NIT appearances in 2004-05, the eight Division I OOC teams on the schedule posted a collective winning percentage of .354 the previous season. Remove Syracuse (23-8 in 2003-04) from the equation and the other seven teams were 58-140—a .293 winning percentage. That doesn’t even count Longwood, which was transitioning to Division I.

The OOC was better in 2005-06, when Hofstra went 26-7 and reached the final eight of the NIT following the NCAA’s all-time screw job, but still not great: Those eight opponents were 96-132 (.421 winning percentage) the previous season and featured just one team with a winning record (Notre Dame).

Not surprisingly, Hofstra played its toughest non-conference slate in response to the NCAA's snub in 2006-07, when the eight opponents had a 127-115 (.525) record the previous season. The Flying Dutchmen went an oddly disappointing 22-10, including first-round losses in the CAA tourney as well as the NIT.

The OOC opponents were right around the .500 mark in the seasons Hofstra finished under .500: 2002-03, 2003-04 and last year. See below for the entire list of OOC opponents dating back to 2002-03; note that when determining the OOC’s record the previous season, I didn’t count the teams Hofstra played beyond the first round of holiday-time tournaments (i.e. St. John’s in 2006-07 or Marist last year).

Now of course the interesting question for a team that returns eight core players but only one sure thing is whether the Flying Dutchmen succeeded in 2004-05 and 2005-06 because the weak OOC allowed them time to gel while racking up wins…or if they thrived because of The Big Three.

(Forgive the lack of formatting here, someday I’ll figure out how to use tabs on a web page)

2008-09 (’07-’08 record)
Old Westbury (n/a)
Clemson (24-10)
Manhattan (12-19)
Fordham (12-17)
Stony Brook (7-23)
St. Francis (7-22)
UMass (25-11)
Iona (12-20)
New Hampshire (9-20)
TOTAL: 108-142 (.432)

2007-08 (’06-’07 record)
Holy Cross (25-9)
Manhattan (13-17)
St. Francis (9-20)
Fordham (18-12)
Stony Brook (9-20)
Charlotte (14-16)
Rhode Island (19-14)
Virginia Tech (22-12)
Longwood (9-22)
TOTAL: 138-142 (.493)

2006-07 (’05-’06 record)
Charlotte (19-13)
Manhattan (20-11)
Hawaii (17-11)
Siena (15-13)
Stony Brook (4-24)
St. Francis (10-17)
Syracuse (23-12)
St. Joseph’s (19-14)
TOTAL: 127-115 (.525)

2005-06 (’04-’05 record)
Florida International (13-17)
Notre Dame (17-12)
St. John’s (9-18)
Binghamton (12-17)
Stony Brook (12-17)
Dartmouth (10-17)
St. Francis (13-15)
LaSalle (10-19)
TOTAL: 96-132 (.421)

2004-05 (’03-’04 record)
Florida International (5-22)
LaSalle (10-20)
Binghamton (14-15)
Longwood (n/a)
St. John’s (6-21)
Dartmouth (3-25)
Columbia (10-17)
Stony Brook (10-20)
Syracuse (23-8)
TOTAL: 81-148 (.354)

2003-04 (’02-’03 record)
Marist (13-16)
Providence (18-14)
Maryland (21-10)
St. John’s (21-13)
Columbia (2-24)
Monmouth (15-13)
Stony Brook (13-16)
St. Peter’s (10-19)
Manhattan (23-7)
TOTAL: 136-132 (.507)

2002-03 (’01-’02 record)
Gonzaga (28-3)
St. Francis (18-11)
Lehigh (5-22)
Monmouth (18-12)
St. John’s (20-11)
Stony Brook (5-21)
Manhattan (17-8)
St. Peter’s (2-24)
TOTAL: 113-112 (.503)
Rick and Ted, as well as any other Loyal Readers, should email Jerry at

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

In which I wait until Wednesday (just like in college) to write about Saturday’s football game yet learn Rick and Ted have a website

(It's catching! Either that or it's costly to re-arrange the lettering on the face of the press box, one or the other)

Penning this on a Wednesday night brings back memories—none of them any good for The Chronicle alums in the audience. Back in the day, nobody was better at covering something Friday or Saturday and waiting to write it until Wednesday night—when the stories were supposed to be long done and layout was supposed to occupy all our time—than me. True story: I chipped a tooth eating a hard-as-a-rock Dunkin Donuts cruller one layout night and Loyal Reader Rob thought it occurred when the editor-in-chief punched me out.

What can I say? I work better in a state of abject panic. And hey, I am better I was 14 years ago, seeing as how I actually already wrote about the football game Monday.

Anyway, when I saw the words “HOME OF THE FLYING DUTCHMEN” upon getting out of the car behind Shuart Stadium Saturday night, I figured it was a sign of good things to come for Hofstra. Not so much.

But walking into the Stadium as sunset approached reminded me of the days when nothing, not even the chance to consume watered-down beer during Happy Hour at Fezziwig’s, was better than a Friday night game on campus. And with that, I pause to down a shot.

Asides: I cannot believe they have a web page. So friggin’ awesome. And look at those late ‘80s/early ‘90s fashions! God, I love the Internet. If Rick and/or Ted are out there reading this, drop me a line.

So once again, I ask myself: How did seven years go by between games? Not to sound like a shill for the university, but football’s barely contained chaos sounds and looks a lot crisper in the metallic bleachers behind the home sideline. And the pre-kickoff anticipation among the players is a lot more tangible there than somewhere in the nosebleeds at Giants Stadium.

A bleacher seat also reminds you how wrong it is that there’s more yellow in the free T-shirts the cheerleaders chucked into the crowd (I didn’t catch one, even without Sully Ray the Bully elbowing me in areas that should never be elbowed) than in the actual uniform, which “features” a yellow belt. Wrong, so wrong.

It didn’t take us long to figure out the give-and-take between the PA guy and the crowd. “That’s another Hofstra…………………………first down.” Alas, no matter how hard we craned our ears, we weren’t quite able to make out the profane chants from the rockingest student section in the CAA.

Even as Albany hung around and the pessimist in me began to fret, my wife guaranteed a victory. And as Hofstra and for a while it looked like it’d be just about a perfect night: Great weather, schedule magnets, Thunderstix knockoffs intended to provide hours of amusement to my nephew—and hours of headaches for my lovely sister!—and a last-second win in our reintroduction to Shuart Stadium.

Instead, I’ll have to be content with my hunch being proved correct…as well as having called the third quarter safety that turned out to be the difference between victory and defeat. “We’re a couple plays away from a safety,” I said as Hofstra lined up at the two-yard-line.

I could sit here and tell you I’d rather have the victory. But that just might be a lie.


Some of you Loyal Readers may have noticed I added a stat counter to the bottom of the website over the weekend. So if you’ve been coming here since way back in the beginning, please acknowledge those visits by hitting refresh a bunch of times so I can have an accurate gauge of the popularity of Defiantly Dutch.

Then hit refresh a bunch more. And a bunch more after that. Hey, I’m not going to reach 99,999,999 site hits—and lure some venture capitalists into giving me a few million bucks without even presenting them a business model—all by myself, you know.

Wait, this isn’t 1999? Well, crud.

Rick and Ted, as well as any other Loyal Readers, should email Jerry at

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

You down on the OOC? (updated)

Remember when people were actually unsure what O.P.P. meant? Ahh the innocent summer of 1991!

Been wondering for decades just how the Hofstra men’s basketball team would match up against Old Westbury, that Division III school off Route 106/107? Good news! This is your year!

Hoping to tune in to CBS on the second Sunday of March and see Greg Gumble, Clark Kellogg and Co. declare Hofstra earned an at-large bid because of an arduous non-conference schedule? Uhh…not so likely.

Hofstra finally released the out-of-conference schedule Monday. If you’re thinking to yourself “Self, wasn’t the entire schedule released a lot earlier last year?” you’re right, though I can’t seem to find a link to prove it.

And if you suspected the schedule would be light on March-worthy foes, well, you were right again. All caveats apply, of course, about how a team’s performance last year does not foretell its performance this year. But the eight Division I teams Hofstra is guaranteed to face posted a combined winning percentage of just .432 (108-142) last year.

That collective percentage is considerably boosted by the presence of OOC headliners Clemson (which lost to Villanova in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and finished 24-10) and UMass (which reached the NIT final and finished 25-11). The other six Division I foes went an anemic 59-121 (.328) last year. The news is a little better among the six teams Hofstra could face in the final two rounds of the Charleston Classic: They went 108-86 last year, a .557 winning percentage, and three teams (Temple, TCU and Southern Illinois) reached the postseason.

So why, three years after Hofstra’s OOC was blamed for its criminal omission from the NCAA Tournament, are the Flying Dutchmen seemingly content to participate in metro NYC’s version of the Big Five?

As a reader noted below (whoohoo! someone’s reading—and after midnight, to boot!), visiting Manhattan and Stony Brook and hosting Fordham, St. Francis and Iona might generate a little local interest and provide an attendance boost at Hofstra Arena. But it won’t do much for the Flying Dutchmen’s at-large candidacy—NCAA or NIT.

Maybe the meager OOC is just bad luck: In June, it was reported that Hofstra was going to play in the Puerto Rico Classic, which will feature national runner-up Memphis as well as Elite Eight participant Xavier, but that’s obviously not the case.

Maybe it’s the coaching staff hoping to avoid a repeat of last year, when the Flying Dutchmen—adjusting to the departures of Loren Stokes and Carlos Rivera—were 2-8 (including a December loss to UNC-Wilmington) by New Years Day and didn’t begin to find their form until it was way too late. Of course, Hofstra’s out-of-conference slate last year—headlined by 2007 NCAA Tournament teams Holy Cross and Virginia Tech and featuring a collective winning percentage of .493—wasn’t exactly a Fang Mitchell special, either.

Perhaps it’s a way to make good on the goals expressed to season ticket holders in last week’s letter from Tom Pecora and Jack Hayes. A 20-win season would put the Flying Dutchmen in prime position to return to the postseason (and yes, the CBI counts, even if accepting a bid cost so much money that everyone this side of New Jersey Tech declined an invite last year). Only 12 of the 101 schools that won 20 games last season did not receive a postseason bid (UNC-Wilmington was one of the unlucky dozen).

I mentioned last week I’m no good at math, but I know enough to know that 8-3 in OOC play (7-3 before New Years Day and a win in the Bracket Buster) plus 11-7 in the CAA plus a win in the CAA tourney equals 20 wins.

Or maybe it’s more cynical: Hofstra fattening up on a schedule that would scare no one except maybe John Thompson because winning more games is good business sense…for the university as well as the Flying Dutchmen coaching staff. As we learned last week, it’s tough to raise ticket prices when you go 12-18.

And coaches on winning teams get lucrative raises or new jobs. I’d love to see Pecora finish his career at Hofstra as much as anybody else, but he’d be crazy not to try and parlay a 20-win season into another contract extension…or even a flirtation with the one local school that would really weaken Hofstra’s OOC and will almost certainly be looking for another coach by March. (Mocking St. John’s basketball—there’s a tradition we couldn't have envisioned 15 years ago)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Albany is who we used to be! And we let them off the hook!

(Hi. I'm former Red Sox first baseman/outfielder David McCarty. That kid from Albany may think he's pretty good, but has he ever hit a game-winning homer at Fenway, mopped up in a big league game and won a World Series ring, all in the same season? I didn't think so)

Did that game Saturday night look a little familiar?

Did you sense Albany, already bursting with the belief they could knock off a Big Bad School With A Full Allotment Of Scholarships, gaining confidence that it could accomplish the seemingly with every possession?

Did you look across the field at the Albany cheering section as Hofstra methodically drove down the field in the final five minutes of regulation and remember the rapid-fire thought process: “We’ve come too far to lose this game can’t lose this game that ride home is gonna suck can’t lose this game oh God this is gonna hurt can’t imagine losing this game…”

And did you watch the Great Danes spill on to the field after David McCarty—who apparently missed the memo that guys sporting uniform no. 3 are no longer allowed to run wild at Shuart Stadium—barged in for the game-winning touchdown in overtime and recall the abject joy of watching David slay Goliath?

I was going to say Albany’s 22-16 win—the Great Danes’ first win over Hofstra since the days of Breakfast Club, Pretty In Pink, even St. Elmo’s Fire—represented the completion of Hofstra’s 180-degree turn from the pursuer to the pursued, but cracking open the media guide revealed the Flying Dutchmen lost to Big South schools Elon and Liberty, neither of whom had 63 scholarships, in 2002.

And let’s face it: Hofstra’s not exactly a Goliath this season. Nor was this exactly Michigan-Appalachian State—Hofstra was a three-point favorite against a team gave UMass all it could handle last week.

Still, it’s odd to see things from the other side. But that’s progress, right? I mean, you can’t be the lovable underdog forever. Even these guys eventually got past it.

But this was a game Hofstra could not afford to lose, and it had nothing to do with 63 vs. 30. It had everything to do with alternately managing the game to win it…and doing everything possible to fritter it away.

Hofstra ran more than three times as many plays as Albany in the fourth quarter (29-9), held the ball for 36:41 and converted eight of 16 third- or fourth-down conversions. Yet despite running 18 more plays, the Flying Dutchmen outgained the Great Danes by just 95 yards. Hofstra squandered seven points on busted field goals and extra points and, after going for it on fourth down and scoring a touchdown in the first quarter, employed a game plan conservative enough to make Herm Edwards look like Air Coryell.

Hard to blame Dave Cohen for playing for the field goal in the final minute of regulation, but after two blocked kicks, why did he think kicking a field goal in overtime was a good idea? I’m sure Cohen is saying all the right, albeit boring-as-a-tour-of-a-box-factory things about it’s only one game, there’s nine to go, gotta forget about this one and look ahead to this week, etc etc. But human nature suggests it’s a lot easier to leave behind a game in which you leave seven points on the field and win by one rather than losing the same contest in overtime.

In addition, a win Saturday was essential because it would have felt like a nice building block, particularly given the encouraging performances of new starting QB Cory Christopher and freshman RB Brock Jackolski.

Christopher racked up more than 300 yards of total offense, seemed to be the only player the coaching staff trusted for much of the second half—he carried the ball on four straight plays and five of seven during a drive spanning the third and fourth quarters—and looked like a leader, especially on the methodical 19-play drive that looked as if it would result in a game-winning field goal. If you’ve got a quarterback who doesn’t panic and can make something out of nothing a few times a day, you’re ahead of the game.

And Jackolski, whom the staff planned to redshirt until recently, and showed flashes of that no. 1 back ability with three kickoff returns for 78 yards and a three-yard touchdown run.
Even with Christopher and Jackolski playing well, it was clear Saturday Hofstra has a lot of work to do as the CAA season approaches. But the task doesn’t look quite as imposing when the record is 1-1 instead of 0-2.

Now? Conservative probably won’t work against Rhode Island, which scored at will in a loss to New Hampshire Saturday. And with a month-long road trip after that, it’s threatening to get late early. And can you imagine being 0-3 going into Stony Brook a week from Friday? That’ll be a game the Dutchmen really can’t afford to lose.

And if you’re looking for another bad sign? In 2002, the Flying Dutchmen went 2-10. Gulp.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Did I say wait til ’09 to see Marques Colston get his uniform retired? I meant wait ‘til Saturday

I have a reputation among friends and family for never being right. My lovely wife, in particular, likes to take my guarantees and begin making plans for the opposite to occur. It’s like she’s never forgiven me for declining tickets to see a Yankees game on May 14, 1996. She even said “If Doc Gooden throws a no-hitter, you’re a dead man.” What were the freaking odds?

She’s been having fun the last few months reminding me that I often guaranteed her the New Kids on the Block would never get back together and tour. Now she’s eagerly counting down the days, no matter how often I say please don’t go girl.

Of course, when everyone is making fun of lil’ ol’ me, she never mentions all the times I’m right. Like Wednesday night, when we were watching the Red Sox-Rays game and I guaranteed the Rays would win once Mike Timlin came in to pitch for the Sox in the 14th inning. Of course, in her defense, it didn’t take a genius to figure that one out.

Anyway, you can imagine the fun she had today, when another one of my guarantees was proven wrong—and in uncommonly rapid fashion. Less than two days ago, I wrote you shouldn’t expect to see Marques Colston get his number retired before 2009. One guess as to who’s getting his number retired tomorrow night…though the press release from Hofstra doesn’t indicate if he’ll be in attendance.

Even before this news, my wife and I were planning to go to the game (it takes a lot to get her to leave the iPod and the New Kids at home, you know). I’d already viewed the home opener against Albany as an opportunity to begin reversing the damage I’d done over the previous 12 years, when I not-so-gradually morphed into the person I once railed against as an idealistic and cynical collegian.

No, I haven’t sold out to The Man, and my political beliefs haven’t changed. I’ve done something even worse: I became the dreaded Hofstra fan who doesn’t go to football games.

In my defense, this time of year is usually my busiest, and by the time I’m free, there’s only one or two home games left on the schedule. But still…the 21-year-old me never would have accepted being busy as an excuse for why I haven’t seen a game at Hofstra since this guy gashed the Flying Dutchmen in a 54-34 win in 2001.

The 21-year-old me was livid in 1994, when Hofstra had the type of out-of-nowhere success that should have galvanized the student body and the Island alike. Instead, the free tickets that the school gave out every Friday ended up littering the first floor of dorms and the Flying Dutchmen went 8-1-1 in near-anonymity. (Though I still wonder what would have happened if Hofstra stormed back from a 24-7 fourth quarter deficit to beat Towson in front of about 5,000 fans on the final Friday night of October. Then again, considering the average attendance at men’s basketball fell from 3,623 in 2006-07 to 2,740 last year, I’m guessing the boost would have been short-term)

I was even madder in 1995, when the Flying Dutchmen started out 10-0, flirted with the nation’s no. 1 ranking…and still had to scramble for attention on campus. I wasted untold column inches railing at students who would rather watch Nebraska and Ohio State in their dorm rooms rather than walk across campus to Hofstra Stadium and watch their very own national title contender.

So here I am, within easy driving distance of Hofstra since the fall of 1997, and I can count on two hands the number of games I’ve been to in the last 11 years. I’m not completely the guys I used to criticize: I don’t watch I-A football on Saturdays. And until the pinheaded college presidents who run I-A figure out a way to determine their national champ via a tournament, I’ll continue to spend most fall Saturdays channel surfing for awesomely awful movies.

Yet I can’t pinpoint why my interest in Hofstra football has lagged. Maybe it’s the sense that I’m hopelessly behind by the time I’m able to attend a game most seasons. And basketball has always been my favorite collegiate sport to watch. Is it because the dangling carrot—the possibility of participating in one of our nation’s truly collective experiences—in basketball is more exciting than the one in football?

Maybe. Worst yet, is it because I’m—gasp—a front-runner. Hofstra hasn’t made the playoffs since the last season in which I attended a game.

Or perhaps I’m the good-luck charm Hofstra needs to recapture its past glories. Yeah, that’s the ticket. I’m out of work but the Flying Dutchmen football team is back in business.

It’s time to stop being one of Them and start being the man I expected me to be at 21. The road to Chattanooga begins tomorrow. See you there. I’ll be the guy yelling about Jeff Yeakel.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Never Forget

I always thought adding this patch to the uniforms was one of the classiest things Hofstra’s ever done.

Hard to believe it’s been seven years already…and hard to believe how Sept. 10, 2001 still feels like so many more than seven years ago. And after seven years, it still feels odd to watch sports on 9/11.

Think today of the 2,998 who died in the attacks, including the 13 Hofstra graduates who perished in the World Trade Center: Lt. Glenn Wilkinson, Frederick Varrachi, Neil Levin, Alisha Levin, Edward Mardovich, Andrew Stern, Courtney Walcott, Alok Mehta, Jeffrey Dingle, Richard Fitzsimmons, Noell Maerz, Glenn Winuk and Julie Lynne Zipper.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Retiring Types

Lousy couple weeks for the guys on the right hand side of the Defiantly Dutch header. First Lance Schulters got his walking papers from the Saints. Then Marques Colston, who last year broke Wayne Chrebet’s record for most catches by a player in his first two NFL seasons, learned he almost certainly won’t break the record for the most catches by a player in his first three seasons due to a broken thumb that will sideline him for four-to-six weeks.

News of Colston’s injury broke a day after Hofstra announced Colston is one of 20 former star athletes whose numbers the school will retire. (How’s that for a segue?) Noted in the press release was Hofstra’s plans to honor the player during his or her “…respective sports season, unless schedules dictate otherwise.”

Colston’s forced convalescence would seemingly present an opportunity to squeeze in a halftime ceremony, but with the Flying Dutchmen embarking on a month-long road trip following the Sept. 20 game against Rhode Island, don’t expect to see Colston at Shuart Stadium until the Saints’ bye week in 2009.

The sight of retired numbers at the stadia and arenas on campus will lend an additional layer of legitimacy to the school’s athletic programs, so kudos to an administration that hasn’t always seemed interested in honoring and embracing the past. Colston and hoops icon Speedy Claxton are the most notable of the honorees, who follow in the footsteps of football’s Wayne Chrebet (3) and Walter Kohanowich (33) and softball’s Crystal Boyd, whose number 13 was retired last year.

The favorite ones here are, of course, the Defiantly Dutch-era stars: The mountainous Dave Fiore, who nearly matched Chrebet by making the NFL as an undrafted free agent and playing for eight seasons; softball star Stacy Jackson, whose dominance and durability—she ranks first all-time in innings pitched (885, including 256 in 1995), wins (96) and no-hitters (six)—helped jumpstart the Flying Dutchwomen’s dominant era and lacrosse goalie Stephanie Clarke, who was the first Hofstra player to make the national team.

The selection committee did a nice job of spreading the wealth, so to speak, with nine of the 20 athletes having graduated prior to 1990. Among the truly old school honorees is Steve Nisenson, who set the career scoring record in the era of freshman ineligibility and held on for 43 years until Antoine Agudio—another no. 13—broke it in February. But fear not, Agudio fans: The Yankees proved you can retire the same number for more than one player.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Don't You (Forget About Drexel, Delaware And Towson)

The Flying Dutchmen football team hasn’t even taken the field at Shuart Stadium yet, but men’s hoops was on the brain at Defiantly Dutch HQ Monday night as the letter notifying us of season ticket renewals landed in our mailbox.

After last year’s drastic hike, ticket prices as well as the number of home games (13) remained the same this year: $195 for premium tickets and $130 for reserved tickets without a Pride Club membership, $146 and $97 with one. Of course, the only way to get the Pride Club discount is to donate a minimum of $100, so technically you’re spending more money than you’d save in order to get said discount. Or I could be wrong. If I was smart enough to take more than one Economics class at Hofstra, you think I’d be a sportswriter for a “living?”

I’d like to thank Hofstra for not raising prices again, but really, with the hoops team coming off a 12-18 season and the economy more shredded than Tom Brady’s left knee, it’s not like the decision-makers had a choice. Maybe one of those guys coming to Hofstra next month can do something about improving the latter, if not the former.

(Random thought: Remember when Jay Wright and Tom Pecora used to have a faculty guest at the end of the bench? I think this tradition should return in modified for the CAA home opener, when the loser in November gets to watch Tom toe the do-not-cross line for 40 minutes. Get this done, Hofstra!)

Anyway, there were two particularly amusing/interesting sentences in the letter signed by Pecora and Jack Hayes. In the opening paragraph, they note that “Over the last four years the Pride has averaged over 20 wins…”

It’s not fuzzy math, per se, because while I don’t know enough about economics to weekend at the Hamptons, I’m smart enough to know that 21+26+22+12/4 = 20.25. But it’s also a more concise and positive way to say: “Over the last four years, the Flying Dutchmen won 21, 26, 22 and 12 games.”

At least they didn’t go Disco Stu on us and completely disregard the last two years. Though I’d like to see Pecora decked out in his ‘70s best as he uttered the following: “Did you know that Hofstra’s victories were up 325 percent for the year ending 2006-07? If these trends continue…heyyyyyyyyyy!!”

The second sentence of the third paragraph, though, reconfirmed the essence of our very existence here at Defiantly Dutch. Wrote Pecora and Hayes: “CAA rivals Old Dominion, UNC Wilmington and Virginia Commonwealth will highlight the home conference schedule.”

That, too, is technically true: Old Dominion, UNC Wilmington and VCU are in fact CAA rivals. Those three schools are among the seven that Hofstra plays home and away every season as well as among the perennial powers in the CAA. And I think the 2007 NIT birthed a legitimate rivalry between Hofstra and Old Dominion.

But OCU, UNC Wilmington and VCU aren’t the rivals to anyone who watched Hofstra hoops prior to the 2001 season. The rivals, as far as those of us are concerned, are Drexel, Delaware and Towson—the schools that have accompanied Hofstra from the ECC to the NAC (albeit a couple years before Hofstra took the leap) to the CAA.

They, too, are among the seven schools Hofstra plays twice a season. And they’re the teams fans look forward to seeing the most. It’s Drexel who reminds us of thrashings at the PFC, courtesy of the Shaq of the NAC…it’s Delaware who reminds us of the “no time for Blue Hens” chants and the abject joy of storming the court after consecutive America East title game victories (as well as Wayne Chrebet’s brilliant final collegiate game)…and it’s Towson who reminds us of the upset victory in the ECC title game that may have knocked Hofstra out of the NIT in 1992 (plus the win in football in 1994 that ended Hofstra’s unbeaten season and its I-AA playoff hopes).

And guess what? Even without those Generation X-specific memories, Drexel, Delaware and Towson represent Hofstra’s most traditional non-metro basketball rivals. In fact, Hofstra has played more games against Drexel (66) and Delaware (65) than anyone else. Towson (48 games) is Hofstra’s fifth-most frequent opponent behind Manhattan (56) and Wagner (49).

I’m sure there was no ill intent behind the letter. And maybe those who authored it figured ODU, UNC-Wilmington and VCU bring the most name recognition to Hofstra…which, of course, would further embolden my initial theory that the school’s athletic history isn’t as appreciated as it should be.

Maybe that’s changing, though. We’ll talk about this tomorrow.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Cruel Summer?

Wayne Chrebet wasn’t even the Hofstra player most likely to make a professional football roster in the summer of 1995. Linebacker Herve Damas and defensive end Fritz Avin seemed to have much better chances of making the Buffalo Bills and the CFL’s Ottawa Roughriders, respectively, as undrafted free agents than Chrebet did of making the Jets, even after Chrebet’s brilliant senior season (1,200 yards, 16 TDs) and a similarly impressive workout with the Jets, for whom he caught something like 48 of 50 passes during a workout on campus shortly after the NFL draft.

Even then, it was hard to envision him as anything other than a training camp curiosity: The local star who gets a cup of coffee before his inevitable departure with the first cuts. It was a neat story, some good publicity for both the Jets and Hofstra.

Chrebet entered training camp last on the depth chart at receiver. People were mispronouncing his name and the security guard wouldn’t let him into the Jets complex because he didn’t think Chrebet could possibly be a football player.

Of course, as we all know, the cheapest free agent signing the Jets ever made turned out to provide unimaginable dividends. In retrospect, though, should we have been surprised that Chrebet made play after play to earn a spot in the week one starting lineup?

First of all, the Jets had a starving need for competent wide receivers following the trade of Hempstead’s Rob Moore and the release of the aging Art Monk. Tight end Johnny Mitchell (snort) and backup running backs Brad Baxter, Richie Anderson and Adrian Murrell didn’t exactly throw fear into anyone. The most experienced wide receiver in camp? That would be second-year player Ryan Yarborough, he of the six career catches.

The Jets selected two wide receivers in the draft, but fourth-rounder Tyrone Davis ate his way to tight end (and caught two passes with the Jets in two years) and seventh-rounder Curtis Ceaser never caught an NFL pass. The Jets eventually acquired Charles Wilson from the Buccaneers, and his 45-catch season did nothing to disprove the notion that you’re not going to trade for a savior late in the summer.

Plus, even at 21, Chrebet had already spent his entire life proving people wrong and maximizing his slivers of opportunity. Chrebet wasn’t pursued after high school—his dad sent out videotapes to numerous colleges, a process he’d repeat with every NFL team following the 1994 season—and he was an afterthought in Manny Matsakis’ offense for most of his first two years.

Yet anyone who saw the guy over the course of the 1994 season could tell he had “it”—even if people have a hard time explaining what “it” is. I remember my dad, who gets excited about nothing, raving about Chrebet as we walked through the Student Center after Chrebet’s impressive performance in the Homecoming win over New Hampshire.

You can’t teach the toughness needed to climb from undrafted free agent to starter in the NFL. Nor can you teach the toughness needed to perform Chrebet’s non-glamorous yet essential job—the possession receiver who went over the middle on short yardage situations, absorbed the punishment and held on to the ball for the first down.

The guy who wasn’t supposed to make it past mid-August proved to be the ultimate survivor—and a prophetic one as well. “I plan on being here for a while,” Chrebet told Newsday in the summer of 1995.

Chrebet locked up a starting spot with five catches in the preseason finale against the Bengals. He caught his first touchdown pass in week two against the Colts, caught another one a week later against the Jaguars and made his most memorable catch against the Falcons in week four, when he outraced a bunch of defenders for a 31-yard gain before he was dragged down inside the five-yard-line. I remember hanging out at a bar near UConn, where we were celebrating a friend’s 21st birthday—hey, I told you there’s nothing to do there but drink—and when Chrebet’s play appeared on NFL Primetime I jumped up and started yelling about how I went to school with that guy.

He finished second on the Jets with 66 catches, all the while rooming with an ex-Hofstra teammate a few blocks west of campus. Chrebet finished first or second on the Jets in receptions seven times in his first eight seasons (in 2000, he finished third with 69 catches, one behind Curtis Martin) and was one of the few constants on the ever-tumultuous Jets.

The Jets drafted receivers with their first two picks in 1996—including this moronic “author”—and four more receivers over the next seven seasons. Chrebet outlasted them all (though Laveranues Coles came back to the Jets after two seasons with the Redskins). He caught passes from 13 different quarterbacks (including Martin against the Buccaneers and the “author” in 2000), played for four different head coaches and sported one of the best-selling uniforms in team history.

He was so good for so long that we eventually began to wonder what could have been for the guy who was never supposed to play a down in the NFL. The aftereffects of the multiple concussions he’d suffered—the “official” count is nine, which is a surely and frightfully conservative estimate—started piling up in 2001 and he caught just 73 passes while missing 17 games over his final three seasons.

He put off retirement following the 2003 and 2004 seasons before he had no choice after this. Chrebet once seemed destined to surpass Don Maynard as the top pass-catcher in team history, but he finished with 580 catches, 47 shy of the Hall of Famer.

In the end, the toughness that created an inspiring story also ensured it would have a conclusion as sad as it was inevitable. It’s easy, from here, to wonder why Chrebet kept going back for more until retirement was foisted upon him.

Most of us would spend the rest of our days with a smile plastered to our face if we ran made one catch and heard the appreciative roar of 80,000 fans. But we can’t comprehend the narcotic rush that must provide, nor why one catch is not enough. Or why 580 weren’t enough.

“If someone said I could play again,” Chrebet told the Newark Star-Ledger last September, “I’d be back out there tomorrow.”

Now you can only hope there’s not a sad coda to Chrebet's story. The Star-Ledger article—in which Chrebet talks of his awful memory, his inability to drive without a GPS and how he still regularly battles post-concussion malaise—paints a sobering and worrisome picture. And the pro football landscape is dotted with too many stories—some tragic—of players whose brains never recovered from the abuse they took on the field.

Chrebet made it clear to the Star-Ledger he has no regrets about his career and whatever price he may be paying. But still: You hope that, in his quiet moments, the guy who was never supposed to play an NFL snap doesn’t wonder what could have been if the summer of 1995 was the end instead of the beginning.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Channeling Carlos And Kharon

Bad news for the Flying Dutchmen Thursday as it was announced starting QB Bryan Savage—who was scratched minutes before last week’s opener against UConn after feeling numbness in his feet during warmups—will miss the year following surgery to repair a herniated disc. He’ll be replaced behind center by Cory Christopher, the Nassau Community College transfer who struggled during his short-notice start against the Huskies.

My desire to get back into following Hofstra football is one of the reasons I started this blog, so I won’t pretend to predict what the switch means to the Dutchmen’s chances. I will say that they’ll be in pretty good shape if Christopher can channel the spirit of Carlos Garay and Kharon Brown, who emerged from anonymity to become stars during the magical 1994 and 1995 seasons.

Brown, the Kansas transfer who backed up George Beisel and Garay in consecutive seasons before he threw for 17 touchdowns and rushed for almost 1,000 yards in leading Hofstra to the I-AA playoffs for the first time, was long viewed as a potential star who just needed a chance. Garay’s ascension was far more surprising. The versatile Garay was so low on the depth chart at quarterback in 1993 that he played running back and special teams—barely: He had four carries and three tackles before a dominant ’94 season (21 TDs/4 INTs) vaulted Hofstra into the top 25 and, eventually, earned Garay a handful of stints in the Arena Football League.

Of course, Garay is not the most famous pro football player from the ’94 squad. How’s that for a segue to a Wayne Chrebet post? Alas, it’ll have to wait until later this evening. As the 9-5 gig beckons in just a few hours. Stop back tonight and prepare for the first weekend of the NFL season (this Thursday night opener stuff is a joke, by the way) by looking back on Chrebet’s remarkable rise to Jets icon.

Edit: Check that. Stop back tomorrow evening, during a break in Hanna, for the Chrebet post. I spin it as wanting to save it for the first weekend of the NFL season, but the truth is it's been a busy day and my battery's just about empty.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Food For Thought

Long day today, as I’m in a 9-5 routine for a little while, so let’s jump straight into the letter I was saving for today and figure out a way to make it connect to sports as we go along.

Actually, first things first: Loyal reader P.J., who is much more experienced at this blogging thing than I am, points out that “E-mail on a blog is known as a comment.” Yeah but “comments, we get comments…” doesn’t roll off the tongue. We thank P.J. for reading and join him in hoping that the Phytins embarrass the Mets again this month!

Anyway, we got a cool comment the other day from “Mozzarella Fish Sticks,” which is the early leader in the clubhouse for the coolest screen name here. Writes Mozzarella: “Does Lackmann still serve those rubbery yet addicting Mozzarella Sticks? I ate those for dinner 5 out of 7 nights for three semesters in a row in the Ratt.”

First of all, who came up with the bright idea to bestow upon a campus eatery a name (Rathskellar) that could be shortened to mean a filthy rodent? I’d prefer it if the place was named after the guy who is still waiting to sleep with Stacy Hamilton or, perhaps, if it was named after the totally awesome hair metal band. And along those lines, thanks to Loyal Reader Mike, who pointed this out to me tonight (scroll all the way to the bottom). I have a new favorite Division I-A player.

Back to The Ratt. As most of you probably know, it’s located in the basement of the Student Center, and with Greek letters adorning the walls, has been the dining hall of choice for fraternities and sororities for generations. Since I spent most of my waking hours in the Student Center and could only take so many Hofstra Burgers that had grown hard as a rock sitting under a red hot lamp for 27 hours, I ate at the Ratt more than most independents. I never felt unwelcome there, though I can understand why other non-Greeks would.

I don’t remember the Mozzarella Sticks at the Ratt. I do remember ordering some truly awful pizza there, though, during my first few Friday nights on campus. Nobody partied like me! Then I discovered that Fezziwig’s didn’t card for Happy Hour and that was the end of Friday night pizza.

On the bright side, the Ratt made the freshest burgers this side of Hofstra USA and had a pretty good steak sandwich too. They’d also cook to order: I also remember when two friends, including this guy, went down there on Elvis’ birthday in 1995 or 1996 and asked for an Elvis sandwich. Minutes later, they were paying tribute to the King.

Mozzarella continues to wax nostalgic about Hofstra food: “The other two nights it was dry yet floppy subs for breakfast at 3:00 in the afternoon, at Dutch Treats. My arteries are clogged with Pennzoil, but it was worth it.”

Not having a car—and having a meal plan—helped conceal what a giant ripoff Dutch Treats was. What was the markup there on six-packs of Coke? Seven hundred percent? They did make a mean ham sandwich, though, which was my preferred meal during Monday Night Football, and it was a great place to use up points at the end of the semester. Of course, all the points in the world usually netted me a six-pack of Coke.

Here's my completely unofficial rundown of my favorite places to eat at Hofstra:

Hofstra USA: Great place to watch the late Sunday afternoon football games. Also the place I had my first legal drink in 1994.

Netherlands: As I noted earlier this week, it was home to steak night, where Sully Ray, myself and a bunch of other Chronicle staffers would put Chris Turk to shame every Wednesday night.

Lion’s Den: A hidden gem next to USA. My roommate, Loyal Reader John, and I used to assault that all-you-can-eat-buffet.

Hofstra Café: I think that’s what it was called, anyway. It was across from the Stadium and it was the only place on campus to buy a hot pretzel.

Student Center: They served a pretty good breakfast and all-you-can-eat pasta night on Tuesdays was a favorite tradition. Everything else? Ehh.

Bits-n-Bytes: We used to call it Bits-n-something-that-rhymes-with-Bits. Those fries were horrible. Indeed, the only thing good about B-n-S, err, B-n-B was its location. And even then I’d walk the Unispan to get something better.

Don’t get me going on Sbarro’s, which single-handedly disproved my notion that pizza, like baseball, was still pretty good even when it was bad.

We’ll allow Mozzarella to take us out. “This was back when smokes were $1.90 per pack at the HUB, so damn I feel old,” writes Mozzarella. Well, Mozzarella, how’s this for sticker shock. Doesn’t even leave someone enough money to buy a six-pack of Coke—inside or outside of Hofstra.

Well. That wasn't really about sports at all, was it? Come back tomorrow and I promise we'll have a sports-related post.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Emails, we get emails...

The last eight days have been a lot like my first eight days at Hofstra. Every day, I race to the mailbox, hoping to get a letter.

Of course, instead of racing with my feet to the bank of mailboxes outside the Resident Director’s office on the first floor of Vander Poel Hall, I race to the virtual post office with my fingers. I do, though, get The Sporting News’ digital newspaper delivered to my inbox every day, just like my roommate and I got the magazine weekly in 1993-94.

(Side topic: Am I the only one who is a little saddened by yet also a contributor to the demise of the handwritten letter? Discuss amongst yourselves)

I’m not expecting letters from my ex-girlfriend (good thing, since they didn’t arrive 15 years ago either). But just like I did in 1993, mail is trickling in—and once again, it’s neat to get it.

Back then, the letters were from friends back home. Today, they’re coming from some of those friends, The Very Best Friends I Met At Hofstra…and Beyond and even a stranger or two. Here’s a sampling in the first-ever Defiantly Dutch Mailbag.

Loyal Reader Todd, who thinks proofreading jokes are funny, wrote in last week wondering why Hofstra played Division III football until 1990 even though it was Division I in every other sport. Economically, it made sense for Hofstra and dozens of other D-I schools to field a football team in Division III, where no scholarships are awarded. But in 1990, the NCAA did away with allowing schools to compete in multiple divisions. Not surprisingly, most schools elected to upgrade their football programs, and since that ruling, the I-AA membership has more than doubled to 124. (It's catching! Check out how refers to I-AA)

Loyal reader “Gonzo Hofstra Fan” was kind enough to write in twice after the Flying Dutchmen got smoked by UConn Thursday. The not-so-near miss against the Huskies reminded Gonzo of the 1995 regular season finale, when Hofstra led Marshall late before falling, 30-28, in Huntington, W.V. I have fond memories of that game: It was the first time I ever traveled to a game by plane. And I remember my stomach doing flip-flops in the press box as Hofstra threatened to beat the most powerful I-AA program ever.

And I forgot, until I dug out the story I wrote about it, that the Dutchmen came back from a two-score deficit and might have won the damn thing if Nick Johnson hadn’t been flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for an overzealous celebration after he caught the go-ahead touchdown pass from Kharon Brown. Hofstra went for two and missed.

Gonzo also points out the quarterback for Marshall that day was a 19-year-old freshman named Chad Pennington, who went on to lead the Thundering Herd to the national championship game. I remember watching it Thanksgiving weekend with my dad and the two of us being shocked when Marshall, down 22-20 with time left for one play, attempted a 64-yard field goal—and missed badly—instead of trying to fire a Hail Mary. Of course, we didn’t know then what we know now.

Gonzo’s second note was about the men’s basketball team opening its season in the Charleston Classic. “At least in Clemson we’ll face a decent team to start the season.” Alas, that might be as good as Hofstra’s out-of-conference schedule gets. I’d heard the OOC would not impress anyone—especially these idiots—and some detective work by posters on Hofstra's board at seems to confirm it’ll be another less-than-imposing slate.

But Gonzo is willing to give Hofstra the benefit of the doubt: “Hofstra was supposed to be in the O'Reilly Auto Parts [do they own college hoops, or something] Puerto Rico Classic from Nov. 20-23, but backed out. Seton Hall opens with USC in that tournament and I suspect nobody from Hofstra wanted to be on the same island with Bobby Gonzalez for five days. Can't say I blame them.”

On that note…I’ve got another entertaining letter unrelated to sports I’m saving for tomorrow. See you then. And thanks as always for reading and for writing in and keep those emails coming. Unless, of course, you want to write handwrite a letter. In which case I’ve got to get a P.O. Box.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

J-E-T-S (Just Exiting This Campus)

I took this picture while on campus the other day and figured it would make for a neat picture for a post I’m writing about Wayne Chrebet’s surreal summer of ’95, which began with a security guard denying him entrance to the Jets’ complex because he didn’t think he was actually a football player and ended with Chrebet earning a spot in the starting lineup. (That post is coming later this week)

But I realized almost immediately that it’s a better summation of the end of Hofstra’s association with the Jets. The sun officially set on the 40-year relationship last week, when Gang Green packed up and made the 63-mile drive to its new palatial digs in Florham Park.

There’s no denying bigger and better and more important things than a football team will eventually take place on the land once occupied by the Jets. That said: For all the talk of the boost in recognition the presidential debate will give Hofstra, the truth is that the best free advertising school will ever have just bolted for the Garden State. Even if only half of the news reports about the Jets mentioned Hofstra, how many stories/standups is that? Hundreds. You watched clips on TV and tried to figure out if your dorm was in the background.

Hofstra, whose decision-makers spend every waking hour obsessing over publicity, could not pay for anything that effective. Especially 13 years ago, when Chrebet, an unsigned free agent from Hofstra, walked across the street and made the Jets.

Even before Chrebet became a star, untold numbers of people from outside the state knew of Hofstra as where the Jets practiced. I didn’t go to Hofstra because of the Jets connection, but I brought this book with me to campus because I was sure I’d see Ronnie Lott scarfing down a Hofstra Burger in the Student Center. In retrospect, of course, that was foolish. I blame the sitcoms of my youth, where famous people just randomly showed up to hang with normal folks like you and I.

Four decades at Hofstra made the Jets Long Island’s football team (and the closest thing we’ve had to a major professional sports franchise the last 15 years, that’s right, I’m not counting these guys). It also made the Jets the metro-area football team worthy of the New York moniker. If they didn’t play their home games in the state of New York, at least they practiced and were headquartered there.

Being a Jets fan isn’t easy—I’ve never rooted for the Jets, but having rooted for this historic loser, I know all about loyalty in the face of unrelenting bleakness—but there was an endearing accessibility at Hofstra, even under control freaks such as Bill Parcells and Eric Mangini.

I remember Long Island native Vinny Testaverde biking from Weeb Ewbank Hall to the Netherlands, where fans would gather for autographs as players entered the cafeteria (home of the best Hofstra tradition ever: Steak night on Wednesdays!). And as Newsday’s excellent Mark Herrmann wrote Sunday, dozens of Jets came from elsewhere but became Long Islanders.

Of course, it’s not the Jets’ job to publicize Hofstra. It’s just business and the Jets owe Hofstra nothing. But by picking up and moving to New Jersey, Woody Johnson proves he’s another guy who can spend a billion bucks buying and putting together a professional sports franchise but can’t buy a clue as to how to read his fan base. But hey, the Jets have more T&A than most teams! (A brilliant idea, given the Jerry Springer Show-like behavior exhibited by some Jets fans last year)

The Jersey move should also serve as a reminder that Johnson promised his tenure would be measured by his ability to give the Jets a home of their own…in New York. Page 564 of the Jets’ 2004 media guides includes and an artist’s rendering of the riverfront stadium the Jets expected to open on the West Side of Manhattan in 2009 and the promise that “[T]he Jets and their fans will finally have a home to call their own; a home that they have long deserved.”

So, of course, as of this writing, they’re localized entirely in New Jersey and preparing for a new stadium they’ll share with the Giants. It’s not all Johnson’s fault: Having been screwed by Cablevision, he does in fact have at least one thing in common with his Long Island-based fans. Still…if I’m rooting for the Jets, I see his failure to come through as he promised and I’m not exactly holding my breath on him bringing the Lombardi to New Jersey.

Oh sure, the Jets are spinning this as a victory and an opportunity to finally develop some identity. The name of the new stadium will go to the highest bidder—meaning, perhaps, the next generation of football fans won’t associate the Jets with Giants Stadium—and the place will be decked out in the colors and décor of whomever is hosting the game. And as part of the stadium deal, the Jets agreed to set up operations in New Jersey, which presents them a chance to establish a new tradition.

Except, of course, the one tradition the Jets had WAS Hofstra. Indeed, Hofstra was more a part of the Jets’ identity than the Jets were a part of Hofstra’s identity.

For nearly 50 years, the Jets have been the tri-state area’s nomadic franchise—too often leaderless and perpetually homeless. Their Super Bowl III win was perhaps the biggest upset in football history (surpassed seven months ago by this, I’d say), but it was more fluke than a sign of things to come for a seemingly star-crossed franchise known best for ineptitude and an amazing ability to grab defeat from the jaws of victory at the most gut-wrenching time. Like they did here. And here. And here.

The 2003 media guide commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Jets with five special then-and-now covers (Joe Namath/Chad Pennington, Ewbank/Herm Edwards, Freeman McNeil/Curtis Martin, Joe Klecko/John Abraham and Don Maynard/Chrebet) that only served as a reminder of how meager the Jets have been. In addition, 10 of the team’s 17 head coaches lasted two years or less, including the guy who wigged out after one day.

The Jets have been secondary citizens in their “own” stadia, and come the fall of 2010, when Giants Stadium follows the Polo Grounds (1960-63) and Shea Stadium (1964-83) by meeting thousands of sticks of dynamite, the Jets’ history will be a pile of rubble.

The one place the Jets could authentically call their own was the northeast portion of Hofstra’s campus. It’s the only place that paid homage to the Jets—and, as Herrmann noted, the only place that linked the Jets generations.

The Jets have a new home now, one that is as extravagant as it is empty. Left behind is Hofstra and the sprawling canvas they’d spent 40 years creating—one that was rarely impressive but always unique.

Hofstra went out on top, though, as the Jets’ final paint strokes provided the school one last splash of free advertising better than any promotional campaign it could have mustered. It’s hard to imagine anything that happens in New Jersey topping that. And even if Peyton Manning comes out of retirement in August 2015 to try and snap the Jets’ 46-year championship drought, big deal. In New Jersey, nobody tunes in to Jets reports to see if he can find Vander Poel Hall in the background.