Friday, October 31, 2008

Get your Freak Formal on!


While the rest of campus parties at the Freak Formal, Linus Van Pelt heads to the fields across the street from Hofstra USA to wait for the Great Pumpkin.

We’re not all about Hofstra sports here at Defiantly Dutch. We’re also about the Hofstra culture. Not the Cultural Center conferences on American icons or the Shakespeare Festival or any of the other performances at the John Adams Playhouse or even our kickin’ arboretum or anything like that.

No, today we are here to celebrate the true essence of Hofstra: The Freak Formal.

Nothing says Hofstra quite like the Freak, the annual Halloween party that, if 1993 through 1995 are any indication, will be held tomorrow night at Hofstra USA. Or maybe it was always the Saturday before Halloween, in which case this is hilariously late even by my standards.

(Hey what the hell else am I going to blog about today? Football? I can’t even muster up fake fury at my friend Chris Lang for predicting a lopsided loss this week for the Flying Dutchmen—not once but twice! The last time Hofstra went on the road to face a top 10 team, it lost 56-0 to James Madison. Probably won’t be that bad this week, but it won’t be good, either. Fourteen days until basketball. Giddyup.)

Looking back on it, the Freak Formal was really a disaster waiting to happen. People in costumes consuming copious amounts of cheap beer? It’s like a night at McHebe’s with an easy alibi. “No, that wasn’t me. I went there dressed as myself.”

Yet it provided some of my fondest memories and was one of the constants of my Hofstra tenure. Friends came and went and Jay Wright replaced VBK and Sbarro’s opened up in the Student Center and the Freshman Center turned into some kind of administrative building, but the Freak Formal was always there, the Saturday after Halloween (or maybe the Saturday before it), as steady and reliable as Daylight Savings Time (whoohoo, an extra hour of sleep!).

It was one of the few events to pack Hofstra USA (hey, this guy could only play once or twice a year), which always lagged behind the local bars in popularity. After all, who could turn down a free T-shirt and free plastic cup?

It pays to never throw anything out.

The Freak was also the most popular Hofstra event in northwest Connecticut. Every year, my best friend Randy came down for cheap beer and to sport an even cheaper costume. In 1993, he bought a black wig and went as Slash—this was 1993, when Guns-n-Roses had a new album out, there are words you’ll never read again, wait a minute, what’s coming out three weeks from Sunday?—except everyone thought he was Howard Stern, who had just released Private Parts.

Randy and my friend Scott came down the next year with my sister and her best friend and the five of us crammed into my single room in Vander Poel. Good times, except for when my sister skidded down the beer-soaked ramp. That was also the year Loyal Reader Rob (and this is a test to see if he really is a loyal reader) screwed up his knee in a pre-Freak football game and drowned his pain in the cheap beer.

My friend Dan joined Randy in 1995, when our arrival at the 1995 Freak was delayed as we watched Tom Glavine throw a one-hitter to win the World Series for the Atlanta Braves. That team’s going to be a dynasty, I can feel it! That was also the year Randy did away with the costume idea and got fake blood and put it on his face and went as a victim of a violent crime. Cause let’s face it…by that point, nobody was even pretending to go to the Freak Formal to play dress-up. Folks were going there for the cheap beer.

The Freak also served as a reminder that the fall semester was more than half over and that it was time to stop wearing shorts to class…or that it was time to start going to class. (That’s a test, too, to see if my family is among the loyal readers) It was also a sign of the approaching basketball season, back in the day when we wanted the football season to last as long as possible and just hoped for a reasonably painless basketball season. Yeah, things have changed a little in 15 years.

If you’re going to the Freak this weekend, have fun. (Or if you went last weekend…hope you had fun!) If I went, I’d be the guy dressed as Mary Beth Carey.

Other random Halloween stuff:

—I know there are a few of you out there who remember the best Halloween game ever played: Bears-Packers in a foggy, windy monsoon on Halloween night in 1994. I couldn’t find a clip of this game anywhere, but trust me, it was awesome.

Here’s the best horror movie released in the Defiantly Dutch Era. Scream, released in late 1996, would have won easily had it only taken me three extra semesters to graduate instead of two.

This my favorite horror movie ever. There’s not enough money in the world (especially now) to get me to say that word five times in front of a mirror. Let’s not talk about the sequels, though.

—Apparently there are people in the world with even more time on their hands than me. Here’s the real thing.

—Save me some Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups tonight. But don’t hand out mini-packs of Good n’ Plenty, which are neither good nor plentiful. Discuss amongst yourselves.

Email Jerry at defiantlydutch@yahoo.com.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Shirts…Skins! Shirts…Skins!

None of the new kids tried to back out of the scrimmage by feigning stomach cramps. Nor are any of them girls dressing up like dudes to prove they lost a journalism competition because of sexism. Seriously, has there ever been a better movie than Just One Of The Guys?

If you had the White team giving 3 ½…you win! The White team outlasted the Blue team, 43-39, in a scrimmage Wednesday night in front of a few dozen of us at the Arena. White outscored Blue 10-1 down the stretch to come back from a five-point deficit.

It’s late (or early, for everybody else), so here are some (fairly) quick thoughts on the scrimmage. I tried to keep score, but I know I missed a couple buckets, so my numbers are unofficial.

—The starting lineups: Greg Washington, Greg Johnson, Cornelius Vines, Dane Johnson and Zygis Sestokas started for White against Charles Jenkins, Tony Dennison, Darren Townes, Nathaniel Lester and Miklos Szabo. Mike Davis-Saab came off the bench for White while Arminas Urbutis and David Vallins came off the bench for Blue. Each half was 12 minutes.

—Jenkins, already the go-to guy and the face of the program as a sophomore, is the real deal. Jenkins, whose image adorns the season ticket brochure as well as the schedules that were available Wednesday (no pocket schedules yet, but he’ll surely be on those, too), did his usual filling of the box score—by my count, he had 17 points, including three 3-pointers, and one of the niftiest assists of the night when he fed a bounce pass to Townes, who was streaking across the baseline and hit the layup—while also emerging as the clear leader on the floor. He was the one assembling his teammates during stoppages in play and providing quick pointers or encouragement. He also looks as if he added some muscle, and he already looked a lot sturdier than Loren Stokes. Second-team All-CAA may be selling him short.

—Szabo, a native of Hungary who played the last two years at Broward Community College (JUCO alma mater of Adrian Uter), could be a beast. He was guarding Dane Johnson, who had at least an inch and 15 pounds on him, but Szabo barely let him breathe. He is, as football coaches like to say, a max-effort guy. Szabo also looks as if he can generate points inside or outside, a la Aurimas Kieza. But at 6-foot-9 and 250 pounds Szabo is much broader than Kieza, who was 6-foot-8 and 215 pounds.

—Greg Johnson looked OK running the point. He’s driven us all a little crazy with his inconsistency—he shot 31.2 percent from the field and had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.3 last year—but he kept the mistakes to a minimum and seemed content to set up everybody else Wednesday. He’s my pick for this year’s Roberto Gittens—the guy who turns it on midway through his senior season and puts up the type of performance he’s only occasionally hinted at the previous three-and-a-half years.

—Dane Johnson looks as if he’s kept off the 40 pounds he lost last year and warmed up offensively (six points) after a slow start. He seemed to run the floor more comfortably than last year, when he was battling various knee issues, but at 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds, he’s still the one big guy who will be deployed almost exclusively down low.

—Washington is still a work in progress, but he looks much-improved on offense. He missed a couple put backs early in the first half but hit a baby sky hook as well as a 15-footer and was 5-of-6 from the free throw line—pretty freakin' impressive considering he was 3-of-17 from the line during the regular season. You read that right. The fundamentally obsessed among us hope the rest of the team improved its free throw shooting as much as Washington: The Dutchmen shot just 67 percent from the line during the regular season last year, ninth-best in the CAA.

—Townes was, like usual, quietly steady. I thought he was the most underrated player on last year’s team, when he averaged eight points and 6.7 rebounds per game—fun fact: Uter averaged 6.2 points and 5.2 rebounds in his first season in 2004-05—and he provided more of the same Wednesday with eight points and solid defense. It seems as if he’s getting overlooked with all the new faces on the roster, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he matches or exceeds the 23 starts he registered last year.

—Vines, a transfer from Iowa Lakes Community College, has an Agudio-like unconsciousness from outside. He had 15 points, including three 3-pointers, but went cold in the middle of the scrimmage before he made a key steal late to give White a 41-38 lead. It’s very early, obviously, but he looks like a guy who could end up replacing a lot of Agudio’s production.

—Dennison, a 6-foot-3 transfer from Broward, did his best Stokes impersonation by mixing it up with the really big guys: He committed a charge on Davis-Saab, fouled Washington and blocked a shot by Dane Johnson. But he was also victimized by Vines for the pivotal steal in the final minute. He’ll be an intriguing one to watch.

—I was really curious to see how Lester and Sestokas, each of whom seemed to lack confidence at times last season, fared. Both ran hot and cold: Lester had seven points but committed a couple turnovers while Sestokas nailed his first three, missed three in a row but ended the night by draining his last two attempts.

—It seems as if the coaching staff is bringing Urbutis along slowly. He missed 11 games last year due to knee woes and had a quiet scrimmage. My guess is the staff would be happy if he can provide some depth in the first half before relying on him more in the second half.

—I’ve always liked Davis-Saab, who maximizes his 6-foot-7 frame down low, but he exceeded 12 minutes in a game just seven time last year and seems to be the odd man out again in the big man rotation this year. Vallins looked solid in his limited duty but I imagine we won’t see much of the walk-on after Old Westbury.

—Very cool touch: After the scrimmage, Tom Pecora sent the players up to thank and shake the hands of the fans. I’m going to assume that didn’t happen at North Carolina last weekend.

—BTW, Tina Turner’s video “The Best”—a Senior Day staple—was on as I wrote this. Yeah, I get goose bumpy and a little lump in the throat every time it plays at the Arena. Yes, I am a sentimental dork. Let’s move on.

—After the scrimmage, I drove by the Hofstra Soccer Stadium and decided to stop by to watch the final few minutes of what turned out to be a 2-2 tie against Towson. The last time I saw a soccer game at Hofstra, the programs were playing on the same field as the Intramural Department. Pretty impressive digs.

Alas, the following sentence will anger the soccer fans in the audience: It was cold and nobody scored while I was watching, which pretty much sums up every soccer game I’ve ever seen. Of course, I got home and learned I’d just missed seeing three goals scored in the span of 38 seconds, which I think is rarer than seeing a no-hitter. Of course, I missed one of those too during my final week at Hofstra. Damn you Doc.

Email Jerry at defiantlydutch@yahoo.com.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

No knock on Agudio if Dutch are better without him


Two hundred and forty-two days after Antonie Agudio played his final game at Hofstra Arena, we get a glimpse tonight of how the Flying Dutchmen will look without the most prolific scorer in school history when the Blue/White Scrimmage takes place at 8. Michael Litos had a really interesting post last week in which he wrote that the Flying Dutchmen will need multiple players to replace Agudio’s scoring yet may not find him irreplaceable:

Don’t get me wrong, Agudio was a great scorer. What I mean is that while Agudio may have filled up the hoop, he wasn’t the best player. I think he may have had about three double-doubles his entire career. I’d bet Carlos Rivera had more dub-dubs. And Loren Stokes? Fuggetaboutit. Those guys made everyone better.

Mike's instincts were right: Agudio had just one double-double in 122 career games (he had 30 points and 10 rebounds in a 70-68 win over Charlotte last Dec. 15). Stokes had eight double-doubles (three in ’06-07, two in ’05-06 and ’04-05 and one in ’03-04) while Rivera had four (one in ’06-07, two in ’05-06 and one in ’03-04).

And Mike is correct in contending that Agudio wasn’t as impressive an all-around player as Stokes or Rivera. But that’s fine. He wasn’t a bruised-and-battered slasher like Stokes and he wasn’t a do-everything point guard like Rivera. He was a cold-blooded outside shooter, and nobody ever did it any better at Hofstra than Agudio, who finished his career, appropriately enough, with 357 three-pointers.

If he missed his first 10 shots, you didn’t want to see him anchored to the bench. You wanted his teammates to keep feeding him the ball because you felt as if he’d find his stroke in the next 10 shots.

Stokes and Rivera certainly made everyone better, including Agudio. Nobody noticed who or what he wasn’t when he was surrounded by those two stars. And while the Flying Dutchmen missed the versatile play of Stokes and Rivera last year, I don’t think Hofstra even reaches double digits in victories without Agudio providing a foundation for a team in transition.

And this isn't directed at Mike, but I also think the perception of Agudio is skewed a bit by fate: Had he not broken his hand in a season-opening exhibition in 2003-04, he doesn’t get redshirted and he graduates with Stokes and Rivera as one-third of a phenomenal senior class. (And in that case, Steve Nisenson probably still holds the school scoring record) But because he had an extra year, the final memory of Agudio is as the key member of the Flying Dutchmen’s disappointing 2007-08 season, not as part of the group that thrust Hofstra on to the national stage.

All that said, I won’t be surprised at all if the Flying Dutchmen are much better in the first year of the post-Agudio era. I think this could be the most diverse team Pecora’s ever coached, one that won’t be nearly as reliant on guard play and can create points inside as well as outside. I don’t think Pecora, who has long loved running the offense around fleet guard play, has gotten enough credit for adapting his philosophies and recognizing how valuable front court depth can be at the mid-major level. Adrian Uter and Aurimas Kieza were tremendous in 2005-06, but there wasn’t much behind them.

The Flying Dutchmen have six players listed at 6-foot-7 or taller. It’s not the first time Hofstra’s had several big bodies, but the first time it feels like every single one of the big guys can be contributors. So it’ll be particularly interesting to see how returnees Greg Washington, Dane Johnson, Darren Townes, Mike Davis-Saab and Arminas Urbutis and transfer Miklos Szabo look tonight.

If you’re going, see you there. I’ll be the guy yelling about Chris Johnke.

Email Jerry at defiantlydutch@yahoo.com.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Let me tell you about the I-A fans. They are different from you and me.

I don't know. Hofstra USA?

Spent the weekend in Connecticut catching up with my best friend from childhood Scott, who was visiting the Nutmeg State for the first time since the Flying Dutchmen were in their second year of I-AA (hint: it was also the year of the Spin Doctors, Temple of the Dog and Firehouse’s last, brilliant gasp in the face of the alternative rock revolution). A great time was had by all, especially when the CAA scores began to appear on the scroll during the Texas-Oklahoma State game.

“Shhh!” I said. Why did I do that? Seriously. It’s not like I couldn’t READ the screen even if everyone else in the room was screaming.

“The CAA scores are coming on,” I said. “I want to see how my alma mater did.”

James Madison 23, Villanova 19…nice win for the no. 1 team in the land…New Hampshire 42, Towson 14…further proving Hofstra had no shot at making the CAA North interesting…Maine 20, Northeastern 0…Maine is damn good all of a sudden…William & Mary 34, Rhode Island 24…geez the suspense is killing me…Richmond 48, Georgetown 0…isn’t it awfully late in the season for non-conference games…UMass 42, Bryant 7…guess I must have missed the Hofstra score…

Delaware 17, Hofstra 0.

I groaned and sunk into the couch as my friend and his brother started roaring. “Shut out!” Scott said. “That’s brutal.”

“You have no idea,” I said, wishing I had my media guide with me so I could figure out just how long it’s been since Hofstra was shutout twice in the same season (1977. Fordham and C.W. Post. It was the year of Star Wars, Saturday Night Fever and “You Light Up My Life.” As awesome as the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack is, do not tell me, ever, that the ‘70s were better than the ‘80s.)

Scott had another laugh and then we moved on to talking about the battle for Big 10 (where they have trouble counting, but are still better off than the Atlantic 10) supremacy between Ohio State and Penn State. Texas vs. Oklahoma State pitted two top six teams against one another, but Scott was about as interested in the Big XII clash (hey, give them credit, at least they’ve moved beyond the Big 8 moniker) as he would be in some no-name opening act at a concert.

Scott’s a big Ohio State fan. Huge. Enormous. I’m talking so rabid he makes me look like I don’t know the first thing about Hofstra. It was pretty cool watching Penn State-Ohio State to get an idea of what it’s like to live in an area where college football is king, even with a college basketball team that’s reached an NCAA final and won the NIT in the last two years.

Ohio State fans are used to watching their team play in a sold-out 100,000-seat stadium in prime time. I’ve rarely heard venom for a rival like I heard from Scott whenever the word “Michigan” was mentioned.

And every game has national championship implications, thanks to the nonsensical BCS. One loss is damaging, two losses is usually impossible to overcome—especially for Ohio State, which fell 13-6 Saturday to unbeaten Penn State and can forget about a third straight appearance in the title game. On Sunday, Scott said he had a hard time sleeping Saturday because he was so disappointed by the loss. (Oh well, at least Ohio State hasn’t been shut out twice in a season since 1964)

It’s a little different for us. We pine for the days when SportsChannel carried Hofstra on Friday nights or Saturday afternoons. I’m kind of nostalgic for Towson and Delaware, even though they handed the Flying Dutchmen their most heartbreaking losses—and ties—during the halcyon ’94 and ’95 seasons. And our passion is basketball, which has inspired its share of sleepless nights and loathsome thoughts.

Of course, rooting for a I-AA team has its benefits. We can stroll into Shuart Stadium 15 minutes before kickoff and land a seat on the 50-yard-line. And playing I-AA means Hofstra can afford at least three losses and still entertain national championship hopes. (Not five losses, though)

Alas, Scott and I are in the same situation after Saturday: Looking to next season. Fortunately, for Hofstra fans, it starts Wednesday, sort of, with the Blue-White Scrimmage. Bring on hoops. Pronto.

***

That said, I can’t NOT mention the biggest kick in the, well, you know, about the loss Saturday: Delaware scored more touchdowns against Hofstra (two) than it had scored in its previous 11 quarters (one). And the Blue Hens did it with a tight end and a wide receiver playing quarterback.

According to this game story from the Delaware sports information department, the Blue Hens went with the unusual two-headed QB because they’re down to a third-stringer who is not yet familiar with the offense. I imagine it’s ironic, in the sense that it’s not ironic at all, that Delaware beat Hofstra on the day the Flying Dutchmen’s third-string quarterback, freshman Steve Probst, made his first start.

Probst played impressively in relief of Cory Christopher against Maine Oct. 18, but the wind and the rain and Delaware’s blitzing defense made for a miserable day for Probst, who was 11-of-28 for 71 yards and two interceptions. His longest completion was 14 yards and he was sacked five times.

Hofstra had just 179 yards of total offense, yet the Flying Dutchmen had plenty of chances to score: They moved the ball inside the Delaware 35-yard-line in five of their final six possession.

Oh and how’s this for tying everything together nicely? Delaware’s win ended a three-game losing streak and ensured the Blue Hens would remain one of only two Division I or I-AA teams without a four-game losing streak in the last 40 years. The other? That’s right. Ohio State. Sigh. Only 17 days until the basketball season opener!

Email Jerry at defiantlydutch@yahoo.com.

Friday, October 24, 2008

It's never too early to obsess over polls (UPDATED)

That's two classic '90s NBC sitcoms in two days. Next week: A picture from Boston Common!

If you’re like me, Matt Christopher books weren’t the only things you devoured as a kid. You also consumed every baseball and football preview magazine you could find. The baseball guides provided a hint of summer during the bleak winter. And the football guides made it easy to pine for fall even in the middle of a heat wave.

I’d carry those things with me everywhere I went. There was always more information to be gleaned, something else to learn, an appetite that needed further whetting.

The Internet and the age of instant information has considerably thinned the field of preview magazines (and forced some long-standing titles to merge in order to survive) and largely rendered the content outdated by the time it hits the shelves. But my interest in preview magazines has been renewed by this blog and the glimmer of hope college basketball provides in the midst of a rebuilding football season.

Well, to a degree anyway: Those magazines are pricey, so I just jot down the CAA predictions on a piece of paper. Yes. I am ashamed. But at least I never bring the magazines into the bookstore bathroom. Let’s move on.

Along those lines—and because obsessing over poll results seems to be the in thing to do these days—I’ve decided to keep a running tally of the CAA predictions from every possible source. I’ve read five previews thus far and I’ll update these as new predictions roll in. I figure it’ll serve two purposes: Pass the time while giving us a good idea of the consensus heading into the season as well as providing us something to look back on come March.

One note about the polling: Instead of awarding 12 points to the first-place team and one to the last-place team, I will pay homage to my days as a mediocre cross-country runner by awarding each team the number of points correspondent with its finish in the predictions. So low is good and high is bad.

Without further ado:

1.) VCU (5) 5
2.) Northeastern 17
3.) Old Dominion 18
4.) George Mason 20
5.) Delaware 25
6.) Georgia State 33
7.) Hofstra 37
8.) James Madison 39
9.) William & Mary 46
9.) UNC-Wilmington 46
11.) Towson 50
12.) Drexel 54

First-place votes in parenthesis
Polls compiled thus far: CAA, Blue Ribbon, Sporting News, Lindy’s, Athlon

Some trends:
—Hofstra is ranked anywhere from sixth (Athlon) to ninth (Sporting News). The Flying Dutchmen also collected two seventh-place votes (CAA and Lindy’s) and an eighth-place vote from Blue Ribbon, though Michael Litos has said he thinks he underestimated Hofstra and adds, in this blog post, that the Dutchmen could finish anywhere from fourth to ninth. Clearly, he’s a smart man and wants nothing to do with the Fake Seth Meyers treatment.

—Northeastern and Old Dominion are each ranked in the top three in all but one poll. Northeastern is ranked sixth by Sporting News—no The anymore, apparently—while ODU is ranked eighth by Lindy’s.

—George Mason is ranked second or fourth in four of five polls (and sixth by Lindy’s).

—Aside from VCU, only one school has been selected in the same spot Delaware. David Henderson has no idea why he just did a spit-take.

—The team with the most fluidity is Georgia State, which is ranked second (Lindy’s), sixth (CAA and Blue Ribbon), seventh (Athlon) and 12th (Sporting News).

—James Madison is ranked eighth or ninth by everyone except Lindy’s (fourth).

—William & Mary and Towson are ranked in the bottom half in all five polls. UNC Wilmington is tied for ninth overall thanks to a fourth-place vote from Sporting News. Everyone else has the Seahawks eighth or lower.

—And Drexel is to the CAA what I was to the cross-country team at Torrington High. The Dragons are ranked in the bottom quarter by everyone—one vote apiece for ninth, 10th and 11th and two for 12th—and are the only squad to receive multiple last-place votes.

In other news: Loyal reader Brian, the Mason beat writer for the News & Messenger in Virginia—fortunately for him, I am among the one-half of one percent of the population that realizes that just because you cover a team doesn’t mean you root for it—covered Media Day Wednesday and reports that, like usual, Tom Pecora can work a room as well as those two guys who occupied the Arena nine days ago:

“I did have a chance to sit down with Pecora for a few minutes for a story unrelated to this season. And I must say, for a paper that he has absolutely no use for, he’s been awfully kind to me. ‘Let me know if you need anything,’ he said. So I will not speak badly of the man.”

Two thoughts there:

1.) Smart move.

2.) And it looks like the Potomac News has more use for Pecora than Newsday, which doesn’t seem to have staffed Media Day. There was no Hofstra basketball story in the paper either Thursday or Friday. Doesn’t mean the paper didn’t have someone down there to collect information and quotes for future usage, but it doesn’t look good, either.

Newsday did, though, have two stories on the football team this week. I’ll link those with some brief football commentary before the game tomorrow.

EDIT: And here are the links about the spate of injuries suffered by the Flying Dutchmen as well as the overflowing confidence enjoyed by new starting QB Steve Probst. Sorry but it’s been a crazy week with deadline work. Back to a regular Monday through Friday posting next week.

As for today: The inexperienced Hofstra offense and the lousy conditions—it’s windy as I type this and the skies are supposed to open sooner than later—suggests a defensive tussle today. But Probst seemed to run the offense like a pro when he replaced Cory Christopher last week and Delaware has scored two touchdowns in the last three weeks. So let’s say Hofstra hangs on the fringe of the CAA North for another week with a 24-14 win.

Email Jerry at defiantlydutch@yahoo.com.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Seven...Seven...Seven!!

If only the rest of the world was as enthusiastic about Hofstra's chances this year as Monica Geller.

In the middle of some other deadline work here (no, really, I swear), so just a quick post to mention that Hofstra was picked seventh in the CAA preseason poll, released today at CAA Media Day in D.C. The poll is comprised of CAA coaches, sports information directors and media.

The complete poll:
1.) VCU
2.) Northeastern
3.) ODU
4.) George Mason
5.) Delaware
6.) Georgia State
7.) Hofstra
8.) William & Mary
9.) James Madison
10.) Towson
11.) UNC-Wilmington
12.) Drexel

Seven is right in line with where the other preview magazines have pegged the Flying Dutchmen thus far. Hofstra is picked to finish sixth by Athlon, seventh by Lindy's, eighth by Blue Ribbon Yearbook and ninth by Sporting News. Many more predictions to come, of course.

Also, Flying Dutchmen guard Charles Jenkins was selected to the second team All-CAA.

I'll return later tonight or early tomorrow with more thoughts on the preseason polls.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

No, we're not talking about THAT Triumph

I wonder if these guys ever played the PFC.

This, that and the other thing while I check my watch and impatiently wait to see where the Flying Dutchmen basketball team will land in the CAA pre-season poll, which will be released during the conference’s Media Day Wednesday:

***

I’m not sure what would have sounded more unbelievable during the fall of 1993: That the campus I was inhabiting would someday host a presidential debate, that neophyte talk show host Conan O’Brien would someday replace Jay Leno as the host of The Tonight Show (if you want to remember just how overmatched O’Brien appeared, check out his debut monologue from Sept. 13, 1993…he reminds me of me flopping miserably in speech class) or that a puppet dog who appears on O’Brien show and talks about his poop would one day invade the Physical Fitness Center.

For the purposes of this post, I’ll say “C.” Triumph the Insult Comic Dog defiled what used to be the rockingest house in the NAC Wednesday, when he and the Fake Mr. Met patrolled the spin room in the PFC (Triumph begins around the 11:45 mark). Fun fact: This bit aired a mere three hours after Fake Seth Meyers dogged Hofstra. SNL and Triumph mocking Hofstra on the same night: Now THAT’S publicity you can’t buy!!!

I should preface this by saying Triumph makes me laugh. His appearances on Conan are can’t-miss affairs (and I almost missed this one, too, thank you very much historic Red Sox comeback!). Triumph’s routine with fans lining up weeks ahead of time for the return of Star Wars in 1999 is the funniest thing I have ever seen. I mean, ever. If you don’t agree, you’re wrong. And the skit Thursday cracked me up several times, especially the image of Mr. Met floating behind Fox News Channel anchor Greta Van Susteren.

Plus, let’s face it: The more we’re able to laugh at this whole process, the better.

All that said: Isn’t a presidential debate a little too serious for the Triumphs of the world? I get annoyed by buffoons who somehow obtain press passes to the Super Bowl and World Series at the expense of people who, you know, actually work. (Dear Tom Arnold, who managed to make a tool of himself while the Florida Marlins celebrated their 2003 World Championship: You do not deserve a press pass. Ever.)

In the end, of course, you can’t get too wrapped up about the Tom Arnolds and Julie Browns of the world, because it’s just sports. And, sure, Triumph didn’t spring up behind Bob Schieffer and ask a question of John McCain and Barack Obama.

But still…this is the most pivotal election in American history. You’d think the powers that be—and according to this link from 2004, it’s the Commission on Presidential Debates that credentials reporters to the debates—would think twice about intentionally diminishing the solemnity of the event and inviting on-site mocking for the host schools by credentialing a puppet dog who ended his routine by pretending to hump a baseball mascot.

While I laughed at the line, I can’t imagine Stuart Rabinowitz was thrilled with Triumph’s crack at the school: “The best America has to offer has descended upon Hofstra University. Yes, Hofstra University: The place DeVry applicants use as a safety school!” Or maybe it’ll all be worth it when 52 percent of incoming freshmen in the fall of 2009 say they heard about Hofstra from Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.

***

Unlucky timing of the year award goes to the Flying Dutchwomen field hockey team, which had to play Columbia Wednesday night while the rest of the campus reveled in its 15 minutes of international fame. Making matters worse was the 3-0 loss the Dutchwomen suffered—the fourth defeat in their current five-game losing streak.

***

We got another whiff of the big time Wednesday when Newsday.com linked our Wednesday post about the questions I’d ask if I was moderating the debate. Thanks to Newsday.com as well as loyal reader KAC, who found the link. I don’t want you to think I sit around all day, using Google News’ “blog search” to find mentions of Defiantly Dutch. I do that all night, thank you very much.

***

Defiantly Dutch has made its first purchase. I can’t believe this page was available at pro-football-reference.com. I call this $15 well-spent.

***

And I’ll further whet your (and my) appetite for the CAA predictions by mentioning a couple preseason polls/predictions. Collegehoops.net is asking fans to pick the CAA winner: George Mason, Northwestern, ODU, VCU or “other.” VCU is the leader so far. Also check out the Q&A there with Tom Pecora.

And CAA blogger extraordinaire Michael Litos has penned the CAA preview for The Blue Ribbon Yearbook and picked Hofstra eighth. (No link to the content, just to a website where you can buy the Yearbook…not giving the goods away for free online, what a concept) Litos explains on the CAA Zone message boards that he sees the Flying Dutchmen as a sleeper in the conference and that he’d pick them as high as sixth if he was writing the article now. Well, not right now. He’s probably sleeping right now, like most normal people.

Email Jerry at defiantlydutch@yahoo.com.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Arrrgh. We still passionately loathe you, Seth Meyers

This is about Hofstra's football nightmare, not one endured by Fake Seth Meyers. Sigh.

If you’re like me (I’m sorry) then you spent your childhood wolfing down the Matt Christopher sports books and learning that hard work and humility triumphed over the bad guys every single time. The Christopher books eventually beget various good-guys-win books purchased via the East School book club which eventually beget a real-life appreciation of the underdog.

I didn’t see the U.S. Olympic ice hockey team shock the big, bad Russians in 1980—actually, nobody saw it live, imagine that—but I remember walking around school chanting “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” One of the great memories of my youth is begging and pleading my parents to let me stay up and watch the 1983 NCAA Tournament championship game between North Carolina State and Houston, won, of course, at the buzzer by N.C. State when Lorenzo Charles dunked Dereck Whittenburg’s air ball. Two years later, Villanova truly scored one for good over evil by shocking Georgetown with The Perfect Game.

Of course, as you get older, you realize that life isn’t as neat and tidy as it is in fiction and that the bad guys quite often win. And if you didn’t know this, dear Hofstra fan, you sure as hell learned it in 2006.

(Of course, if you’re a fan of the Tampa Bay Rays, you’re thinking today that reality does match fiction. But you’re probably also a front-runner. Once baseball season is over, you can start watching the Tennessee Titans!)

The point of all this: We were reminded again this weekend, at Defiantly Dutch HQ, that the bad guys win most of the time as injury-wracked Flying Dutchmen football team lost to Maine 41-40 in double overtime (recap from the Bangor newspaper), Northwestern destroyed Purdue 48-26 and moved into the top 25 in the coaches poll and Big Fat Stupidhead Seth Meyers continued to raise his profile on a suddenly resurgent Saturday Night Live.

It’s not right, you know. Hofstra should have begun its inspiring, let’s-do-it-in-spite-of-Fake-Seth-Meyers run to the I-AA national championship by knocking off Maine, especially after the Flying Dutchmen fell behind 13-0 less than three minutes into the game and came back to take a 17-13 lead before a spate of injuries—including the worst-case yet almost unavoidable scenario involving Cory Christopher—forced Dave Cohen to rebuild the offense on the fly.

Christopher, who had taken every snap this season because his only backups were freshmen Steve Probst and Joe Sidaris, both of whom Dave Cohen hoped to redshirt, was hurt in the second quarter and replaced by Probst (who can probably now look forward to a redshirt season in 2009). Running backs Brock Jackolski, the freshman whiz kid, and Justine Buries, the grad student and former New Mexico State player, were also hurt.

Yet Probst (135 yards and three TDs passing, 63 yards rushing) directed a game-tying drive early in the fourth quarter and the Flying Dutchmen created a miracle turnover in the final minute—freshman Chris Edmond, who made a team-high 13 tackles, stripped Maine quarterback Mike Brusko of the ball at the six-yard-line following an 18-yard gain and Ray McDonough recovered it—to force overtime.

Probst threw two TDs in overtime, but Roger Williams missed the PAT following the second score and Maine scored on the first play of its second possession and nailed the subsequent PAT to win it for the Black Bears.

The loss was doubly disappointing for the Flying Dutchmen because a win would have catapulted them into a tie atop the CAA North with New Hampshire. Of course, there are no playoff berths for winning one half of the CAA. Nor do I have any misconceptions of Hofstra’s season lasting beyond Nov. 22, especially with three top 20 teams still awaiting the Flying Dutchmen in November. But still, to be in first place in the North more than halfway through the season—and with a winnable game against reeling Delaware coming up Saturday—would have been a pleasant surprise given the given the rebuilding nature of this season.

The rebuilding just got a little steeper, as well, if Christopher is out for an extended period of time. While it was encouraging to see (or, in this case, read) Probst acquit himself well off the bench, Dave Cohen and offensive coordinator David Patenaude have a pretty big challenge in figuring out what to do over the final five games.

The Flying Dutchmen haven’t really established an identity on offense. The only player to carry the ball more than 20 times in a game has been Christopher, and we all saw how that worked out. Yet the staff has been reluctant to overwork Jackolski (understandable, since he appeared headed for a redshirt year himself two months ago) and Everett Benjamin, who played well after moving to tailback from fullback Saturday and scored the go-ahead TD in the second OT, has exceeded 11 carries just three times in his first 19 collegiate games.

Cohen surely doesn’t want to burn another redshirt, so the goal should be to keep Probst upright (and, perhaps, to scour campus to see if someone wants to walk on and hand the ball off if something happens to Probst) and hope that he develops chemistry in a hurry with receivers Ottis Lewis and Anthony Nelson, who caught 11 of Probst’s 14 completions.

It probably won’t result in a return to the Gardi-era shootouts, or allow us to get the last laugh at Fake Seth Meyers. But at this point, the goal for the Flying Dutchmen should be to get into 2009 in one piece—or as close to it as possible.

Email Jerry at defiantlydutch@yahoo.com.

Friday, October 17, 2008

We hate you Seth Meyers!!!

(not you, Seth)

(Seth Meyers, his face frozen in a terrified smile, begs and prays for mercy after the fury of the full Defiantly Dutch readership is unleashed upon him)

Just like Wednesday afternoon, when I was watching Beverly Hills 90210 as Chuck Todd became the official political analyst of Defiantly Dutch, I did not see the moment Thursday night when Saturday Night Live Weekend Update co-anchor Seth Meyers became the official Big Fat Stupidhead of Defiantly Dutch.

I was watching the Tampa Bay Rays (do you think there’s a blog in Tampa called Defiantly Devil Rays? Me neither) finish off their destruction of the Red Sox in the ALCS (I mean, hell, up 7-0 in the seventh inning, there’s no way they can lose that one, right?) when the emails and instant messages started tumbling in about Meyers dogging Hofstra.

I was ticked off I’d missed it…for about 12 seconds, until I realized I’d be able to find a replay no later than this morning on nbc.com. Seriously, remember the days when you had one chance to watch something and that was it? Remember the vaguely empty feeling you had when you missed some cultural touchstone moment and realized that no matter how many times you heard it recounted from your friends, you wouldn’t know EXACTLY what they were talking about until the program re-aired or the clip in question ended up on some snarky VH-1 show years later?

What was life like before we could just call up clips on the computer? I’m pretty sure it was terrible, and nobody was happy, and St. John’s regularly beat Hofstra in men’s basketball.

Anyway, here’s what Big Fat Stupidhead had to say:

“I like how the candidates always thank the host school. Even though we all know they have nothing better going on. What else were they going to do? What were they going to do at Hofstra last night? Was the a capella group going to sing? I mean, it’s college football season. We’re talking about Hofstra, for goodness sakes!”

First off, Seth CLEARLY doesn’t know of that bar in one of the suburbs (Mineola?) that used to bus kids to and from Hofstra on Wednesday nights in the fall of ‘93. Damn if I can remember the name of it, since by that point I was already spending Wednesdays in The Chronicle office. But this bar used to paper the dorms with advertisements, at least until it was shut down (color me shocked, a bar that advertised GET DRUNK ON WEDNESDAYS!!! got busted for serving underage kids) and I remember future Chroniclers stumbling into the office to drunkenly annoy the rest of us sober dorks.

Oh yes, and how can we forget the best thing to do at Hofstra on Wednesday nights: Nurse a stomach ache from Steak and Steak Night at the Netherlands. So yes, Seth. There IS something to do at Hofstra on Wednesday nights. Or was. Probably.

As for the college football crack...well, hey, we all can’t go to Northwestern, home of the LOSINGEST football team in HISTORY. We all can’t go to Northwestern, whose football team hasn’t won a postseason game since 19freaking49. Hofstra is 4-12 in the postseason in that time. Four and twelve!!! Take that!

And we all can’t go to Northwestern, whose football team pulled a choke even the Rays could not match by being on the wrong end of the biggest comeback in college football history when it blew a 35-point lead in a 41-38 loss to Michigan State in 2006. And no, Hofstra fans have never stormed the field at Shuart Stadium, but that also means we never stormed the field after we set the record for MOST CONSECUTIVE LOSSES EVER!!! Nor do we storm the field after wins over, say, Albany. I mean, Stony Brook. (All that Northwestern minutiae can be found here)

(This is when I will conveniently ignore that Northwestern is Division I-A in football and that the school has an almost unmatched reputation as an elite university, with or without a presidential debate)

It’s a good thing, Seth, you didn’t go there with Hofstra basketball, since Northwestern basketball hasn’t won the Big 10 since it shared the championship in 1933 and hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since, well, ever. That’s right. Northwestern has been D-I since 1948 and has yet to dance. At least Hofstra is 0-4 in the NCAA Tournament!

Northwestern basketball: Lamer than a Tri-Lamb/Omega Mu mixer.

There's no Dudley Dawson to save you, Northwestern basketball.

If Dave Cohen is half the leader of men I think he is, he’s going to use Meyers’ disdain of the Hofstra football program to rile the Flying Dutchmen into a fury that will carry them to a thrashing of Maine Saturday afternoon. (Two Revenge of the Nerds pics in as many graphs…what a day)

"[TV edit]. We forgot to practice."

(Oh, and since this is probably the only segue I’ll be able to make to, you know, actual football today, check out this story from the Richmond Times-Dispatch about how expensive football travel has become. It’ll be interesting to see what the CAA does to minimize travel when it expands to 14 football teams with Old Dominion and Georgia State—especially if this latest dip in gas proves to be the fluke and not last summer’s price spike. Oh and I was going to pick Hofstra to lose by two touchdowns, but now I think they’ll win by three at the gun, just to spite Seth Meyers. I now return to my regularly scheduled rant)

I do have to thank Seth, though, for reminding me of the Real Seth Meyers. I am ashamed to admit I didn’t think of the Real Seth Meyers every time I saw the fake, mean, wishes-he-was-cool-enough-to-attend-Hofstra Seth Meyers anchoring Weekend Update.

The Real Seth Meyers was a top 100 recruit in 1993 who transferred from UNLV—where he was recruited by assistant coaches Jay Wright and Tom Pecora, the latter of whom begins his eighth season at the helm today when practice begins, how’s that for a casual mention of real news. There were big hopes for Meyers, but after ranking second on the Flying Dutchmen in scoring in 1995-96, he transferred to Division III Wilkes University in his native Pennsylvania following the death of his mother.

That would be the same Wilkes University that’s made six NCAA Tournament appearances—all since 1995—and reached the Final Four with the REAL Seth Meyers in 1998. Maybe Northwestern should go D-III. Maybe then it could make an NCAA Tournament. Take that, Fake Seth Meyers!

Email the Real Jerry at defiantlydutch@yahoo.com.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

“What is this Pride nonsense? Bring back the Flying Dutchmen!”

Chuck Todd takes his case for the Flying Dutchmen straight to the Washington, D.C. press corps.

I can’t lie: I wasn’t watching MSNBC at the moment Chuck Todd uttered those 10 words and became the official political analyst of Defiantly Dutch. The pre-debate shows on all the news networks reminded me too much of the Super Bowl pre-game show: Lots of words and bluster ultimately signifying nothing except a buffer between commercials.

Those Super Bowl pre-game shows are useful only when news breaks of a Barrett Robbins or Stanley Wilson going on a bender or of an NFL Man of the Year such as Eugene Robinson getting busted for solicitation (and not the type where you don’t want someone knocking on your door selling stuff, either). And I was pretty confident that neither John McCain nor Barack Obama would flake out or even pull a Jumbo Elliott by getting into a brawl at The Bar Formerly Known As Bogart’s in the hours before the debate.

So I was doing what any good American should be doing during in the late afternoon hours—watching a painfully awful yet terribly engrossing episode of Beverly Hills 90210; this was the one where the gang graduated and subjected the rest of their dorky classmates to Senior Week festivities centered entirely around nine snobs—when Semi-Loyal Reader Josh alerted me to Todd’s disdain for the demise of the Flying Dutchmen nickname. (Josh, like Brandon Walsh, is a Minnesota Twins fan who won’t read me regularly until I start referring to guys like Les Straker or begin pitching the Hall of Fame candidacy of Bert Blyleven. But I will not pander for readers. Go Twins!)

Apparently, Todd made multiple references to the unfortunate Flying Dutchmen-for-Pride swap. I’m still trying to find one or more of those clips on the Interwebs; if any of my Loyal Readers can hook me up with a link, I’d be forever indebted.

And here’s to you. Chuck Todd. Anytime you want to watch the Flying Dutchmen at the Arena and grab a burger at Hofstra USA (which is not the Student Center, as a WNBC talking head called it late last night), it's on me.

Todd had the line of the night, but Defiantly Dutch-era Hofstra grads had their share of wisecracks that nobody except Flying Dutchmen fans would get. Here are my five favorite:

5.) “Who’s in my seat, damnit?”—my wife as the debate opened. Couldn’t even begin to figure out where the seats were in an unrecognizable Arena.

4.) “Is the possession arrow pointing to Obama now?”—my wife after McCain got the last word in on one of the questions. I hate the possession arrow. Coin flips aren’t that much better. A jump ball should have determined who got to make the first closing statement.

3.) “Now they’re both going to Dutch Treats for a sandwich.”—Loyal Reader Eric after the post-debate handshake. The economy’s in the crapper; I doubt either man has enough money left on his meal card for a Dutch Treats sandwich.

2.) “Are Kate and Willie in the crowd posing with candidates?”—my wife after the debate. Really. We needed the mascots making their way through the crowd, forcing awkward photo opportunities.

1.) “Jeff is still laughing at Blankman’s suggestion that Obama & McCain stop the debate if someone buys them shots.”—seen on fellow ex-Chronicle editor Jeff’s Facebook page. Awesome. Nobody ever forgets Rick and Ted. Still, I personally would have preferred if McCain and Obama picked up guitars and began singing “American Pie.”

As for the debate itself: I wish somebody would have asked Joe the Plumber if he preferred Flying Dutchmen or Pride. Oh well. Maybe in 2012.

Email Jerry the Blogger at defiantlydutch@yahoo.com.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

We’ll have a different kind of debate…when I moderate

Ha ha! Your medium's dying! And no one's asking your questions tonight, either!

As you may have heard by now, tonight’s the night Hofstra makes history (oh man, a Styx reference in the first sentence…I can’t lie, I’m proud of myself) when it hosts the third and final presidential debate of the 2008 election. CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer will serve as the moderator (unless someone ponies up $15 million for Katie Couric) as John McCain and Barack Obama discuss the economy and domestic policy.

Which, you know, means neither candidate will speak about the issues that matter to you—the Defiantly Dutch-era alum of Hofstra University. This is your University. You were at the Hofstra Arena long before it was magically transformed from a place that had far too many seats to a place that had far too few. Shouldn’t someone vocalize your thoughts and concerns? Shouldn’t that someone be me?

It’s probably a good thing for American democracy that it’s not. But here’s what McCain, Obama and I would talk about if I was sitting in the moderator’s seat tonight.

1.) Both of you have promised to provide tax breaks and other assistance to small businesses. Along those lines, there are 3,000 journalists watching this debate right now from a few feet down the road in a building that has been empty of a professional sports team for well over a decade. So what, particularly, will you do to help the United States Basketball League resume operations this year with a Long Island franchise that employs Hofstra alums, plays its home games at the Physical Fitness Center and infuses the Hofstra economy with dozens of dollars every summer?

(I actually found an old Long Island Surf program from the 1994 season in the basement earlier tonight. Tickets were $5. Good times!)

2.) Small businesses are the lifeblood of businesses in the area surrounding campus. So many of these mom-and-pop operations are bars—and so many of them have been forced to close over the years. Fezziwig’s. Bogart’s. McHebe’s. Screwy Louie’s. Even Wayne Chrebet, who gave Hofstra more publicity than this here debate, had to rename and rebrand his bar that he opened on the site of the old Bogart’s. What will you do to encourage states to lower the drinking age to 18 so that students under the age of 21 can contribute to the economy by consuming cheap, watered-down beer without having to find a Hofstra ID with the blue bar?

(Or was it the yellow bar? I can’t remember.)

3.) Both of you supported the bailout plan that will result in government buying a stake in the American banking system. Can you next take over the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, too? God knows you guys can’t be any worse at it than the bozos who have been mucking it up for years.

(This will sound like a good idea until Navy or Columbia gets an at-large bid despite a 12-16 record. Fun fact: The Flying Dutchmen basketball team is a combined 12-7 all-time against the alma maters of McCain and Obama!)

4.) Both of you have said it’s imperative to make a college education affordable to all Americans. Have you had a chance to mention this goal to anyone here, where the cost of tuition per semester this year is $13,800—a mere two-and-a-half times what it cost 14 years ago, when tuition was $5,530 per semester?

(This is when I wish I could figure out a scanner so I could actually display my tuition bill from the spring of 1995)

5.) Lastly, our current financial crisis was created in large part by too many people being approved for mortgages they could not afford. But who could blame people of my generation—who were approved for credit cards from the moment they walked on to a college campus despite their tiny incomes, minimal financial expertise and youthful impetuousness—for believing they were entitled to buy beyond their means? As president, what will you do to rid Hofstra—and campuses nationwide—of the weasels from the credit card companies who leech on to unsuspecting freshmen and transfer students during move-in weekend and send them down a path of debt that will take them a decade or more to erase?

(I’d actually like to see that one happen)

Email Jerry at defiantlydutch@yahoo.com.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Let’s debate the impact of the debate

Because this is about the debate and how a Cinderella run in the NCAA Tournament would have a more tangible effect on the University...and I just can't stomach posting a picture of a George Mason Final Four ring.

So admitting this will probably mean either a.) a sudden raise in my Hofstra Pride Club membership or b.) a painful administration of a Hofstra Pride tattoo on my left bicep (still saving money to get a Starland Vocal Band tattoo there) by The Powers That Be, but here goes:

A little less than 24 hours before John McCain and Barack Obama take the stage at Hofstra Arena, I’m already tired of hearing about the debate—specifically all that jazz about the sustained boost Hofstra will get in publicity, name recognition and new applicants.

Don’t get me wrong: As someone who went to school there when the key athletic building on campus was the Physical Fitness Center, I think it’s really cool that Hofstra has advanced to the point where it can host a presidential debate. I’m not sure the dusty, bleacher-seated, once-was-the-home-arena-of-the-Long-Island-Surf PFC could have handled hosting a Student Senate presidential debate, never mind The Real Thing.

It blows my mind that America’s eyes will be trained on Hofstra Wednesday. I’ll also admit the wife and I go “whoo hoo” every time some talking head mentions the debate will be at Hofstra. Yes. We are dorks. I’m also insanely jealous of the Chronicle staff writers who get to cover this—as well as the earlier debates and the conventions.

And the University should be proud of hosting the debate and should be thumping its chest over all the publicity it’s receiving. From now until the end of time, the boilerplate on all Hofstra press releases should include something about the 2008 presidential debate.

I hope Educate ’08—the year-long series of events designed to, you guessed it, educate students about the election and politics—has resulted in campus-wide enlightenment. “I actually think there is an obligation for universities to try to inspire their students to be active participants in the democratic process,” Stuart Rabinowitz told the Associated Press in this article.

But let’s not be na├»ve enough to believe that Hofstra is doing this for the greater good. Hofstra’s hosting the debate because it’s good for Hofstra. It lends an unmistakable air of exclusivity and prestige to the school that will come in handy when The Powers That Be are raising funds—and tuition. Which is fine. That’s the name of the game on campuses nationwide.

The New York Daily News wrote today that “…Hofstra has received the kind of publicity money can’t buy,” in hosting the debate. Not quite true: Hofstra did indeed buy this publicity—it’s costing the University $3.5 million to put on the debate, according to the Daily News—and it plunked down the coinage because it realized the debate would provide an impressive return on a relatively minimal investment.

But that return won’t necessarily include a sizable increase in post-debate name recognition or applications. I understand the theory that Hofstra will get a bigger publicity boost than most debate hosts because the election is occurring at such a pivotal time in American history and because McCain and Obama will be discussing the economy and domestic policy, two incredibly timely topics, at the debate.

I just don’t buy it. I don’t believe the general public will correlate Hofstra with the debate at any time after, well, tomorrow. After all: Do you know where the first two presidential debates and the vice presidential debate were held? Do you know where the 2004 presidential debates were held? And do you know which university has hosted the most presidential debates?

I put my theory to the test with my good friend JG (I can’t call him a loyal reader, since he’s a Syracuse grad…should have seen the look of concern on his face as we sat in the nosebleeds of the Carrier Dome as the Flying Dutchmen nearly beat the Orangemen in 2004). He’s the biggest political junkie I know. Dude’s got bookcases full of books authored by people on both sides of the aisle.

And even HE doesn’t remember where the 2004 debates were held. “I’m sure you can look it up online,” he wrote.

Nor am I convinced that high schoolers around the land will watch the debate and suddenly start filling out Hofstra applications. Arizona State and Miami, the two schools that hosted presidential debates for the first time in 2004, experienced only minimal increases in applicants from 2005 to 2006. Arizona State had 19,914 applicants in 2005 and 20,702 in 2006 while Miami had 18,812 applicants in 2005 and 19,040 in 2006.

(I tried finding 2004 application information online but couldn’t…but I figured the 2005 to 2006 numbers would be telling as well since most people applying for 2005 would already be well into the process by the time the debates took place. Except for procrastinators like me, of course)

In addition, M. Frederic Volkmann, the vice chancellor for Public Affairs at Washington University, told The Chronicle (no, not that one) Of Higher Education in 2004 that he’s “…never seen any data that shows a change in enrollment or a fund-raising bounce” following a debate at Washington.

The lede of the Daily News story Tuesday, meanwhile, unintentionally sums up just how minimal a long-term boost Hofstra will enjoy from the debate: “Outside of scoring a Nobel Prize or having a basketball team play Cinderella in the NCAA Tournament, the fastest way for a college to leap onto the national stage is to host a presidential debate.”

It pains me to type this, but two days, two weeks, two years and two decades from now, many, many, many more people will remember George Mason for its Final Four run in 2006 than Hofstra for hosting a presidential debate. If you try to go toe-to-toe with a George Mason fan with “Yeah? Well, whose school has hosted a presidential debate lately?” you’ll be laughed out of the room.

Is that a reflection on America’s out-of-whack priorities? Sure. But I also long ago came to grips with the fact that a guy like Carl Pavano can make nearly 250 times as much money per year for barely throwing a baseball as my wife does for teaching.

Robert Baker, the director of the Center for Sport Management at George Mason, penned this interesting article for Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal in which he revealed that freshman applications increased 10 percent in both 2006-07 and 2007-08. And his conservative estimate of the value of the media exposure George Mason received for its run? How’s $677,474,659 sound?

Again: Hofstra’s earned the right to tout the debate as often as it wants. But after Wednesday, the impact of the debate will be about as wide-reaching as the WRHU signal.

“To me, this is priceless advertising,” Rabinowitz told the New York Times in August. But probably not as priceless or as valuable as $677,474,659, unfortunately.

Email Jerry at defiantlydutch@yahoo.com.

Monday, October 13, 2008

To the extreme I rock this blog like a vandal

If you were in high school in 1990, you are singing the song right now. You know it. And you also owned the tape or CD at some point. Admit it. I am.

A friend of mine in Boston, Chris Price, writes a cool column about the New England Patriots every Monday titled “Ten Things We Learned Yesterday.” I’m going to pull a Vanilla Ice here and borrow liberally from Chris (his column goes “ding ding ding dingy ding-ding, mine goes “ding ding ding ding dingy ding-ding”—special thanks to Loyal Reader Jill for still knowing this off the top of her head and sending me this link for confirmation) with “Three Things We Learned Saturday,” when the Flying Dutchmen outlasted Bucknell 45-31 (recap is from the Bucknell-area newspaper).

1.) Hofstra can score at will against I-AA opponents with less than the maximum 63 scholarships.

2.) Hofstra is considerably less successful scoring, at all, against opponents with 63 or more scholarships.

3.) There are no more games against opponents with less than 63 scholarships and six games left against teams with 63 scholarships.

Therefore, 1+2+3 = Saturday may be as good as it gets for Hofstra the rest of the year.

(BTW, since I’ve already sunk lower than I ever thought possible with the Vanilla Ice recollections, I may as well say hearing “Ice Ice Baby” always reminds me of Columbus Day weekend and my senior year of high school, because I remember going to the local dance club Sunday night and hearing “Ice Ice Baby”—which was more popular than you can possibly imagine before we all learned what a fraud Vanilla Ice was—seemingly played every 15 minutes. “Ice Ice Baby” was also the senior song for the class of ’91 at Torrington High School. Oh look at that, I’ve sunk lower. Let’s move on.)

Not that I’m trying to be negative here. If this is going to be a rebuilding season—and it was shaping up that way even before starting quarterback Bryan Savage suffered a season-ending back injury prior to the UConn game and starting running back Larry Gaskins left school after it—then a game like the one Hofstra enjoyed Saturday, when it scored the most points in the Dave Cohen era, is vital for confidence in the short-term and success in the long-term.

It further provides a foundation for the 19 underclassmen who started against Bucknell, including the 1-2 punch of Brock Jackolski (170 yards and three touchdowns on nine carries, 18 yards on three catches and 107 yards on three kickoff returns) and Cory Christopher (148 yards passing and one touchdown, 54 yards rushing and two touchdowns).

But the last time the Flying Dutchmen set a Cohen-era record for most points in a game (43 against Stony Brook Sept. 26), they set the program’s record for biggest whuppin’ ever a mere six days later in a 56-0 loss to James Madison. So what can we expect next week after this latest record-setting outburst?

Probably not a 63-0 loss to Maine, but Hofstra’s challenges will likely go beyond merely getting to middle-of-nowhere Orono. (I say that to see if my two friends in Maine are really reading the blog, muahaha) The Black Bears aren’t nearly as formidable a foe as top-ranked James Madison, but they were impressive in using a 17-point fourth quarter to stun no. 24 Delaware, 27-10, in front of a crowd that included Delaware grad and vice presidential candidate Joe Biden (Hey Joe, does the Hofstra Arena look familiar? It should. Here are reminders here and here. Yes, I am now trash-talking a potential vice president.). Especially since the game is in Maine—not Hempstead, as Newsday thinks.

The Flying Dutchmen are explosive against lower-tier opponents but minimalistic against those stocked with scholarships. Hofstra scored 42 points against UConn, Albany (which, as you know, has one scholarship), Rhode Island and James Madison. That’s less than half as many points, in twice as many games, as they’ve scored against Stony Brook and Bucknell. And the inexperience on both sides of the ball is surely more apparent against better competition.

Don’t get used to the Gardi-type offensive outburst and winning margin the Flying Dutchmen enjoyed against Stony Brook and Bucknell. But maybe those experiences lead to another Gardi-type run at the playoffs next year.

***

A few other Hofstra- and CAA-related bits and bytes:

—How come nobody told me admission to the Bucknell game was free? And forget about Hofstra being inspired to do the same: Attendance Saturday was 2,444, well less than half of the average attendance thus far this season at Shuart Stadium (5,639).

—Amazingly, Stony Brook is STILL on pace to score negative points this weekend. Check out my buddy Chris Lang’s coverage of Liberty’s shutout of the Seawolves.

—Anyone see the last-second, tie-breaking 69-yard punt return for a touchdown by James Madison’s Scotty McGee top SportsCenter’s plays of the day Saturday? (Bonus: The Hofstra-Bucknell score appears along the bottom of the screen late in the clip) McGee’s dramatic score capped a 10-point comeback in the final 3:21 as the Dukes edged no. 5 Richmond 38-31.

—I added to and re-organized the links on the right hand side of the page. As always, please patronize my friends by clicking on their websites and blogs. But please don’t patronize them like bunny rabbits.

—Here's an extra reminder to make sure you check out and bookmark The Blog Formerly Known As CAA: Life as a Mid Major. Michael Litos, whose work at CAA:LAMM set a sky-high standard for the rest of us and whose uncanny good timing is the envy of authors everywhere, relaunched and renamed the blog over the weekend. Thanks to Mike for the kind email and for including DD among his links. Very cool.

—And really, we should bring today’s blog full circle: His credibility long destroyed, Vanilla Ice destroys the master copy of “Ice Ice Baby”—as well as much of the MTV studio—in this awesomely hilarious 1999 clip. Check out the eclectic mix of commentators on the set, including CAA grad Jon Stewart and Chris “Why did only Will Ferrell recover from A Night At The Roxbury?” Kattan.

Email Jerry at defiantlydutch@yahoo.com.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Hofstra vs. Bucknell: Like clockwork, every 14 years

"Hey Nat I know you said you'd tell my dad if I ever bet again, but this guy wants to bet me Hofstra won't play Bucknell again for another 14 years!"

Seeing Bucknell on the football schedule brings back a lot of fond memories. The first football game I ever covered at Hofstra—and the first road game I ever covered in any sport—was at Bucknell on Sept. 10, 1994. It involved getting up at 5:30 am—amazingly, I did not sleep through the alarm—and taking the spirit support/band bus to Lewisburg, PA.

I remember packing a Walkman (click the link, kiddies) and a lot of tapes I’d recorded off CD, including this criminally underrated gem by Cheap Trick which I now have loaded on my iPod. (No idea why I can remember stuff like that, yet forget to do the laundry)

I remember Bucknell handing out “Hammer Hofstra” buttons as fans walked in. I should have grabbed one of those, especially since Hofstra hammered Bucknell 45-21. It’d be a cool memento—not as cool as a basketball signed by VBK and three other guys, but pretty neat nonetheless.

You probably could have made a lot of money if you bet me that night that Hofstra would not play Bucknell again for another 14 years—if only I could have found somebody willing to bet on the future schedules for Hofstra football. Hey, I bet this guy would have chased that action! (Watching a Very Special Episode of Beverly Hills 90210 as I write has its advantages)

At the time, the Flying Dutchmen were in their second season as a full-fledged Division I-AA independent and just beginning to stir as The Little Team That Could. The administration recognized it couldn’t remain an independent forever and was hopeful that playing multiple games per season against Patriot League foes would lead to an offer to join a conference that, like Hofstra, was filled with schools whose football teams had just moved from Division III to I-AA and did not award scholarships in football.

Hofstra also believed it was a good academic fit with the Patriot League, which is one tier below the Ivy League (I’ll pause long enough for you to choke your laughter). The Patriot League—filled with institutions at least a century older than Hofstra—did not think likewise and ignored Hofstra’s pleading eyes.

The Flying Dutchmen’s brilliant ’94 season changed the University’s expectations for the football program. In January ’95, Hofstra gave up on the Patriot League—whose existence appeared endangered with Fordham and Holy Cross reportedly seeking new homes—and began offering scholarships as it turned its gaze towards the Yankee Conference.

“The reason we held back on football scholarships is that we wanted to maintain our relationship with the Patriot League,” President James Shuart told Newsday in 1995.

That relationship came to a screeching halt once Hofstra began offering scholarships. The Flying Dutchmen played four Patriot League teams in 1993 and three apiece in 1994 and 1995, but since then, the program has played more playoff games against Patriot League foes (two) than regular season games (one).

“We’re not playing with the same type of kids they’re playing with,” Fordham coach Nick Quartaro told Newsday after Hofstra beat the Rams, 36-15, in 1995. It was the last game between the two schools, who met 22 times in the previous 23 years.

While feelings were no doubt bruised on both sides, Hofstra and the Patriot League thrived independent of each other. Hofstra eventually landed in the conference formerly known as the Yankee and currently known as the CAA and made the playoffs as an independent in 1995, 1997, 1999 and 2000 before winning the A-10 in the program’s debut season in 2001. A CAA school has reached the I-AA title game four times in the last five years and four of the top 10 teams in this week’s I-AA Top 25 poll are from the CAA, including top-ranked James Madison.

The Patriot League survived, but with just six football schools, it accepted Towson as a football-only member in 1997. Joe Gardi, who was offended by the Patriot’s snub, always took great delight in pointing out how the conference had to stoop to accepting a state school in order to remain viable. (Towson left for the CAA after the 2003 season)

Despite its non-scholarship status, the Patriot League receives an automatic bid to the I-AA tournament—Lehigh lost to Hofstra in 1999 but beat the Flying Dutchmen in 2001—and Gardi had to like what he saw in 2003, when Colgate proved non-scholarship opponents could run with the big dogs by reaching the Division I-AA championship game, where it fell to Delaware 40-0.

The funny thing is I’d bet today’s Powers That Be would be perfectly content if Hofstra had landed in the Patriot League and if Bucknell was an annual foe instead of a once-every-three-Olympiads-and-then-some non-conference opponent. It’s no secret that the football team is a blight on the bottom line—as one unidentified member of the athletic department described the program to Newsday’s Steve Marcus in 2004: “Dig a hole, put five million in it and throw dirt over it”— nor that President Rabinowitz isn’t a huge fan of athletics in general.

But Hofstra’s too invested in the CAA to turn back now. The bright side to remaining in the top I-AA conference in the land is the opportunity to make back some of the football investment via $250,000 games against I-A schools such as UConn, Boston College and Army.

There’s no money to be had in visiting Bucknell for the first time in 14 years, just a chance for the Flying Dutchmen to erase the sting of last weekend’s record-setting thrashing at the hands of James Madison. Conventional wisdom says Hofstra should beat the non-scholarship Bison, who were picked to finish sixth in the seven-team Patriot League, but, well, that didn’t work so well against Albany. And Bucknell—which is 3-1 and no stranger to nail-biters; its four games have been decided by a total of 14 points—is surely not lacking for motivation in its only game of the season against a program with the full allotment of scholarships.

I’ll guess two things: That Dave Cohen and his staff pray Cory Christopher can continue to take every single snap…and that special teams will be the difference in another game decided by less than seven points. Which, you know, makes me nervous.

(To the surprise of no one, I wrote much more than I expected, so the mailbag and links will have to wait until next week)

Email Jerry at defiantlydutch@yahoo.com.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Front page news in a wireless world. Oh cruel irony.


(Ugh, ads on the front page of newspapers...so tacky)

No sports hook here, unless you count the displacement of various Hofstra sports teams from the north side of campus cause of this little ol’ presidential debate (to which you still cannot get a ticket). But this has got to be the first time ever—or at least in the Defiantly Dutch Era—that Hofstra has been featured on the front page of Newsday on consecutive days.

The Flying Dutchmen basketball team might have gotten the school on the back page in consecutive days during the 2000 and 2001 NCAA Tournaments, and I remember three back pages in a span of 10 days in the spring of 2006, when Hofstra was The Team That Beat George Mason Twice In 11 Days But Got Screwed Anyway.

But the front page is generally unchartered waters for Hofstra. When I was there, the Powers That Be were obsessed with Newsday and the coverage Long Island’s only newspaper provided the school.

The Powers That Be are still consumed with what is written and said about the school, but I imagine Newsday ranks a lot lower on the list of priorities today than it did 15 years ago, at least when it comes to generating debate-related publicity. I imagine Hofstra gets a much bigger boost when the words “Hofstra University” are uttered by Tom Brokaw or Bob Schieffer than from any newspaper story. And Hofstra hopes you’ll skip the traditional media and go straight to the bells-and-whistles page it has devoted to the debate at its official site (though it should be pointed out the Newsday front pages are displayed on the fourth panel of the page).

Plus, let’s face it: If you consider consecutive front pages a notable burst of publicity, you’re old. Like me. Nobody reads newspapers, which are hastening their own demise by gutting the news hole and staff and charging people the same (or more) to read less, and the old standards about timing a major news announcement for maximum (or minimum) placement in the newspaper are extinct.

Barack Obama originally planned to announce his running mate via email and text message Saturday, Aug. 23, at least until CNN stole his thunder by breaking the news the night before. For those of you fortunate enough not to have majored in communications and journalism, Fridays used to be reserved for releasing news that presidential administrations wanted to bury.

That’s today’s riff on the media. While we’re on the media, though, you should check out my blogging mentor the Icepick, who has some really insightful takes on the declining state of the American press here and here. And come back tomorrow for some Bucknell-Hofstra talk as well as some links and Loyal Reader email.

Email Jerry at defiantlydutch@yahoo.com.