Think I'd rather stay inside and oversleep, yeah...
Classes begin today at Hofstra (to celebrate, I will set my alarm for 8 a.m. and sleep through it), and for the couple thousand or so freshmen and transfer students who had never heard of Hofstra until the presidential debate introduced a fledgling 73-year-old campus to planet Earth, it is the first day of the rest of their lives.
The sports fans among the newcomers, in particular, will never be the same. As a Hofstra graduate, I'm confident you'll find life as a mid-major fan far more challenging, gratifying and rewarding than it would be if you took the easy way out and went to a BCS school where no amount of success is ever enough.
I’m also confident you’re enrolling just in time to experience perhaps the most pivotal era in the history of Hofstra athletics. I could not say the same thing in August 1993. In fact, if I was looking for signs that I’d bear witness to a revolutionary few years for the athletic department, I probably would have run back to my parents’ car, begging and pleading for them to take me home so I could enroll at UConn.
But the revolution did occur. There was no way to tell that the football team, an independent playing its first season as a full-fledged member of Division I-AA, would become one of the most successful teams in the nation over the next three seasons, during which it would send an undersized, under-recruited wide receiver to the NFL and subsequent stardom with the Jets.
There was no way to tell that the basketball team, which was playing in something called the East Coast Conference, would land one of the hottest up-and-coming coaches in the country the following April and land in the established and well-respected North Atlantic Conference, all on the same day.
You will have no such wait, though the school’s long-term vision won’t become clear overnight. At some point during your stay at Hofstra—particularly if you’re a freshman in the Class of 2013, cripes, that makes me feel old—the CAA will recede into the rear-view mirror and Hofstra will either join a well-known conference that straddles the line separating the Big Six from The Rest Of Us (the Atlantic-10?) or become a founding member of a new conference that strives to do exactly that (the New ECC!).
The conference move will also determine the future of Hofstra football. Will a new conference allow the administration to pull the plug on scholarships—or the entire program? Or will the swimming-in-red-ink gridders remain in one of the nation’s top I-AA leagues—either the CAA or a new A-10 football league?
Don’t worry, though: There will be plenty of immediate intrigue. I am firmly of the belief that this fall goes a long way towards sealing the fate of the football team. To live up to or exceed the high expectations accompanying this season makes it tougher to downgrade the program.
And come November, the men’s and women’s basketball teams will each visit the top-ranked squads in the land. This is goosebump-inducing stuff for those of us geezers who cut our teeth on the ECAC Holiday Festival at Nassau Coliseum.
The men’s hoops team is the engine of the athletic department, and it has a rare two-year window with its core in which to finally break the southern grip on the CAA crown and make the NCAA Tournament. That’s pretty good, but Charles Jenkins, Nathaniel Lester and Greg Washington don’t have it as good as the freshmen who begin class today. You have four chances at winning the lottery: Being an undergrad at a mid-major that goes dancing.
You will never have as much road in front of you—as a sports fan and as a student, after all, that’s why you’re here, wink wink nudge nudge—as you do this morning. And whatever happens these next four years, you won’t need the benefit of hindsight to know you’re a witness to some potentially landmark times for Hofstra athletics. It’ll be a heady, fascinating time to be a fan of the Flying Dutch.
And as a newcomer, you’re probably wondering what a Flying Dutch is. So I humbly request you stop back tomorrow for the full primer on rooting for the Flying Dutch. In the meantime, welcome to Hofstra. Trust me when I beg you not to eat the Sbarro.