Monday, December 7, 2009

In which we come to learn the true meaning of Defiantly Dutch

Maybe Brandon Walsh and the West Beverly gang could have come to the rescue of Hofstra football, just like they did for Donna Martin.

Unlike the university from which we graduated and for which we root, we’re all about transparency here. And so it is that I must admit that my reaction to the dropping of football is/was inconsistent with the measured approach I took over the last several months, during which I wrote multiple stories about the possibility of the sport being downgraded or eliminated. (Those stories can, for the foreseeable future, be found in the upper right hand corner of the blog)

Why the change? I think part of it is the natural difference between pondering something in the hypothetical and suddenly having to come to grips with the reality of it. Mostly, though, I think the fury of the last few days stems not so much from football being extinguished but in the ambush-style execution of the sport and the typically clandestine way in which Hofstra reached the decision.

Many of us recognized something had to change with Hofstra football, but we were na├»ve enough to think that decision-makers only recognized the issue, not that they was already well on their way to abolishing the sport. It’ll be the last time the university gets the benefit of the doubt about anything.

Respecting the task of making such a decision doesn’t mean absolving Stuart Rabinowitz for being needlessly cutthroat about it or for not making every attempt to save the program. I’m not stupid enough to think the Board of Trustees was going to welcome us into a meeting to make a case for the program’s survival, or even formally solicit our feedback. (Though the image of hundreds of us marching on to campus yelling “TRADITION NEVER GRADUATES! TRADITION NEVER GRADUATES!” is an awesome one)

But no matter how much contempt those in the super secret boardroom have for us rank and filers, we deserved more than Thursday’s blindside announcement. Despite the annually lean attendance numbers, football was a core part of the college experience—and beyond—for many of us. We should not have neglected the program for so long, but we also should have had an opportunity to reunite with football in an attempt to save it.

(That said, it should also be pointed out that, in at least each of the last two years, football had better attendance numbers than basketball. The average crowd at Shuart Stadium the last two years was 3,604 and 4,260, while the average attendance for a men’s hoops game at the Arena was 2,740 in 2007-08 and 2,681 in 2008-09. I understand this is not a perfect comparison and that 4,260 is less impressive in a 13,000-seat facility than 2,681 is in a 5,046-seat facility, but still, the numbers are fascinating)

Rabinowitz and the board should have been reminded that tradition should mean something, even when it is inherited. A university that prints money like Hofstra does should be willing to make concessions in order to maintain something that is almost as old as the school itself, even if it is in an area that the current president does not emphasize as much as his predecessor.

The natural flow of the news cycle means that the demise of Hofstra football is already receding from the public conscience. That will not happen here, even in the midst of a potentially magical basketball season (and hey, we didn’t forget about the rout of Towson…stop back later today or tomorrow for a recap of the 84-64 win).

We will not allow what happened Thursday to soon be forgotten. I will continue to seek comment from ex-players and administrators and I will print as many emails as I receive from those folks.

And I will be glad to afford the same platform to anyone who had a role in this decision and wants to be heard (or read, as the case may be), as well. Not agreeing with the decision or the method by which it was reached does not mean we cannot have an open dialogue about it.

I have also heard some rumblings of a grass-roots effort to bring football back to Hofstra and will be glad to report the details if it comes to fruition. I realize reviving football isn’t as easy as reviving Cagney and Lacey or Jericho, but these efforts deserve to be publicized.

We weren’t allowed to have a voice in the decision, but the aftermath will be an entirely different story. Now, more than ever, we will be Defiantly Dutch.

Email Jerry at defiantlydutch@yahoo.com or follow Defiantly Dutch at http://twitter.com/defiantlydutch.

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