Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Reaction to HU dropping football: Ex-assistant coach Greg Gigantino

(All members of the Hofstra community are invited to share their thoughts about the dropping of the football program by emailing Defiantly Dutch at defiantlydutch@yahoo.com.)

His initial reaction:

Well, maybe more saddened than surprised. I think I said this to some of the guys, but if you just sit back and look at the whole thing—the whole spectrum, not just the football team, just the type of things that [have been] happening in the last seven years there, then no it doesn’t surprise me, knowing some of the people involved.

On how close he came to being named coach after Joe Gardi retired in 2005:

They did interview me. You know when you’re getting bull[expletive] [laughs]. There’s in reality interviews and then there’s tokens and things like that. I think that whole thing came down to people wanting—I don’t need to mention names—to get out from the old regime and start anew with the idea in the back of our minds [that] if this thing doesn’t go really good, we’re going to get rid of it. And I think the last thing that whoever made this decision wanted was some big public debate about it. It was done behind closed doors and they made up their minds and that was it.

On how things would have been different if a Gardi-era staffer succeeded him as head coach:

I’m not going to sit here and say we’d be back in the top 10 and in the national championship hunt again. I know [what] would have happened is that all those guys in the pros and all those alumni we have would have stepped up and helped the program. There was always an issue of getting people in the stands, and nobody got more publicity or no one did it better than Coach Gardi stirring the pot. Good or bad, he stirred the pot. You sat in those press conferences. Coach could say crazy stuff, but he would definitely tell them exactly the way he thought.

On how he has been affected by two programs dropping football (Gigantino’s daughter, Sarah, was Northeastern’s administrative assistant/football operations):

It’s been shocking. It’s been terrible. My daughter, her job has been eliminated. They’re going to make an effort to keep her in the athletic department, but she likes the football part of it. I told her just hang in there, just like all the coaches. I know when they get fired or recently with the guys at Northeastern, you’ve got to try to help your buddies. There’s still a brotherhood among coaches. There used to be a real strong one. Now, it’s not what it used to be, but you’re still going to help people you know and have confidence in and have trust in.

On how quickly Hofstra went from Division III to the I-AA playoffs to extinction:

I think that’s one thing people don’t get. That’s the years people don’t get. Wayne’s last year, us going to Delaware and tying them. We’re an extra point and a field goal away from being undefeated with no scholarships. Obviously we weren’t in a conference then. If we were in a conference, we could have maybe won the conference and gotten into the playoffs. And then ’95, that was just a whirlwind—Kharon [Brown] and New York Times, us 10-0 and we’re number whatever we were in the country at that time going down to play Marshall, who was no. 1 in the country. How much better could it get than that? What a story that is.

And that’s the amazing thing about it: We were playing Gettysburg and Division III Stony Brook and I don’t even know who else we played [in 1990], I can’t remember. And then five years later, we’re in the I-AA playoffs with 15 scholarships. [That’s] all we had that year, Adam Brown’s first year. It was the first time we had scholarships.

The one thing you’ve got to give coach Gardi credit for is he evaluated that talent [and did] a fantastic job of bringing guys in that were going to be big-time players  And nobody’s taking credit for Jim Shannon. Jimmy Shannon came in and he was the best defensive back we ever had there. But nobody knew about him. The guys on the team—the Clark brothers [Brian and Pat] and [Jon] Evjen and [Gene] McAleer and all those guys, those guys are all non-scholarship guys that we got. Those guys were fantastic.

I’ll never forget the day Dick Steinberg came into our office to look at Wayne. I was in charge of [talking to] pro scouts and Dick was the GM of the Jets at that time. I asked him what he thought of Wayne. He said ‘He’s good, he’s great, got great hands, so nifty, but I want to know who is that guy throwing it to him?’ It was Carlos [Garay]. But, again, that was all part of Coach Gardi—evaluating those guys and all that stuff.

On if he thinks Northeastern and Hofstra dropping football is the beginning of a trend:

Well, let me tell you my friend, it wasn’t the schools. In one of those two instances, I’m sure it was one guy’s dream to get rid of it. Would they have done this if they were 10-2 and in the playoffs? No, but I’ll go to my grave thinking that this was in the plans for a long time. I’m not familiar with the Northeastern people, but when you whack a 70-year-old program, that’s a tough nut to bite.

It was a bad day for all of us, my friend. All of us.

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