1.) Selection Sunday, 2006: Really, nothing else compares. Hofstra helped save the CAA from extinction five years earlier, and its reward was a screw job perpetuated almost entirely from the inside. This was a level of espionage and internal treachery that even Jack Bauer has not dealt with. There’s a reason 24 had a character named George Mason. Seriously. I am not making this up.
2.) Kenny Adeleke dismissed, 2004: Maybe we don’t care about getting screwed in 2006 if Adeleke puts the Dutchmen on his shoulders and carries them to the NCAA Tournament in 2005. Adeleke was on pace to become the first player in school history to compile 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds when he was mysteriously kicked off the team for a “violation of university and team rules.” The 2004-05 Dutchmen advanced to the CAA semifinals, where they blew a 10-point second half lead against Old Dominion, and lost to St. Joseph’s in the first round of the NIT. Who knows what might have been with the best big man of the Tom Pecora Era manning the middle that season?
3.) Rick Apodaca and Wendell Gibson suspended 14 games, 2002-03. The Flying Dutchmen weren’t going to win the CAA in their second year in the conference, but they sure would have done better than 8-21 if Apodaca and Gibson were in the lineup all year. Instead, the duo was suspended half the season for failing a drug test for marijuana. It seemed an awfully harsh punishment at the time, but then-new president Stuart Rabinowitz was quick to remind us he spared Apodaca and Gibson from a far worse sentence. Good thing they weren’t football players.
4.) Loss to George Mason in the CAA quarterfinals, 2007: Oh Greg Johnson, what the hell were you thinking, going for a layup as time expired with the Dutchmen down three? Of course, it wasn’t Johnson’s fault the Dutchmen were playing from behind the entire game, or that this game provided an apt summation of a promising season gone strangely sour. The Dutchmen entered the CAA tournament 22-5 in their last 27 games, yet nothing ever felt right that year. Hangover from The Great Screw Job? Lack of an inside presence following the graduation of Adrian Uter and Aurimas Kieza? Who knows, but it felt perversely appropriate that the final indignity was administered by Mason.
5.) The Class of 2005 never pans out: Every recruiting class has its share of misses, but Pecora’s first class at Hofstra was star-crossed from the start. Only two of the five players completed their eligibility at Hofstra, and Gibson’s tenure was marked by the suspension and injuries while Woody Souffrant went from a starter as a freshman and a sophomore to a little-used role player as an upperclassman. Tyler Glass never played for the Dutchmen, the highly touted Chris McRae left after one season and Adeleke, of course, left after three seasons. Pecora has certainly had more hits than misses since then, but imagine how much better that ’05 team could have been with a legitimate senior presence.
FIVE BEST MOMENTS OF THE ‘00s, NON-MEN'S HOOPS DIVISION
1.) Hofstra joins the Atlantic-10 in football, 2001. Solidified the future of the program and ensured it could compete at the highest level of I-AA. Or so we thought at the time.
2.) Softball falls one win shy of the College World Series, 2004: Cemented Bill Edwards’ legacy at Hofstra as well as that of the Flying Dutchwomen as the top program in the northeast.
3.) Men’s lacrosse climbs to no. 2 in the rankings, 2006: Quieted those wondering why Hofstra, located smack dab in the heart of lacrosse country, couldn’t become a national power in the sport…well, for a while, anyway.
4.) Women’s basketball reaches the Elite Eight of the NIT, 2007: The men’s program came a long way to become a consistent mid-major power, but it didn’t have to travel nearly the distance of the women’s team, which recorded just four winning seasons in its first 24 years at the Division I level before reaching the NIT quarterfinals in Krista Kilburn-Steveskey’s first year at the helm.
5.) Wrestling beats no. 1 Minnesota, 2006: A program on the edge of extinction a decade earlier completed its ascent into the national elite.
FIVE WORST MOMENTS OF THE ‘00S, NON-MEN’S HOOPS EDITION
1.) Football is killed, Dec. 3, 2009: An assassination, plain and simple, by a president who wanted the program gone from Day One. I don’t think he expected the reaction he’s received, though, and this just in: Those who want the program back aren’t going away anytime soon. Here’s hoping the best moment of the ‘10s is the return of football.
2.) Men’s lacrosse blows five-goal fourth quarter lead against UMass in quarterfinals, 2006: Wes Craven has authored less demonic nightmares than this: Hofstra, which had won 17 in a row since a season-opening loss to UMass, held a 10-5 lead with just over eight minutes to go, had the local crowd on its side at Stony Brook and was headed for its first Final Four, but the Minutemen stormed back with four goals in less than four minutes before scoring the equalizer with less than a minute left in regulation. One of the worst collapses in school history was completed when UMass delivered the inevitable final blow with a goal less than two minutes into overtime.
3.) The athletic program moves into the CAA, 2001: It hasn’t been an awful eight years in the CAA, results-wise, but Hofstra has never been welcome in the southern-based conference and the school’s long-term conference affiliation is more uncertain now than at any time since the East Coast Conference was falling apart in the early ‘90s. It’s too late to go back to the America East now, as we’ll discuss sometime quite soon, but maybe Hofstra never would have left the America East if we knew then what we know now—that James Shuart would be replaced by someone who wanted nothing to do with football.
4.) Women’s soccer squanders one-goal lead in final minute of regulation and loses to Penn State in second round of NCAA Tournament, 2007: Hard to be unhappy with the deepest trip into the NCAA Tournament in program history, but the Flying Dutchwomen were less than 20 seconds away from advancing to the Sweet Sixteen when top-ranked Penn State tied it to force overtime, where the Lady Nittany Lions scored the game-winner with less than two minutes gone. The loss was the first time in 147 games, dating back to 1995, that the Dutchwomen had lost after leading with less than 20 minutes to play.
5.) Softball’s streak of 11 straight conference tournament championships ends, 2009: Again, difficult to quibble with record-setting success, but we’d become so accustomed to Hofstra winning its conference title and reaching the NCAA Tournament that it was a shock when Georgia State knocked the Dutchwomen out of the CAA Tournament and ended the longest streak of conference championships in Division I softball history. The freshmen on the ’09 team were in kindergarten the last time the Dutchwomen hadn’t won their conference tournament.