Friday, May 22, 2009

Hey SBU lax…don’t come around here no more (and maybe you too, football and hoops)

Will Hofstra be singing "I Won't Back Down" when it comes to ending the men's lacrosse rivalry with Stony Brook?

Hope you didn’t get too excited about my grand proposal for the new ECC featuring Hofstra and Stony Brook. Newsday reported on its website Thursday that Hofstra has chosen to end the men's lacrosse series with Stony Brook.

This of course does not mean the two schools can never compete in the same conference, or even that their men’s lacrosse teams can never again play one another in a regular season game. But it’s worth wondering if this is the first volley in a brewing Cold War between the school and a sign that Hofstra will soon decide there aren’t enough benefits to playing Stony Brook in the three major sports.

Flying Dutchmen coach Seth Tierney says pulling out of the series with Stony Brook is a matter of the Dutchmen wanting to play Manhattan and St. John’s. And adding those two schools to the schedule and subtracting Stony Brook should upgrade Hofstra’s strength of schedule. Like Stony Brook, Manhattan has made the NCAA Tournament once. St. John’s, meanwhile, begins play next season in the Big East, which should be one of the top conferences in the land with 10-time national champion Syracuse as well as perennial tournament team Notre Dame among its seven schools.

Nor, with Jack Hayes not available to comment for Marcus’ story, do we know the whole story from the Hofstra side (Stony Brook coach Rick Sowell and athletic director Jim Fiore are both quoted in the story and it’s mentioned that the 2007 game at Stony Brook raised money for Lacrosse for Autism, so those who think Marcus favors Stony Brook because he went there are going to have a field day with this one).

But I can’t imagine games against the Jaspers or Red Storm will generate any excitement among people who follow lacrosse a lot more than me (line forms to the left). Hofstra has never played Manhattan and is 9-2 against St. John’s, but the schools have played just once since St. John’s resumed playing lacrosse in 2005 after a nine-year absence. The Flying Dutchmen smoked the Red Storm, 19-3, in ’05.

And if the annual lacrosse game between the schools is vulnerable, is football next? Hofstra has never lost to Stony Brook in football, but this is the first year since the two teams were both in Division III that they’re on equal footing scholarship-wise. What was already a no-win proposition for Hofstra is particularly so now, especially with Stony Brook placing a bigger emphasis on football than Hofstra. Who wants to suffer the indignity of 12-0 turning into something-and-1?

I think the annual men’s basketball game between the two schools is safe: Stony Brook has plenty to gain in playing it and Tom Pecora is a proponent of playing as many local schools as possible. But who’s to say the decision will be Pecora’s—especially if Sowell is right in presuming that it was a “group decision” to end the series by Hofstra, one in which “…part of that group had a lot more to say than the other parts of the group.”

If Hofstra is hitching its wagon to the men’s basketball team—and it is—and it really does view the A-10 as its long-term home and is prepared to wait a long time to join the conference, might the school want to prepare for the move by disassociating itself from lower mid-majors such as Stony Brook?

And if that happens…I wonder if Fiore, who has much bigger things in mind than the America East and the Big South, takes it personally and goes all-in to try and outdo Hofstra. The two schools trying to outrace each other to the top of the mid-major world—or even beyond—would add a delicious wrinkle to the rivalry.

Alas, it would also remind us how difficult it could be to mend fences if the big boys refuse to let either Hofstra or Stony Brook sit at their tables and they are forced to settle for something else. Because while we may think Hofstra and Stony Brook are a perfect conference fit, the news Thursday is a pretty good indicator at least one of the schools doesn’t agree.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Bits and Bytes: The Conference Shuffle

Drexel in the Big 5! I'm such an idiot!

The headline to the article by Dick “best toupee in sports journalism” Weiss in the Sunday Daily News doesn’t leave much room for interpretation: “New conference home is what Hofstra needs to take hoops program to the next level.” Like the rest of us, Weiss doesn’t know exactly how this will happen, only that it should.

My favorite part of the article was the ancient photo of Pecora the News used. No, not one of him from Adelphi, but one in which Aurimas Kieza is in the background. I really would have been impressed if they managed to find one of Pecora with, say, Chris McRae in the background. Oh yeah. Bet you didn’t think you’d read that name today did you?

The most interesting part, meanwhile, was Pecora saying he worries the CBI and CIT will give the NCAA—which now owns the NIT—the excuse to turn the NIT into the JV tournament for the Big Six and relegate the mid-majors to the pay-to-plays.

That makes a lot of sense, and I appreciate Pecora still toeing the company line about why Hofstra didn’t accept a bid to either tourney. But still: Pecora still thought the CBI and CIT were good ideas for a team such as his in February. And if these fledgling tournaments that may admittedly be to college basketball what the Garden State Bowl was to college football were good enough for Old Dominion, then they should have been good enough for Hofstra.

Enough about that. A couple other bits and bytes about the conference shuffle we pondered last week:

—Thanks to Gonzo Hofstra Fan, a Loyal Reader who correctly points out that Drexel is not a member of the Big 5. Penn is, along with Villanova, Temple, St. Joseph’s and LaSalle. However, in my defense, Wikipedia—which is never wrong—states that Drexel has become something of an unofficial honorary (is that redundant?) member of the Big 5 and that it is part of the City 6, a term I’d never before heard. I hope Drexel does join the Big 5 and that the schools are still referred to as the Big 5. That would be very A-10ish.

—Isolated rumble or the beginning of the nationwide seismic conference changes? Campbell is leaving the Atlantic Sun for the Big South. Hmmm.

—The Patriot League going the full scholarship route in football in order to get back a school that never should have left sounds good in theory, but a closer read of Lehigh Football Nation’s excellent and in-depth post about the financial difficulties several Patriot League schools are experiencing makes me less certain that Fordham will be able to return. Schools that are pleading poverty can’t very easily add scholarships to football programs that are probably losing money already. An obvious compromise would be to accept Fordham back into the Patriot in everything but football, but does that solve anything for a school that looks as if it’s ready to make football its marquee sport? Might it be better in the long run for Fordham to find an all-sports home rather than going independent in football or trying to find a conference where it is not a geographic fit, a la Stony Brook in the Big South?

Email Jerry at And join the Defiantly Dutch group at Facebook today!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Nobody asked me, but…here’s how Hofstra could be part of a brand-new ECC

Take Hofstra, Northeastern and Drexel from the CAA, Providence, Seton Hall and St. John's from the Big East and mix them up with LaSalle and Stony Brook and...HIVENGLAVIN!!!!

This was a false alarm. Please return to your homes and continue pricing flights to Richmond for next year’s CAA Tournament as well as sending nasty Twitter messages to Jim Larranaga (seriously, Litos must really think a lot of my self-restraint to post that bit of info, and doubly seriously, don’t send nasty Twitter messages to anyone, even someone at George Mason).

All that talk about Hofstra leaving the CAA for the A-10 was apparently premature, as Steve Marcus reported Wednesday. But I wouldn’t be in a rush to buy a wardrobe full of clothes sporting the CAA logo, either.

One of these times, the buzz about changing leagues will be legitimate. And it won’t just be Hofstra and a handful of CAA schools doing the conference shuffle. The current Division I landscape is an overfilled backyard pool, busting at the seams and liable to explode and flood the neighborhood at any moment.

The expansion of Division I to 353 schools means 31 conferences are no longer enough. A 16-team Big East…a 14-team Atlantic 10…13 other conferences with more than 10 schools, including our beloved CAA. And no matter how much CBS and your average bracket-filling Joe might love it, the 65-team NCAA Tournament has outlived its usefulness.

It’s time to blow the whole damn thing up.

It won’t be easy, of course. Bigger is better for the BCS conferences. After all, the Big East can’t try to get nine bids to the NCAA Tournament if it only has eight schools.

And the NCAA has made it as difficult as possible for anyone to think outside the box (groan) and form conferences that are more geographically and numerically friendly. Under current NCAA guidelines, the Great West Conference, the first new conference this decade, won’t be eligible for an automatic bid to the men’s tournament until 2020, by which point we’ll all be getting around in flying cars.

The NCAA did what it does best—bent the rules as it saw fit—the last time a new conference was formed in 1999, when the Mountain West broke off from the WAC. Mountain West schools had to wait only two years to receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Something tells me the NCAA won’t be as eager to award an automatic bid to the Great West and rob another deserving 17-12 BCS school of an at-large bid. But what if the Great West is just one of three new conferences? And what if waiving the usual requirements and awarding automatic bids to these new conferences after two years—and expanding the NCAA Tournament to 68 teams—means March Madness creeps into the national conscience a couple days earlier than it does now?

A 68-team tournament would allow for four play-in games that would take place, two apiece, on Tuesday and Wednesday. That makes for six consecutive glorious days of hoops during the first week of the tournament. Hard to argue with that, yes?

Sure, a North Dakota State might be ticked off because it was not eligible for the NCAA Tournament until its fifth year at Division I. Just because that’s the way it used to be doesn’t mean it should always be that way. I had to type my research papers in college on a Brother word processor, but I don’t plan on subjecting my kid(s) to that if I ever procreate.

Most importantly, from the perspective of a Hofstra fan, what if one of these new conferences features the Flying Dutch as a core member? It’d be the first time since the ECC that Hofstra would be on legitimately equal footing in its conference (the school was on its way to that kind of stature in the America East before the departure for the CAA).

What if the new conference was the old conference? What do you think about this East Coast Conference that features multiple natural rivalries and saves the member schools countless thousands of dollars in travel expenses?

Seton Hall
St. John’s
Stony Brook

I have to think that any realignment of Division I will be centered around breaking up the Big East. And if and when that happens, the non-BCS schools that are mired in the middle and back of the conference—DePaul, Providence, St. John’s and Seton Hall—will be the ones most endangered.

All four schools have glorious hoops histories that overshadow anything Hofstra, Northeastern, Drexel, Stony Brook and LaSalle have accomplished, and I can’t imagine Providence, St. John’s and Seton Hall want anything to do with joining a bunch of eastern mid-majors. But they may not have a choice.

The Big East Three are afterthoughts in their own conference now. Georgetown and Villanova, in particular, have proven it’s possible to reverse such a downfall. But all you’ve got to do to accomplish that is hire the son of the most legendary coach in school history (actually, DePaul already did that) and a guy from Hofstra, respectively. Maybe Providence can get Rick Pitino Jr., but Seton Hall and St. John’s aren’t getting their paws on Tom Pecora.

LaSalle is the choice for the second Philly-area school because St. Joseph’s and Temple are far more established in the A-10. Stony Brook hasn’t even been a Division I school for 10 years yet, but the school has much bigger things in mind than the America East. Better to just cut ties now and take some growing pains in the new ECC.

I imagine any new conference will have more than eight teams, but such a small alignment leaves room for other schools to make the leap as well as takes into account future expansion. And the new ECC could be really interesting if the football-playing Big East schools end up overtaking the league and pushing out the non-football schools.

Can you imagine a 10-team ECC that also features Georgetown and Villanova? Lehigh Football Nation wonders if the recent departure of Georgetown AD Bernard Muir for the same position at Delaware is the precursor to Georgetown getting the boot from the Big East (and, somewhere down the line, Delaware joining the Big East).

To ditch Georgetown, Villanova and Marquette—all of whom are national championship-winning programs that have reached the Final Four this decade—would require a ruthlessness and short-sightedness that is hard to comprehend. Which of course means you can’t rule it out.

My third new conference, by the way, has been dubbed the Great South and features a bunch of Division I newcomers as well as a familiar face:

Savannah State

The more I think about it and talk to people who know more about it than me (line forms to the left), the more I think Wilmington would be in some serious danger if the CAA wants to be known for football as much as basketball. That said, this Great South was concocted in about five minutes and with the knowledge the Atlantic Sun probably wouldn’t be thrilled if Kennesaw, South Carolina-Upstate and Lipscomb bolted.

Plus, I’m sure college hoops fans south and west of the White House can come up with a new conference or two formed from the wreckage of the bloated likes of the Sun Belt, Southern, Southland and Conference USA, though breaking up the latter would be difficult since all 12 of its schools play I-A football.

Lastly, here’s what the new CAA, Big East and A-10 would look like:

George Mason
Georgia State
James Madison
Old Dominion
William & Mary

Like Georgetown, Villanova and Marquette in the Big East, VCU and Mason are established enough in basketball (and in the board room) to survive despite not playing football.

Big East:
Notre Dame
South Florida
West Virginia

George Washington
Rhode Island
St. Bonaventure
Saint Louis
St. Joseph’s

I realize this runs counter to what I wrote yesterday, when I said Saint Louis made no sense for the A-10, but add DePaul and suddenly you can split the league into two divisions—the East (GW, UMass, URI, St. Bonaventure, St. Joes and Temple) and the West (Dayton, DePaul, Duquesne, Saint Louis and Xavier). Can the A-10 lure a Horizon or Missouri Valley school to even out the divisions?

Fun stuff to chew on, for sure, even if it’s just talk for now. But at some point this will be a lot more than talk, because it’s hard to imagine anyone being satisfied with the status quo—at Hofstra and far beyond. And for Hofstra, at least, the best solution is a fresh start in a newly formed conference…one with an old name, of course.

Email Jerry at And join the Defiantly Dutch group at Facebook today!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Nobody asked me, but…here’s how Hofstra could end up in the A-10

Hopefully, the reconfigured A-10 will have a more mathematically accurate name. (This won out over a picture of Jillian Barberie, sorry fellas)

Just because I’m writing about how Hofstra could end up in the Atlantic 10 doesn’t mean I believe it can or should happen. I haven’t changed my mind since three months ago yesterday, when I wrote that a move to the A-10 would by no means provide the Flying Dutchmen basketball team an easier path to the NCAA Tournament nor fuller houses at the Arena. That Litos agrees with me means I might actually be on to something for one of the few times in the last nine months.

But assuming a move to the A-10 is what the administration wants, here’s how it could work. Merely adding Hofstra to the A-10—and making it the A-15—won’t work. A 14-team conference is already as bloated as the before picture in a NutriSystem ad. My plan does reduce the A-10 to 13 teams, not quite a Jillian Barberie-esque loss, but better than the way it was. (This is what happens when you write in the middle of the night...NutriSystem references)

Here’s what would have to happen:

1.) Richmond and Charlotte to the CAA. Longtime CAA fans still haven’t forgiven Richmond for bolting the CAA for the A-10 in 2001, a move which set off the whole poaching of the A-East by the CAA. But those at the administrative level are more practical about these things, and I imagine both the CAA and Richmond would admit they never should have divorced in the first place. Litos reports Richmond’s A-10 games have all the excitement of a church service, but a return to the CAA would instantly make the Spiders the biggest rival of every other Virginia school in the CAA. Plus, Richmond’s national champion football team already plays in the CAA. This is a fine fit. Make it happen.

Charlotte, meanwhile, is already selling personal seat licenses in anticipation of its first season of football in 2013. That’s right: The school is selling you the chance to buy tickets to a program that is at least four years from debuting. God Bless America.

Charlotte administrators hope to follow the path of South Florida and make I-AA a quick pit-stop on the way to I-A (and, one presumes, the Big East). Such big plans might make the CAA reluctant to welcome Charlotte, especially since it’d probably mean having to add yet another football-playing school by the middle of next decade, but hey, Hofstra wants to leave after eight years, so having to reconfigure on the fly is nothing new.

2.) Fordham to the Patriot League. As mentioned Monday, the move to the A-10 has been an unqualified disaster for the Fordham men’s basketball team. The Rams lack the facilities to compete in the A-10 and their academic standards remain at a Patriot League level. This, too, is a reunion that makes sense for both sides. The one hurdle might be Fordham’s desire to add football scholarships: The blog Lehigh Football Nation does a great job of explaining why the rest of the Patriot League may not be ready to sink that kind of dough into its football programs any time soon. But at the least, Fordham to the Patriot League in every other sport makes all sorts of sense.

3.) Saint Louis to the Horizon League. What, exactly, is Saint Louis doing in the Atlantic-10, anyway? I guess you could say the same thing about Ohio schools Xavier and Dayton, but at least Ohio has a semblance of a connection to the east coast. Not so much Missouri.

Switching conferences is nothing new for Saint Louis, which has played in six leagues in the last 35 years. One of those was the precursor to the Horizon League. Saint Louis back to the Horizon League is so perfect that I have to figure the school considers itself too good for the Horizon. But the Billikens’ men’s basketball team has as many NCAA Tournament berths in the last 50 years as Hofstra: Four. In addition, Saint Louis’ men’s soccer program has won a record 10 national titles, but none since 1973. You guys are not above the Horizon League. Go there.

4.) Hofstra, Northeastern and Drexel to the A-10. Talk about burying the lede. The A-10 is a good match for the CAA Three on multiple levels. The A-10 is the best existing home for Hofstra and Northeastern if they deemphasize or drop football. With no football team, Drexel no longer fits with a southern-based conference that wants to be known as much for its football as its basketball. And the three schools leaving together provide each other some traditional rivals in the new conference.

In addition, each school has some nice natural rivalries with the current A-10 membership. Hofstra and St. Joseph’s have played a couple great NIT games in the last five years. Drexel’s inclusion gives the A-10 four of the Big 5 Philly schools. And Northeastern provides the A-10 three New England schools.

As important as the fit for men’s basketball is the fit in every other sport. The A-10 sponsors 14 of Hofstra’s 18 sports. We’ve already placed the football team in the new ECC, and presumably, the CAA would welcome Hofstra as an associate member in men’s lacrosse and wrestling (where it is the league’s highest-profile program in both sports) as well as women’s golf.

The A-10 sponsors 15 of Northeastern’s 19 sports, and both of the Huskies’ crew and hockey teams already compete outside of the CAA. (The A-10 sponsors women’s crew, but not men’s crew) And the A-10 sponsors 14 of Drexel’s 16 sports, with the only exceptions being men’s lacrosse (where Drexel could join Hofstra as an associate member of the CAA) and men’s crew.

Here’s how the new A-10 would look:

George Washington
Rhode Island
St. Bonaventure
St. Joseph’s

An odd number of teams isn’t as unusual as I thought: Nine Division I conferences have an odd number. So unless someone powerful within the A-10 has triskaidekaphobia, this could work.

Nor would scheduling be nearly as difficult as I thought. With 12 opponents, an 18-game schedule in which each team has six opponents it plays twice a season and six opponents it plays once a season is quite doable.

The six teams Hofstra would play twice would be Drexel, LaSalle, UMass, Northeastern, St. Joseph’s and Temple. For fun’s sake, I decided Northeastern would play Drexel, Duquesne (gotta cater to the fans who loathe Ron Everhart for bolting for the Dukes), Hofstra, UMass, Rhode Island and St. Bonaventure twice each. And Drexel would play Hofstra, George Washington, LaSalle, Northeastern, St. Joseph’s and Temple twice apiece.

Damn. Reservations about how it’ll help the men’s basketball programs aside, this actually sounds possible. So that means it won’t happen. And I still think my third idea—detonating the Division I landscape and creating four new conferences, one of which will feature Hofstra as a core founding member—is the best idea. Tune in later today or first thing tomorrow for that.

Email Jerry at And join the Defiantly Dutch group at Facebook today!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Nobody asked me, but…here’s how Hofstra can leave the CAA & keep the football program

We'll definitely need to update this logo.

The last conference Hofstra left behind didn’t benefit a bit from the departure. It didn’t do the America East any good for Hofstra to leave and take Delaware, Drexel and Towson along for the ride following the 2000-01 school year. Those four teams combined to win nine of the preceding 10 men’s basketball championships.

(Actually, those titles were won entirely by Hofstra, Delaware and Drexel, which means Towson was the me of the America East at the turn of the century. During my perpetually single gawky teenage years, you could technically say “Randy, Scott, Kyle and Jerry have combined for 10 girlfriends,” even though you could drop me from the equation and those three would still have had 10 girlfriends. I don’t want to talk about it. Where was I?)

In 2001, the America East ranked 20th out of 31 conferences in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings. Since then, the A-East has matched or improved upon that performance just twice (16th in 2005 and 20th in 2007). The CAA, meanwhile, ranked 13th in Pomeroy’s rankings in 2001. It has ranked 13th or better five times since and has finished below 14th just once.

But the CAA shouldn’t miss a beat if Hofstra is serious about leaving. As competitive as the Flying Dutchmen have been the last five years, they still haven’t ended the dominance of southern teams in the men’s basketball tournament. And the conference is established enough as a premier mid-major to know it can replace Hofstra with a school of a similar or better profile.

Yet it’s football, not basketball, that makes this a mutually beneficial departure. A departure by Hofstra and another school (more on its identity in a moment) begins to solve the logistical nightmare looming when Old Dominion and Georgia State join the football league in 2011 and 2012, respectively. A 12-team conference is big enough. A 14-team conference is just about untenable (of course, if Hofstra ends up in the 14-team Atlantic 10, I reserve the right to spin baby spin about how 14 teams is in fact tenable).

In addition, the immediate success of the CAA in football—the league received a record five bids to the I-AA tournament in 2007 and matched the feat last year, when James Madison was the top-ranked team in the country most of the regular season before Richmond won the national championship—makes it and basketball interchangeable atop the pecking order. So it behooves the schools who play football to be as invested on the gridiron as on the basketball court

That, in turn, provides an opportunity for a graceful exit from the CAA and scholarship football for Hofstra (a possibility I pondered in November, never expecting it would theoretically present itself a few months later) as well as Northeastern, the latter of which has substandard football facilities and nearly terminated the program last year. The school announced it would redouble its efforts to bolster all its athletic programs, but such a plan is vague enough so that football scholarships can be pulled for the greater good.

Also, Northeastern should accompany Hofstra in any conference switch in order to provide it a natural rival, since the success of CAA football makes it very unlikely Delaware will follow the Dutch out the door.

Get Rhode Island—which has had three winning seasons in the last 20 years and hasn’t reached the I-AA playoffs since 1985, the second-longest drought among CAA schools behind only Towson—to leave the CAA as well and you’ve got the core of a new non-scholarship football conference. We can go old school and dub it the Yankee Conference, or go old school with a bit of originality by calling it the East Coast Conference.

We’ll go with East Coast Conference. Here’s how it would look:

Rhode Island

The non-CAA schools are listed in the likelihood that they’d be interested in joining the hypothetical ECC. Georgetown plays football in the Patriot League, which offers need-based financial aid to gridders. But Fordham is reportedly demanding the conference add football scholarships, and Hofstra’s possible move to the A-10, coupled with Fordham’s complete lack of success in the A-10 since its ill-conceived leap to the conference in 1995, means maybe the Patriot League acquiesces on football scholarships in order to get Fordham back into the fold in all sports.

Marist, which is one of only two former MAAC football schools still playing the sport (too bad Iona dropped football after last year; it would be perfect here), is an obvious good fit in the ECC, but the big hurdle to its inclusion is its commitment to the Pioneer League, a non-scholarship league in which the Red Foxes will begin play this fall. However, the ECC would be a lot easier on the travel budget than the Pioneer League, whose other schools are located in South Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky and California.

Dayton is also in the Pioneer League, but Hofstra joining the A-10 would create a clear fit for both schools in ECC football. The biggest problem with Dayton is its location: The Flyers would have to—wait for it!!—fly to just about every destination in the conference, whereas the other six schools are all located within doable driving distance of one another.

We all learned after Albany beat Hofstra last year that the Great Danes did it with one scholarship. But Albany is listed last among the potential ECC candidates because it is enjoying success in the Northeast Conference, where it has won the last two championships, and because the NEC announced last year it will allow schools to offer as many as 40 scholarships by 2013, up from the current maximum of 30.

Among the schools that almost surely wouldn’t fit in the ECC: Duquesne (an A-10 school that plays football, but it upgraded from non-scholarship when it joined the Northeast Conference last year), Stony Brook (will be at 63 scholarships this year), Campbell and Davidson (Pioneer schools located too far south), Bryant (a former Division II power transitioning to I-AA that presumably does not want to spend all that time and money to play at the non-scholarship level) and NEC schools Central Connecticut, Robert Morris, Sacred Heart, Monmouth, Wagner and St. Francis (PA) (all six are NEC members in all sports).

So seven teams it is for the ECC. Scheduling isn’t as easy with only six conference games, but figure Hofstra could continue its rivalries with Delaware and Stony Brook, add another local foe in Division II C.W. Post and play a couple games a year against NEC teams. That’s 11 games.

Of course, there’s absolutely no guarantee Hofstra wants to risk playing Post, or that it will want to play Stony Brook when the Seawolves (0-11 all-time against the Flying Dutchmen) are fully loaded and playing in the CAA (you read that right), or that Delaware will want anything to do with Hofstra once it drops scholarships. But that’s why this is hypothetical.

Oh, and even though we won’t care about the CAA if Hofstra leaves it, here’s how the CAA would look under my plan:

New Hampshire
Stony Brook (the best fit for a full-scholarship SBU)

Georgia State
James Madison
Old Dominion
William & Mary

As for the proposed ECC, it’s probably the best way to satisfy almost everyone. The tradition of Hofstra football remains alive and doesn’t alienate alums of both the playing and non-playing variety.

Any hopes of contending for a national championship are probably out the window in returning to non-scholarship ball. But Joe Gardi built a Top 20 team without scholarships in 1994, and a year later, the Dutchmen opened 10-0 and nearly beat Marshall in the regular season finale even though the only scholarship players were freshmen. So who says it can’t be done again? Plus, with the I-AA tournament expanding to 20 teams in 2010, there may eventually be an automatic bid to be won in the ECC.

As for the administration, going non-scholarship lessens the bottom line beating the school has been taking with football and also assures all the money invested on football facilities over the last 15 years doesn’t go to waste. And the new conference is much less of a travel headache.

I’d like to think compromise is a legitimate possibility, that nobody at Hofstra dislikes the football team enough to end the program. Though it did happen at Boston University, albeit after more than a quarter-century of effort by president John Silber.

A resolution, one way or the other, is a long ways off, if there even needs to be anything resolved. In the meantime, stop back tomorrow, when I’ll examine how a move to the A-10 could work for Hofstra and the men’s basketball program in particular.

Email Jerry at And join the Defiantly Dutch group at Facebook today!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Does leaving the CAA mean see you later football?

Will these be collector's items too?

A plaque commemorating Hofstra’s entry into the CAA in 2001 hangs on a wall in the lobby of the basketball offices at the Arena. The plaque features two logos: The old-school Hofstra one as well as that of the CAA’s.

That sucker could eventually be quite the collector’s item, judging by the reports in Newsday and the New York Post Thursday that Hofstra is interested in leaving the CAA and joining the Atlantic-10.

Here’s another item that could be a collector’s item if the conference switch comes to fruition: A Hofstra football helmet.

I realize this is inconsistent with what I wrote at Thanksgiving, when I theorized Hofstra was too entrenched in the CAA to drop football, a la Iona, even if the administration wasn’t a big fan of the program. But all bets are off if the school leaves the CAA.

Let me make one thing abundantly clear: I don’t want Hofstra to ditch football. While I haven’t followed it as passionately as basketball since I graduated, my fondest memories of student life at Hofstra revolve around covering the Flying Dutchmen football team. I remember what it was like when football was the dominant team on campus, and while I don’t ever expect a return to those days for a variety of reasons, it’d be a sad, sad day if the program ceased to exist.

And there would be more to a conference switch than merely terminating football or deemphasizing it. Let’s face it, while Hofstra has enjoyed a successful stay in the CAA, the perception that it’s never really become one of the boys is an accurate one.

You will never convince me, not in a million years, that Tom O’Connor’s presence on the Selection Committee in 2006 didn’t cost Hofstra an at-large bid. The CAA is a southern-based conference and the core Virginia schools—VCU, ODU, William & Mary, James Madison and George Mason—will always be the ones that dominate the conference, at least at the administrative level. The idea of joining a conference with a more northern identity makes a lot of sense.

But to read the tea leaves and to pay close attention to how the football team is treated is to think that the powers that be would not mind if leaving the CAA also resulted in the diminishing or disappearance of the program.

Have you seen this year’s schedule? The Dutchmen are scheduled to go four weeks between home games twice. That’s pretty hard to do in a season that lasts less than three months. Such giant gaps also make it difficult for a team to build momentum with the ticket-buying public. Scheduling is a tricky thing and maybe the hiccup-like pacing of home games is a coincidence. Or maybe it’s not.

Have you wondered why the football team has its own fundraising arm?

The defenders of the football program note none of the decision makers at Hofstra has ever come out and said he dislikes the football team and views it as a financial train wreck. Well, of course not. Why alienate a small but vocal core before you have to?

But the program is a monetary eyesore. That’s nothing new: It wasn’t a money-maker at the beginning of the scholarship era either. But that’s when the school’s most powerful people were football alums. Now, though, James Shuart and Harry Royle are retired and Joe Margiotta’s influence diminished rapidly in the years prior to his death last November.

Stuart Rabinowitz and Jack Hayes have no ties to the football program, no pangs of nostalgia every time they set foot in Shuart Stadium. It’s a bottom-line entity to them. What do you think goes through their minds when they see acres of empty space at every home game? What do you think they think about the fact Hofstra drew fewer fans in five home tilts last season than Delaware drew in a single game?

Don’t fool yourself into thinking the Division I opponents on the schedule the next few years are an indication the administration is content with the way things are or that it wants to upgrade the program. Those are cash grabs, a way to make back a little of the investment the school has been forced to make in football.

The bottom line is there’s about two million bucks that can be saved by dropping scholarships, and, if a 2004 Newsday story quoted in this post is to be believed, another three million bucks that can be saved if the program disappears entirely.

Trust me on this: There are supporters of the football program on that campus who are very worried about the future of the Flying Dutchmen, who think there’s a lot more on the line this season than just Dave Cohen’s job.

The good news is that even if the worst-case scenario is what Hofstra has in mind, there’s a lot of time between now and The End, and that countless things can happen to derail those plans. As the link two graphs above indicates, this is not the first time since Hofstra joined the CAA that it has been linked to a conference switch, and nothing has happened yet.

And even if the interest in leaving is authentic this time—and I happen to think that it says a lot about Hofstra’s plans that Hayes issued a canned quote in which he said the school has no interest in rejoining the America East—those of you who are old, like me, remember the twisted path the school took from the ECC to the North Atlantic Conference. These things are never easy, and the explosion in Division I schools in the last 15 years means there are more candidates than ever for the few conference openings that exist (you know, just like sports journalism).

The administration could recognize that the university has received millions in free advertising from the NFL success of Wayne Chrebet, Marques Colston, Willie Colon and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris. The 2009 team could channel the 1994 squad and make it really difficult to put the kibosh on a winning program.

Or an administration that has paid pretty good lip service to Hofstra tradition could find a way to keep afloat the oldest athletic program on campus, even if it means dropping scholarships. I’ve got some ideas on how that could happen, along with how a move to the A-10 would work and what the best solution is to Hofstra’s conference woes. Tune in starting Monday for a series I very well may call “Nobody Asked Me, But…”

Email Jerry at And join the Defiantly Dutch group at Facebook today!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Bits And Bytes: The “I Don’t Feel Tardy” Edition

How come my physics homework was never quite like this?

Technically, I was accurate nearly three weeks ago when I promised to return with a story about Jay Wright’s hiring within days and also to get back into some sort of regular posting routine. I mean, twenty-something days is still within days! And really, what’s “regular” in the world of blogging? How many millions of people have started a blog, made a debut post, and never posted again? I’m Metamucil, baybee!

Anyway, I do apologize for my extended absence. Part of it is just having trouble getting back into the swing of things after the events of March. Speaking of which, I appreciate all the kind notes and comments I received following the post about my Mom. It meant a lot to me and I’m sorry if I was a little lax in replying. Writing thank you cards and notes was another confirmation that all this really did happen so I found myself putting them off.

In happier news, I’ve also been unavailable here because I’ve been neck-deep in another blog—one that promotes my book about the Boston Red Sox and the media that is coming out in a couple weeks. It’s called Fighting Words, and I lost an arm wrestling match with my publisher over the subtitle. He wanted The Media, The Red Sox And The All-Encompassing Passion For Baseball In Boston. I wanted What I Finally Finished On My Unplanned Summer Vacation. Oh well.

I wear my Super Serious Reporter Dude hat over there more often than I do here (but I still post Simpsons pictures and am just salivating at the first chance to post a photo of Sarah Chalke). I’m offering analysis of the Red Sox and the media in Boston as well as posting interviews I conducted in writing the book.

I’ve gotten into the routine of posting every weekday and think I’ve gotten the kinks out. So I humbly request you visit the blog…and then, when the book comes out, buy 10 copies for yourself and 10 copies for every single person you know! You’ll be doing your part to help the economy, you know.

With that shameless bit of self-promotion out of the way, here are some bits and bytes as I attempt to catch up.

—The Flying Dutchmen lacrosse team was upset by Villanova in the semifinals of the CAA Tournament but earned an at-large bid anyway when the tournament field was revealed Sunday. What, was Tom O’Connor busy this weekend? The Dutchmen will visit Cornell in the first round Saturday. A win there and the Dutchmen will get to play at home the following weekend in the quarterfinals.

—The Flying Dutchwomen softball team will attempt to extend one of the most remarkable streaks in college sports this week when they host the CAA Tournament. The Dutchwomen earned the right to host the tourney by winning the regular season crown, though the manner in which they clinched (their two-game lead entering the final weekend was insurmountable after the three-game series against Delaware was cancelled due to a possible swine flu outbreak at Delaware) was unprecedented.

Hofstra has won 11 straight conference tournaments (four in the America East (1998-2001) and the last seven CAA crowns), the longest streak in the history of Division I softball. The Dutchwomen have won either a regular season or tournament championship in each of the last 19 seasons, dating back to 1992, when “Life Is A Highway” was charging up the charts and this year’s seniors weren’t even in kindergarten. I feel so very, very old.

—Tom Pecora signed a contract extension last month that takes him through 2013-14. Pecora has his critics, but now that we’re nearly two months removed from the end of the season, ask yourself what kind of record you would have expected if you were told in November that every senior would “earn” a DNP-CD except Arminas Urbutis, that Charles Jenkins would go through a nearly month-long shooting slump, that all three JUCO transfers would be relegated to the bench by March, that Nathaniel Lester and Greg Washington, who began the season as little-used reserves, would emerge as the second- and third-best players on the team behind Jenkins and that the Dutchmen would outscore the opposition by a grand total of two points? You would not guess 21-11.

The Dutchmen should have been a .500 team, but instead we ended the season grousing about the school being too good for the CIT. The dude can coach and Hofstra is fortunate he’s locked up for another five seasons, by which point he should be the winningest coach in school history. Can you say “Tom Pecora Court?”

—Along those lines, sort of: Aww crap, Lance Stephenson isn’t going to St. John’s. The only school I worry about when it comes to Pecora is St. John’s. Norm Roberts is 64-85 through five seasons, and a guy can get by for only so long on the fact he is not Mike “I’m not even the most hated man in New York in my own conference anymore” Jarvis. Stephenson was probably Roberts’ best chance to save his job beyond next year, not to mention his best chance to finally earn that elusive NIT bid (heh heh).

My completely uneducated and uninformed guess is that the Johnnies will try to lure Pecora if and when they cut ties with Roberts. And my hunch is that Pecora knows he can still be the coach at Hofstra when Roberts’ replacement is fired.

—If you’re reading this after 12 noon, go check out Hofstra’s new athletics site at I think I speak for everyone when I say: It’s about freaking time, what took you so long? Hofstra had the lamest-looking website in the CAA. Getting a modern-looking website with crazy doohickeys like streaming video is a lot like a company implementing Y2K precautions in 2002, but hey, better late than never.

—Also long overdue: WORKING SCOREBOARDS AT THE STADIUM!!! If I walk into the Stadium this spring or fall and can actually read the score on the scoreboard at the south end zone, it’ll be the finest day since I got a car with a working stereo and air conditioning.

—Your friend and mine Michael Litos has something new going on, too. Check out and bookmark, where he will try to get back to his original vision for the CAA blog. I happen to think he was pretty damn good as he was, so I can’t wait to see what he has in store.

—Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but I’m hoping this entry jumpstarts me and gets me back into some sort of routine. I’ve got a bunch of ideas floating around, including a couple interesting story ideas about men’s hoops, and plan to post here several times a week. Also stay tuned this week for an interactive idea that will hopefully provide some content this summer. Thanks again for your patience and see you soon.

Email Jerry at And join the Defiantly Dutch group at Facebook today!