What I’m about to write is a bit redundant, the basketball blogger version of a priest imploring a parish full of people to come to church. I mean, if you’re one of the nine Long Islanders reading this, there’s a really good chance you’re going to the CBI game tonight against IUPUI (so many jokes about body odor and bowel movements, so little time). So you are not the target audience for a come to Jesus type of message.
So I guess what I’m trying to say here is print this out and show it to your neighbors, your friends, your enemies and that guy down at the corner who is muttering about the end of the world. Because Hofstra basketball as we know it may rest on getting a good crowd to the Arena tonight.
A bit hyperbolic? Perhaps. But there’s a lot more at stake than the chance to continue playing for the CBI championship.
For one thing, it’d be a shame to lose the attention of the administration we insist never takes the fan base into consideration on anything. Jack Hayes said Monday the decision to play in the CBI was entirely basketball based, but I believe the school is rewarding the small but vocal crowd that makes up Dutch Nation (snort) by deciding to play in the CBI. After all, I wasn’t the only person annoyed when the school didn’t pursue a bid to the CBI or CIT last season after the Dutchmen won 21 games.
The explanation that Hofstra is participating in the tournament this season because of its youthful core sounds good, until you realize the Dutchmen were just about as young last year as this despite the presence of six seniors. Hayes said five of the Dutchmen’s top seven players this season, in terms of minutes played, are underclassmen. But last year, the top six Dutchmen, in terms of average minutes per game, were underclassmen (the five returnees as well as Tony Dennison).
Hofstra hates bad publicity. While the school may catch some scorn for playing in a second-tier tournament, nobody’s going to threaten to cancel their season tickets because of it.
This isn’t to say Hofstra was entirely altruistic in accepting a CBI bid and hosting a game. From an administrative point of view, Hofstra had plenty of reason to continue the season. One more win gives the Dutchmen 20, and a 20-win season looks a lot better for everyone involved than a 19-win season. And a win tonight means there’s a pretty good chance Hofstra can declare it played deeper into March than Stony Brook and George Mason. If you think that doesn’t matter to the people who make the decisions in Hempstead, you’re crazy.
In addition, there is considerable mystery over how much Hofstra paid to host a CBI game, if anything. Hayes said Monday the CBI asked him not to comment on the fee while a CBI spokesman told me that “…we don’t talk about that stuff.”
My guess, given the very friendly price tag tonight—$10 tickets, with groups of 20 or more able to buy tickets for the bargain price of $2 apiece and students and faculty getting in free—is that Hofstra is already operating in the black.
But regardless of whether the school paid $60,000 or nothing at all, the administration is still willing to invest in the possibility of a long and expensive tournament run by the Dutchmen, who need to get to the best-of-three CBI championship series (OK, I’m sorry that is still weird, I thought best-of-three series went out of vogue when the NBA did away with them in the early ‘80s) in order to get another home game because the Arena is unavailable next week.
How’s this potential itinerary sound to you: Fly to Duquesne Sunday night for a game Monday, beat the Dukes, then board another flight Tuesday to Kentucky (Morehead State), Colorado State or Oregon State for a semifinal game a week from today. (Of course, the hope is the Dutchmen win tonight and only have to bus to Princeton and Boston for their next two games) And if the Dutchmen were to reach the championship series, the only possible opponent within driving distance is VCU.
This ain’t cheap, and another game or two or five would negate tonight’s profit in a hurry. And minimal interest by the fan base further reduces the chances that Hofstra listens to those of us among the lunatic fringe and elects to participate in something like this in the future.
Look, the CBI is no NCAA or NIT. But it’s something. Bonus basketball—an almost free opportunity to once again ponder the three stars of the game and to see Our Man Corny in action and to enjoy all the other rituals of game night—is never bad. We won’t know until this time next year if the experience of the CBI had any long-term benefits for the underclassmen, but it sure can’t hurt.
Another quiet gathering at the Arena tonight, though, could hurt. I wrote it after the two preseason NIT games drew flies and I continue to believe it: At some point, if the Dutchmen continue to toil in anonymity, Hofstra will re-evaluate its commitment to the program.
Fan interest, or lack thereof, made it easy to justify the elimination of football. I’m not one of those people who thinks Hofstra is eager to swing the ax again, but what if the interest generated by the program continues to lag behind the investment made in it?
I doubt Hofstra will ever drop to Division III or out of athletics entirely, but why should it continue to send the team to Kansas and prestigious pre-season tournaments if nobody cares? Why shouldn’t it just absorb the embarrassment of going back to the America East, hat in hand, or another low mid-major conference?
Most of all, if nobody cares, why should Tom Pecora? This is a convenient segue to mention that I am not oblivious to the news and scuttlebutt connecting Pecora to the vacancy at Fordham. In fact, I have spent several hours the last two days screaming LA LA LA PECORA IS STAYING HERE FOREVER I CAN’T HEAR YOU STEVE MARCUS LA LA LA!!!”
This is where being a total homer comes in handy. If I cared about the Flying Dutchmen as much as I cared about, say, the Red Sox, I’d be stirring the pot too, wondering in print and pixels where Pecora will be coaching next season.
But there are still games to be played, stories to be told and, hopefully, a championship trophy to be won this season. There will be plenty of time, whenever this season ends, to ponder the possibility of Pecora leaving, which, it should be noted, I do about as often as I take in air.
I will say this though: You can do your part to convince him to stay by showing up tonight. Pecora has been here 16 years and is spending as much time in 2010 as he did in 1994 trying to remind the locals as well as the student body that there’s Division I basketball being played in Hempstead. That is beginning to wear on the guy. Give him an idea of what things could be like here by showing up four or five thousand strong.
If not? Don’t say I didn’t warn you. On multiple levels. Pass it on.