Hofstra Homecoming is this weekend, except it’s not really Homecoming, which is why I’ve a.) been grumpier than usual the last few days, during which I have been b.) chewing on this post and wondering if my criticism of the festivities was a bit overboard and overblown. (Yes, believe it or not, I occasionally think before hitting “publish post”)
And then we went to the Hofstra birthday party yesterday, the 75th anniversary of the day classes began at Hofstra College. The main attraction on the Adams Quad was a cake made by Charm City Cakes (which, according to my wife, has been on the Food Network show “Ace of Cakes,” I wouldn’t know, I’m too busy watching movies in which stuff explodes—oh and Beverly Hills 90210 reruns) and modeled after the library, complete with a Unispan attached to it.
The cake was really sharp looking. But I determined, as I watched the cheerleaders and Hofstra mascots lead the crowd in cheers, watched Stuart Rabinowitz briefly address the crowd in his Convocation regalia and listened to the band play its stable of songs, that it was no longer hyperbolic to declare Hofstra is acting positively Orwellian this weekend.
The school that has spent the last nine months trying to earn our forgiveness for killing football is now resorting to the belief that if it looks like a football game and sounds like a football game, we’ll think we’re at a football game, even if we are actually at a freaking cake cutting.
This didn’t begin with a library-themed cake. Last year, a press release promoting Homecoming used the word Homecoming 10 times. This year, what was once known as Homecoming is now known as “Diamond Celebration Weekend,” and the only mention of the word Homecoming that I could find anywhere was on the Homecoming & Reunions page at Hofstra’s website, where the headline is “75th Anniversary Celebration – incorporating Family Weekend, Homecoming and Reunion.”
There is no football game Saturday, but there will still be a Homecoming Parade—err, “Annual Parade of Floats and Student Performances.” Never mind that a “parade of floats” without a football game is like ordering an ice cream sundae and getting just the whipped cream: Irrevocably incomplete.
Perhaps, if cake cuttings and parade of floats get us properly revved up, we’ll fail to notice that only two varsity sports have home games this weekend, and that only men’s tennis (Sunday at noon against Siena) is actually in season right now (the women’s lacrosse team is hosting the Second Annual Nick Colleluori Women’s Lacrosse Classic Saturday against New Hampshire). There were three regular season games during each of the last two Homecomings: Football and two women’s soccer games last year and football, women’s soccer and field hockey in 2008.
Coincidence? Maybe. But how can it not feel like this is salt in the wound of those who loved football and remain devoted to Hofstra sports despite last December’s treacherous execution of football? Especially when there is no mention of the varsity sports events in the Alumni and Family Weekend program but there is a note, on page seven, about the alumni games for the baseball, men’s lacrosse and women’s lacrosse programs as well as the men’s rugby game against SUNY-New Paltz? No knock at all on the alumni games or club sports, but how do we not see that as a slight directed at Hofstra varsity sports and further confirmation that athletics is completely irrelevant to the administration?
Anyway, maybe we’ll be so excited by all that is going on we won’t notice that this Homecoming—hey, I can call it what I want—seems to be less about bringing old friends together and more about putting money into Hofstra’s pocket. The “Live At 75” concert Saturday costs $25 to attend without a “Diamond Pass.” Those who buy a “Diamond Pass”—which cost $75 by Aug. 31 and $100 after it—get free admission to several of the other festivities but still have to pay $15 for the concert.
In addition, the Jimmy Fallon concert Saturday night is $25 with a Diamond Pass and $35 without. (Side rant: Jimmy Fallon as a headline attraction—haven’t we suffered enough already?)
As was noted a billion or so times last December, students and alumni didn’t really support Hofstra football. But we almost always supported Homecoming, which was an affordable way to meet up with friends and revisit old haunts.
A ticket to the Homecoming game in 2008 cost $10 (I can’t find my ticket stub to the Maine game last year, but I’m almost sure it was $10 as well). The “Touchdown Package” to the 2009 game, which included a ticket, a Hofstra souvenir and entrance to the alumni brunch, cost $20 with pre-registration last year and $30 the day of the game.
That’s a price that lures people back to campus, even if they don’t care about football. Of the top 20 crowds at Shuart Stadium during the Division I-AA era, 12 were for a Homecoming game, including seven Homecomings last decade. And even the recent Homecomings that didn’t make the top 20 still drew healthy crowds far larger than the typical Hofstra game: The William & Mary game in 2002 was played in front of 3,032, the Northeastern game in 2003 was played in front of 5,324 and last year’s tilt was played in front of 5,453.
Is paying $25 or $35 for a concert going to have the same type of appeal? I doubt it. But hey, when one ticket to one of these Homecoming 2010 events brings in 2.5 or 3.5 times as much money as one ticket to a Homecoming game of yesteryear, who cares?
I left campus yesterday feeling insulted, as if we’re a part of Hofstra history but not necessarily welcome to celebrate it unless our wallets are wide open and we’re willing to act as if a cake cutting or a parade of floats are just as good and festive as a football game. I left pining for the days—a mere month ago—when Hofstra seemed more desperate to remedy the mistake of punting football than to make us forget it ever existed.
New Pride Club president E. David Woycik penned a letter dated Aug. 16 in which he introduced himself to us and unveiled his motto for the next two years: “THE PAST IS THEN AND THE FUTURE IS NOW.” His caps, not mine. I feel bad for him, he’s got a tough job ahead of him, especially considering that by the sheer power of their numbers, ex-football players were the biggest pool of donors for the Pride Club and that most of them are, how shall we put this, not happy football is no longer played at Hofstra.
The school also appeared anxious to regain any lost donations from football fans and players when it made the payment for men’s basketball season tickets due Aug. 27. Last year, it wasn’t due until Sept. 18. Two years ago, to the best of my recollection, we didn’t even get our first notice about season ticket renewal until early September.
Such actions were an implied acknowledgment that, yeah, maybe there were better ways to prepare for a 75th anniversary celebration than by killing one of the school’s best-known exports. It didn’t do much to fix things, but it sure beat Thursday, when the cheerleaders, mascots, school president and band all tried to get us excited about eating a piece of cake.