Friday, February 11, 2011

In which I see red over the idea I made up the ECC, offer yet another history lesson to prove I didn’t, and find a way to mention the Delaware game

What's better: "I saw red, when Litos accused me of making up the ECC, I saw red..." or "If Delaware and Drexel left they'd be impossible to replace..." or "I don't think we're gonna get an automatic bid anymore?"

It’s not easy bleeding blue, white and yellow. In addition to the fact that nobody should ever bleed blue, white and yellow, we root for a school that hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament in nine seasons and has reached it just four times as a Division I member. The best team we ever had missed the big dance in, umm, colorful fashion. Our totally awesome nickname was replaced by something straight out of a focus group meeting gone terribly wrong.

The toughest thing, though, is rooting for a school that seemingly has no past. Oh, we know better. We know Hofstra basketball didn’t begin with the move to the CAA in 2001, or when the America East renamed itself after the 1995-96 season, But there aren’t many of us, and there are more of THEM—the uppity and the spoiled who root for schools with easily traceable lineages and condescendingly look down at those of us whose histories contains expired acronyms such as ECC and NAC.

For example, and I’m picking this school completely at random—and by completely at random, I mean TOTALLY ON PURPOSE—a VCU grad can tell someone that his school hasn’t always been in the CAA, it was in the Sun Belt back in the ‘80s. And if that someone is a real college basketball fan, and not a Duke fan, he’ll know what the Sun Belt is and what it was and will nod approvingly, knowing VCU has existed in some form for more than a generation.

The VCU fan will be content, because he won’t have to sit there and convince someone that there was actually a conference called the Metro and that VCU was a part of it after it left the Sun Belt and before it joined the CAA. Because that would suck, trying to convince people you’re not just making crap up off the top of your head.

I would know. The other day, The Braintrust was convening and riffing on the supremely awesome return of “Wayne’s World” to Saturday Night Live last week by figuring out where the current CAA members were 20 years ago this winter, back when I was rockin’ the mullet, cruising the streets of northwest Connecticut with Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” in the tape deck and flirting with freshmen girls who had no idea what a dork I was the previous three years (if you think any word of that is false, you don’t know me at all).

Someone in The Braintrust—I won’t name him, except to say that his Pig Latin name is Like Mitos, and that I’m pretty sure in 1991 he was fretting over the imminent name change of to, planning to invest in the new TANDY he just saw at Radio Shack (Google it Crain!) and wondering what the hell a .com was—responded to the message by writing he wasn’t sure where Hofstra was in the early ‘90s because he “…never know[s] when Jerry is making up a fictional conference or not.”

Well Mr. Mitos, here’s your answer and what do you have to say now?! (Just ignore the weird URL and web design straight out of 1995, it’s not easy preserving the history of a conference that croaked during the early days of the Clinton presidency)

The ECC was alive and, umm, well, it was alive 20 years ago this winter. The 1990-91 season was the last one in the ECC for Delaware and Drexel, each of which bolted at the end of the school year for the North Atlantic Conference—that’s not a made-up conference either, Mitos, that’s the precursor to the America East!—as well as the last year in which the ECC had an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

The defections of Delaware and Drexel left the ECC—coming on the heels of Bucknell, Lafayette and Lehigh all exiting for the Patriot League following the 1989-90 season—short of the membership requirements for the automatic bid. The conference wheezed along through the 1993-94 school year, though it played only two tournaments in that span—Towson beat Hofstra to win the first final ECC championship game in 1991-92 before Hofstra won the last final ECC championship game two years later; Mitos probably thinks I’m making all this up—before finally splintering apart for good. Hofstra joined the NAC for the 1994-95 school year and has never again had to worry about being in a league without an automatic bid.

The ECC may be long gone, but it lives on in our hearts (oh hello Twitcon!) and some of us still get unnaturally excited about crowning a mythical champion every year. OK, fine, I’m the only one, but the ECC is relevant this weekend, with Hofstra heading to—oh my it all ties together perfectly!—Delaware to finally take on the Blue Hens for the first time this season.

This is a pivotal game for the Dutchmen, who can take another big step towards locking up a first round bye in the CAA Tournament by dispatching of the skidding Blue Hens as well as stay in the running for at least a share of their second straight mythical ECC championship! I present to you the faux race, because I know your day isn’t complete without knowing these “standings,” as well as the remaining ECC games for each school.

ECC "Standings"
Drexel 5-1 (Towson)
Hofstra 4-1 (Delaware 2x)
Delaware 2-2 (Hofstra 2x. Rider in BracketBuster, Towson)
Towson 1-5 (Delaware, Drexel)

(I should alert the Towson publicity staff of this, let them know the Tigers aren’t winless in conference in my universe)

The Dutchmen basically have to sweep Delaware since Drexel only has a game left with one-win (see what I did there?) Towson. Also, there is an uneven number of games because, remarkably, all of the ECC schools in the CAA played at least one former ECC school during the non-conference schedule. And everyone except Towson played Rider.

This could have gotten really out of hand if I counted Drexel’s game against St. Joseph’s, Delaware’s game against American and Towson’s game against LaSalle, but I don’t associate those schools—all of which left the ECC in the early 1980s—with DD-era ECC, or near DD-era ECC. Or something like that.

That Drexel beat Saint Joseph’s, and would therefore win the mythical ECC championship by half a game over Hofstra if both teams win out, had nothing to do with my decision. Or did it? When you bleed blue, white and yellow, and Charles Jenkins is still three weeks away from three glorious days in which he will lead Hofstra to the NCAA Tournament, you’ll take what you can get. Even if you have to make it up.

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