Sunday, May 27, 2012

Someday they will

Hoping to do for Night Ranger what some Arizona DJ did for Sheriff in 1988. (GOOGLE IT everyone except @NUHF!)

I am not paid good money to come up with words at times like this. But I am, contrary to what you might think reading my Twitter feed, just about speechless.

Several hours after coming agonizingly close to what would have been, by far, the biggest victory in the history of Hofstra athletics, I have no idea how to put the Flying Dutchwomen's flirtation with a berth in the Women's College World Series, and the pair of 2-1 Super Regional losses to South Florida Saturday that ended their season, into proper context.

Part of me wishes I could just give this the who-what-when-where-and-how wire service treatment and be done with it. But something that stings this much, and made Hofstra fans care so much, deserves more than straight wire copy.

In particular, the five Ws would do a disservice to the Flying Dutchwomen, who were so close to flinging their gloves skyward that we could taste the celebratory Tweets and feel the cotton of our College World Series T-shirts, and to the mercilessly cruel twists of fate that have them flying home this morning instead of boarding a flight to Oklahoma City.

A team that was as close to perfect as possible heading into the Super Regional—the Dutchwomen won 37 of 38 games in the 45 days leading up to Saturday—and needed to win just one more game to make the World Series instead saw its season conclude with two one-run losses in a span of six hours.

The Dutchwomen left an average of seven runners on base in 54 games prior to this weekend but stranded 31 in three games in Tampa. They left 11 on in Saturday's first game, when the Dutchwomen had the go-ahead run in scoring position five times, including one runner at third, in the first eight innings and had the winning run at second with one out in the eighth. After South Florida scored twice in the top of the ninth, the Dutchwomen twice loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning.

"If we could have gotten one key hit…" Dutchwomen coach Bill Edwards told reporters at the postgame press conference. "We were leaving runners at second and third, bases loaded, time and time again. It's obviously a credit to the pitching, but we've been here before and it's amazing how you get on a run and you win so many games because you're getting those key hits.

"And all of a sudden you get in a situation where we had the same opportunity today in both games that we've had in the last 40 games of the year. And it's amazing how this game—how we really have no control over the game."

It's also amazingly cruel that the one person who controlled Hofstra's fate, and did more than anyone could have possibly asked in order to get the Dutchwomen into the World Series, was the one who not only took both losses but made the final out in each game.

In 19 years of following Hofstra athletics, I have never seen an individual performance as gallant, inspiring and noble as Olivia Galati's effort Friday and Saturday. To simply write Galati threw all 27 innings this weekend doesn't do her justice. She threw all 11 innings of the longest Super Regional game ever Friday night, then another nine in Saturday's opener, then all seven in the elimination game that started 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first game.

Most of us will never comprehend nor know how tired Galati had to be out there as the sun beat down on her Saturday, yet her facial expression never changed as the pitcher Edwards calls the Dutchwomen's version of Secretariat willed her way through 328 pitches over 25 hours.

I am loathe to use the word heroic in the sporting context, but Galati this weekend came as close as anyone will ever come to deserving that adjective. It was an honor just to watch it, for those of us at home as well as in the Hofstra dugout: Edwards called it Galati's performance the greatest he'd ever seen in 44 years of coaching.

"Tops. Top," he said. "Championship games in hockey, football, softball. Tops, right here to my left. Number one."

If life was fair, instead of unnecessarily cruel, there would be four more days of wondering how far Galati could carry the Dutchwomen and marveling at how Edwards got the CWS trip he so richly deserves. Now we must wonder if the Dutchwomen will ever get this close again.

The last time the Dutchwomen were within one win of the College World Series was 2004. Long time ago. Galati is back next year for her senior season, which means the Dutchwomen will be very, very, very good once again, but the NCAA Tournament is a crapshoot. A run at the College World Series is as much about a draw as it is talent.

And as always, at some point, the advantages Everyone Else has are too much to overcome. But couldn't they have been too much to overcome later this week instead of yesterday, when South Florida was able to swap out pitchers Sara Nevins and Lindsay Richardson and utilize pinch-runners and benefit from the stellar defensive play of LSU transfer Jessica Mouse?

It is easy to lapse into what-if mode at moments like this, and kind of cathartic to do so. But it would not be fair, to either us or the Dutchwomen, to let sadness and disappointment overshadow what was derived from the run to the edge of the College World Series.

The softball team gave Hofstra 15 well-deserved minutes of fame. After the Dutchwomen were the subject of features in all the local papers as well as some national outlets in the days leading up to the Super Regional, New York sportswriters Steve Serby and Peter Botte and New York Giants PR man Pat Hanlon Tweeted about the three games.

"I told the team 'We gave Hofstra University more press in two weeks than they're going to get in the presidential debate, which is probably going to last a month,'" Edwards said. "But that's what athletics can do. And that's how proud I am of these kids and how far they've taken this program."

The poor people who follow me on Twitter now know all about Flying Dutchwomen softball (262 softball Tweets the last two days, give or take 5,000, will do that) and have hopefully boarded the bandwagon. We know of at least one new fan: The daughter of loyal reader and very good friend @NUHF declared Hofstra her favorite softball team because her Dad's alma mater, Northeastern, doesn't offer the sport.

And the flurry of text messages I sent and received after the second loss reminded me, once again, of how good we have it as Hofstra fans and how we make up for with our passion what we lack in numbers:

"I'm in tears."
"Never more proud to be a Flying Dutchman."
"I can't leave my laptop—still trying to get closure on Facebook, watching press conferences, etc. Once I shut down laptop, it's all over."

"Sometimes this game is unbelievably wonderful to us," Edwards said. "And days like today, it's cruel."

For now this joins the litany of near-misses that keep us all awake at night, from those we recall vividly over the past two decades to those that happened when we were barely out of diapers, such as the Flying Dutchmen basketball team's narrow losses to Notre Dame and UConn in consecutive NCAA Tournaments in 1976 and 1977, or those that happened when we couldn't have identified Hofstra on a map, such as when the football team saw its unbeaten season end in the Division III semifinals in 1990.

Someday, if my wife and I have done our job as parents, our unborn child will carry the burden of yesterday as his or her own. It is part of the collective experience, from newborn to ninety, that bonds Hofstra fans, allows us to absorb the stings of these crushing near-misses and unites us in the belief that someday, the result will be different.

Yesterday wasn't our day. But someday it'll be a Hofstra team flinging gloves or basketballs or lacrosse sticks skyward after slaying Goliath on the national stage.

Someday they will. Someday we will.

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at

Friday, May 25, 2012

When it comes to Hofstra softball, there's no taking this for granted

More celebrations to come for the Flying Dutchwomen?

The greatest compliment and biggest insult you can ever pay someone or something is to say he/she/it is underappreciated. You have to be pretty good and pretty reliable to be underappreciated—after all, an underachiever is never underappreciated.

But to under appreciate something means taking it for granted, which isn't a very nice thing to do. Reliability and consistency should be valued, not overlooked and assumed.

For the better part of 23 years now, Hofstra sports fans have taken the success of Bill Edwards and the Hofstra softball program for granted. Through four athletic directors and three conferences and two university presidents, Edwards has been the constant. The sun will rise, the sun will set and the Flying Dutchwomen will win a league championship—21 in a row and counting.

The Dutchwomen have garnered plenty of attention for that record streak, which included 11 consecutive conference tournament championships from 1998 through 2008. But GEOGRAPHICAL BIAS was supposed to mean there was a ceiling on what the Flying Dutchwomen could accomplish on a national level.

As great as the program is and as well-run as it is under Edwards' watch, there is no arguing that Hofstra, as a non-BCS school located in a cold weather region, has two strikes against it at the start of every season. Edwards does his best to prepare the Dutchwomen for May (and June?) by scheduling up in February and placing Hofstra in a variety of tournaments down south, but come the NCAA Tournament, the teams that can practice year-round and recruit from a seemingly limitless talent base will win out.

Until last weekend, anyway, when the Dutchwomen went to UCLA's Easton Stadium—the Mecca of college softball—and trailed for all of a half-inning in going 3-0 against UCLA and San Diego State and advancing to a Super Regional (the softball version of the Sweet 16) for the first time. The Dutchwomen will attempt to reach the Women's College World Series—say that over and over again—this weekend, when they visit South Florida in the best-of-three Super Regional.

Now everyone has no choice but to appreciate Edwards and the Dutchwomen have done, not just in the last couple months but in the last couple decades.

"This win today is for all the little guys, the mid-majors, the non-BCS schools that do what we do," Edwards told reporters after Sunday's regional-clinching win over San Diego State.

The Dutchwomen are the first northern-based team to reach a Super Regional since UMass in 2006. If the Dutchwomen beat South Florida twice this weekend, Hofstra will become the first non-BCS, non-warm weather school to reach the College World Series since UMass in 1998.

I am so excited by this prospect I am able to write the following sentence without vomiting (barely): If the Dutchwomen make the Women's College World Series, it will be as momentous an achievement in softball as George Mason's run to the Final Four in 2006.

(I lied. Barf.)

But this does not feel like a Cinderella run—not with one of the most successful pitchers in the country, Olivia Galati, taking the ball every single game. Galati has a nation-best 0.91 ERA, has more than 15 times as many strikeouts (363) as walks (24) and has won 31 straight starts, the second-longest streak of all-time behind, coincidentally, the streak authored San Diego State coach Kathy Van Wyk 30 years ago. "Why not us?" is a popular phrase in times like these, but this is not a case of the little team that could hoping to fell a giant with a well-placed rock fired from a slingshot.

No matter what happens this weekend, we will always have the days leading up to the Super Regional, when the small but loyal band of Hofstra sports fans—even those of us guilty of taking softball's success for granted—were united by the Dutchwomen's run.

"We have it better" is the term coined by #CAAHoops guru Mike Litos to describe the unique bond shared by the conference's basketball fans, but it applies here as well. Few outside our circle will understand why we're so worked up about this weekend, which just makes it that much better.

It is downright inspiring to see Twitter taken over by softball tweets, to trade text messages with fellow fans (my favorite remains a friend writing "I am shaking" late Sunday afternoon) and to see how the success of the Dutchwomen transcends generations and coasts. There's Charles Jenkins telling Cornelius Vines to tune in to WRHU, Mo Cassara raving about the Dutchwomen on Twitter and Facebook, former softball SID Jeremy Kniffin traveling from his California home to see the team at UCLA and Stuart Rabinowitz proclaiming he'll host a parade for the Dutchwomen if they win the College World Series. Yes. THAT Stuart Rabinowitz.

We don't get many opportunities like this, so we're going to savor—and appreciate and not take for granted—every second this weekend. And next weekend too. Yeah. I said it.

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Comeback scenario nothing new for Dutchmen

The Flying Dutchmen baseball team certainly would have preferred to begin the CAA tournament tonight with a win over Delaware. But perhaps the Dutchmen, who fell to the Blue Hens 11-3, have the rest of the field right where they want it.

The second-seeded Dutchmen, who will face the winner of tonight's Towson-VCU game in an elimination game Friday at 3:30 p.m., recorded 15 comeback victories during a season in which they shattered numerous school records. So it is appropriate that if the Dutchmen are to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time, they will do so playing from behind.

"I think all year we've really battled," Dutchmen coach John Russo said Wednesday. "Fifteen comeback wins out of our 33, I think that's all about character and passion."

That the Dutchmen are even in the CAA tournament is heady stuff for a program that reached postseason play just once in its first 10 seasons in the league, was picked to finish 10th out of 11 teams in the preseason and endured a last-second coaching change when Russo took over for Patrick Anderson after the latter took a job with the Washington Nationals in January.

But the Dutchmen turning the CAA on its head doesn't even begin to describe the magnitude of what they have already accomplished. Five Dutchmen earned first-team All-CAA honors: Infielders Jared Hammer, Matt Ford and Dalton Rouleau, designated hitter Kevin Flynn and CAA Player of the Year Danny Poma. Catcher Matt Reistetter and outfielder Kenny Jackson were named to the CAA's second team.

The Dutchmen set a school record with 33 wins in the program's first winning season since 1999 and only its 22nd all time. The Dutchmen also finished with a winning record in conference play (20-10) for the first time ever, dating all the way back to when the Dutchmen played in the more regionally friendly North Atlantic Conference and America East and not in a southern-based conference loaded with programs boasting Major League Baseball lineages. Twelve CAA alums have appeared in an MLB game this year, including reigning AL Cy Young and MVP Justin Verlander.

Hofstra, meanwhile, hasn’t had a player even get as far as Double-A since Ken Singleton made three All-Star Games during a stellar 15-season MLB career spent mostly with the Baltimore Orioles. So how did this happen?

It has actually been in the works for a few years thanks in large part to Russo, who, as Anderson's assistant coach the previous three years, looked to transfers—and in particular the junior college ranks—to bring aboard overlooked players hungry for a Division I opportunity. All four of the Dutchmen's seniors are transfers, including Poma, as are five juniors, including Rouleau.

"I came from a Division II background, so I knew the junior college market really well because we were able to go get good kids there and that made our program successful," said Russo, who played and coached at Division II West Alabama before serving as an assistant at Division II Saint Joseph's College in Indiana. "I thought it would work at the Division I ranks. I'm really happy that we went in that direction in recruiting."

Kevin Flynn, one of the four seniors, said he thought the Dutchmen were primed to breakthrough last year, when they went 15-32 overall and 12-18 in the CAA. Entering this season, players and coaches alike felt the Dutchmen were better than their 10th-place prediction, but it took a March sweep of conference foe VCU—against whom Hofstra was 4-27 all-time entering the season—to get everyone to believe the Dutchmen could enjoy a historic season.

"Honestly, I wish I could say I saw this building and gelling," Flynn said. "But last year we thought we were going to be good and it was a step back, This year, with a lot of the same guys, everything just came together."

"When we swept VCU, that was the turning point in convincing them," Russo said. "Once they were able to do that, to beat a program that we've had a really bad history against, it was the confidence that I think they needed. There's really been no looking back since then."

The Dutchmen have surged into NCAA Tournament contention thanks to a potent offense that features equal parts power and speed. The Dutchmen entered the CAA tournament first in the country in doubles (610), second in batting average (.341) and stolen bases (a school-record 141), third in on-base percentage (.426) and slugging percentage (.485) and fourth in runs (411). Poma led the nation in runs (73), hits (95) and doubles (31) and ranked second in batting average (.450).

"Coach Russo really lets us go," Flynn said. "He lets us run. Everybody's ready to run. He lets us swing away at 3-0. We play with reckless abandon and everybody's confident. It's clear that he believes in the guys on the field, and when you feel that as a player, it gives you the confidence in yourself and ability just takes over."

While the Dutchmen remain focused on continuing their dream season and reaching the NCAA Tournament—said Flynn: "None of us want this to be our last game together, we're just trying to make the ride last as long as we can"—they have taken some time to reflect on what they've already achieved and what it means in the context of the history of Hofstra baseball. Russo said he fielded more than a dozen emails from baseball alumni wishing the Dutchmen luck on Wednesday morning and that he looked forward to reading some of them to players later in the evening.

"To be honest, it's very overwhelming," Russo said. "It's something we thought we could do. Now that it's happening, it's very rewarding…it's just amazing how many people are following us and pulling for us.

"It's been a long history of not being that great, but it's a good history for great people that we're trying to play this weekend for and continue this program for."

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at

Friday, May 18, 2012

Edwards sets the standard for Hofstra softball

At first listen, Flying Dutchwomen softball coach Bill Edwards is the most vanilla of speakers, someone who talks about staying in a routine and taking everything one day at a time and not getting too high or too low.

But Edwards' words are a lot more than just recitations from someone who has read The Great Book Of Sports Cliches. They are words of experience from someone who has spent five decades in coaching and has modified his approach the last 23 years so that it is decidedly different than the one he used as a football and hockey coach earlier in his career.

It has been a wildly successful approach: The Flying Dutchwomen begin play in their 13th NCAA Tournament under Edwards—all since 1993—tonight at UCLA when they play the host Bruins.

"I've had to adjust to softball, which was different than when I coached football and different when I coached some hockey," Edwards said this week. "Coaching those sports, you needed the energy, you needed a fire, you needed the competitive spirit. You needed them to get a little bit excited—overly excited, because they're all contact sports and you want to do the things that you have to do to be successful in those sports.

"In our game, we have to relax. We have to be in the same tenor, the same feeling of confidence, the same mode in order to perform. We can't get too high because then we start throwing the ball away. We can't get excited because then we overrun a groundball. We can't get excited because then we start swinging at pitches outside the zone. So just keep everything the same, keep them relaxed, keep them focused now hat they have to do as individual student-athletes."

Edwards' words are also those of someone who manages to create chemistry by getting everyone to, quite literally, check their egos at the door. The all-day rains Tuesday forced the Dutchwomen to practice in the bubble near the tennis courts, and after practice, Edwards went ahead of his players and opened the door to the Physical Fitness Center. He held the door open as pairs of teammates walked through toting equipment.

The players were pictures of symmetry, with the first person to walk through the door silently stepping to the right as the person behind her took control and guided the equipment and her teammate through the other set of doors and into the PFC's gym.

"They're not afraid to get their hands dirty," Edwards said. "They're not afraid to pick up screens. They're not afraid to carry stuff. They're very receptive to the things we ask them to do. No one ever rolls their eyes. It's just the way Hofstra softball is. And it's the kind of kid that we recruit: Hard-working, put a light on the miner hat, bring your lunch bucket to work. That’s everything that we want our kids to be."

Most impressively, Edwards gets the Dutchwomen to focus on the tiniest and most immediate of objectives, yet also understands how important it is to current players to measure up to their predecessors at Hofstra.

This year marked the 21st straight season in which the Dutchwomen won either the regular season championship or conference tournament and the 13th time in the last 15 years they won the tournament. The Dutchwomen didn't win the conference tournament in 2009, which they responded to in 2010 by winning 21 of 23 CAA games (including the tournament) and nearly forcing an elimination game against Arizona in a regional.

The Dutchwomen were upset by Georgia State in last year's CAA tournament. The reaction: Hofstra enters the NCAA Tournament an absurd 34-1 in its last 35 games. The Dutchwomen have won 17 in a row and just completed a perfect CAA season in which they won all 21 regular season games before sweeping three tournament games last week at Hofstra Softball Stadium.

So rest assured these Dutchwomen know the opportunity they have beginning tonight. A College World Series is the one thing missing from Edwards' resume, but the Dutchwomen have a legitimate shot at history thanks to record-breaking ace Olivia Galati (30-5, 0.90 ERA, a 331/22 strikeout-to-walk ratio) and their potent offense (.301 team batting average).

"I think this team really wanted to—and I don't like this word—revenge [for] last year," Edwards said. "I don't like that word, because I don't think it has a place in our athletics, but they really wanted it. They want to establish their identity. The seniors wanted to have their banner on the wall. They know the tradition of our program. They don't like to have the tradition taken from us.

"So I think they were very much aware of what they had to do in order to get it done."

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Defiantly Dutch Q&A: Tom Yeager

Well, of all the people I expected to see when I rolled out of bed this morning, Tom Yeager was about last on the list. But there he was in Hempstead for the Jeff Hathaway press conference while VCU prepared for its own press conference announcing its immediate departure for the Atlantic 10. Yeager was kind enough to give us a few minutes of time to discuss the state of the CAA. As always, we have it better. Here is our conversation.

If what we're all reading on Twitter is correct, there's some pretty big CAA news about to happen, What brings you here today?

Well, it's a combination of things. President Rabinowitz is chair of our council of presidents. We have our annual meetings coming up, so it was a chance to kind of dovetail the two of them together. And what you're hearing is correct.

You were adamant on the conference call a few weeks ago that VCU and Mason weren't leaving…

Mason didn't. And over the next couple of weeks, VCU made up their mind to leave.

Were you surprised by their departure?

Yes. But you know what? The good part of this business, the bad part of this business, is results will tell the tale.

Was coming here today a sign of support for those schools that aren’t going anywhere?

No, no. I was coming here. The VCU thing just developed after this was scheduled.

How is realignment 2012 different than realignment 2000-2001?

This go-around is so much more widespread. Back then, it was more limited. This round, there's a near-hysteria on some fronts and people jumping around. It's going to take time to see [the results]. There have been a lot of decisions being made for all different kinds of reasons. Time will tell which ones were good.

You talk about the results telling the tale. Are you galvanized now by the success the CAA had after 2001?

Yeah, oh yeah. Oh yeah, sure. In 2000 people were saying the grave was dug. They were shoveling dirt on us. We did OK. We had national champions, two men's basketball Final Fours, we had a record number of teams in other sports participating [in the NCAA Tournament]. When you start with good universities that have good leadership, good coaches and good student-athletes, I'll take that. I'll take that right now.

We have a ton of guys—Justin Verlander, he played here. Joe Flacco played here. Marques Colston. You've got them all and we have tons of soccer kids out there [playing professionally]. We're going to have a bunch of people in the Olympics. And most or all of them are graduates. I can think of a worse fate in life than that.

I know there's not much you can probably say about this, but do you have a timetable for getting back to 12 and/or a geographical area you'd like to tackle?

This is part of the evaluation everybody's doing. I think we want to look first and foremost at institutions that bring something to the table. You just don't want to fill out [and say] 'OK let's get back to 12 and let's pick two.' You want to have somebody that brings a requisite amount of assets and contributions to the good of the group.

Have you thought about next year's men's basketball tournament and how it will play out in terms of scheduling?

There's no Friday games at this point. Get back to the old days—just everybody lays three games. You're in and out.

You seem calm about this. Does your stomach churn at night thinking about all the possibilities?

Yeah, absolutely, I didn't sleep very well last night in the hotel. Because [he's] more emotionally invested in this stuff. I've been doing this a long time at this place. Got a lot invested in what we built. And people saying bad things about you—your girlfriend just dumped you, your wife just said 'Ahh, I'm gonna go hook up with somebody else.' Yeah, it's not a good day. But you know what? It's a disappointing loss. There's another game next week. So get ready to play.

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at

Hathaway named new Hofstra AD

It probably won’t be the biggest news of the day in the CAA, but Hofstra has a major announcement of its own scheduled for 11 a.m., when ex-UConn athletic director Jeff Hathaway—last seen running teh Selection Committee—is introduced as the school's new athletic director.

But unlike VCU's likely exit to the Atlantic 10, this news qualifies as a sizable surprise. Those in the know expected the search to last well into the summer, but it took Stuart Rabinowitz just 40 days to identify Hathaway as the successor to Jack Hayes. The search for Hayes back in 2004 took more than six months and featured Rabinowitz turning down the search committee's recommendation of ex-Stony Brook AD Richard Laskowski.

It is also somewhat surprising that Rabinowitz chose another AD from the UConn tree. It's a sign that ex-Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese, who consulted with Hayes prior to the Tim Welsh hiring, wasn't banished in the aftermath of the Welsh DUI debacle. And it's also a sign Rabinowitz holds no grudges over the departure of Hayes for Brown.

(It's also a sign that he apparently wants to bring in every former men's basketball Selection Committee chair who mistreated Hofstra and/or Hofstra's conference. If Tom O'Connor or Craig Littlepage end up at Hofstra as anything other than meter maids—and we don't even have parking meters!— I am done)

Hathaway also arrives with the type of pockmarked—with a caveat—resume that one would not normally associate with a Rabinowitz hire. While both UConn basketball teams won multiple national championships during Hathaway's eight-year tenure and the football team (Football team? What's that?) won a Big East title, the men's basketball program suffered from declining APR scores and graduation rates and was the subject of a 15-month investigation by the NCAA in which the school admitted committing major violations for which it imposed upon itself two years of probation.

It was just a decade ago, of course, that Rabinowitz suspended men's basketball starters Rick Apodaca and Wendell Gibson half a season for failing a drug test. Hiring Hathaway is more evidence Rabinowitz recognizes the stakes have gone up for Hofstra as it tries to compete with and eventually escape the CAA—you can bet Hathaway's ties to big-time conferences will be emphasized today as a necessity in this era of constant realignment—as well as his attempt to convince a skeptical fan base of his commitment to athletics.

Hiring Hathaway is also a sign that Rabinowitz believes what just about anyone with a pulse believes: That any problems with the UConn men's basketball program can almost surely be traced back to one person and one person alone—the all-powerful Jim Calhoun, with whom Hathaway reportedly had a frosty relationship before Hathaway "retired" last year.

Not surprising is Rabinowitz going outside the Hofstra family to make this hire instead of handing the reins to interim AD Danny McCabe, which is rather ironic considering he got the presidency as the lone internal candidate back in 2000. Hofstra was a school defined by athletic stability for a long time, with Harry Royle replacing Jim Garvey as athletic director in the late '90s and Tom Pecora replacing Jay Wright as men's basketball coach within days in 2001.

Rabinowitz is far from the only executive, for lack of a better term, to prefer outsiders these days, but that won’t make today any less nerve-wracking for athletic department employees, all of whom are surely aware of how a new AD tends to like to bring in his own people and many of whom were hired by Hayes. It is a reasonably good sign that McCabe will remain at Hofstra, per Newsday, as the executive director of athletics.

As for the Flying Dutchmen basketball team—the anchor of Hofstra athletics and a program desperate for some stability after two unprecedented years of turmoil—it is also a decent sign for Mo Cassara that his 2012-13 squad features UConn transfer Jamal Coombs-McDaniel and that his coaching staff includes ex-UConn assistant Patrick Sellers, who resigned in the wake of the NCAA's investigation in 2010 but was later cleared of any wrongdoing.

Hopefully Hathaway will come in and engage in actual evaluation (a popular buzzword for new ADs) of the current staff and leave the broom (a popular weapon for new ADs) at home. Some turnover is inevitable, but at every level of Hofstra sports Hathaway will find good, hard-working people who embody all the principles espoused by the school. His job will be much easier, and Hofstra will have a better chance of reaching the heights Rabinowitz will say today he wants to attain, if Hathaway immediately tries to foster an environment of stability for a department that has suffered far too much tumult the past three years.

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Of the rumours in the air and how Hofstra may benefit

A Night Ranger song relevant to the topic. Thank you realignment!

Let's hand it to the CAA, or whatever is left of it and its renegade Virginia-based core members at this early morning moment: It is an equal opportunity provider. Multiple times per week, news and/or rumors break that supply a chance to write with some clarity about this murky, messy, mucked up situation. And multiple times per week, news and/or rumors break that make it utterly impossible to write with some clarity about this murky, messy, mucked up situation.

Sometimes, both things happen in the same day. Like yesterday, when's Brett McMurphy reported Conference USA is adding Old Dominion and five other schools for the 2013-14 season. The Virginian Pilot wasn't quite as declarative later Tuesday, when it reported Old Dominion to C-USA was not a done deal but that the conference wanted an answer from the school by the end of the week.

Regardless, the news/rumors brought a sudden end to the temporary tranquility the CAA was enjoying after the Daily Press reported Saturday VCU would remain in the league for at least another year and not immediately jump to the Atlantic 10. Of course, a one-year "commitment" recommended by an athletic director who will be calling Minnesota home later this month shouldn't have given anyone a long-term sense of security or stability.

Now? My guess is if Old Dominion leaves for C-USA, it will have done the dirty work for VCU and George Mason by giving them the opening they needs to spin their exits—exits that were probably going to happen anyway—from the CAA as a search for stability.

There's no way to spin this: It will be very bad news for the CAA as a whole if the three schools that have combined to win the last six CAA titles and 13 of the last 18 overall bolt.

But it'd be pretty easy to spin it as good news for the Flying Dutchmen, both in the short- and long-term.

If Old Dominion, VCU and Mason all leave, they will presumably be ineligible to participate in next year's CAA tournament. (I don't know if the CAA can bar a school from participating in the tournament if it announces its intentions to leave in mid-year—don't underestimate all three schools dragging out the decision-making process in hopes of keeping their NCAA hopes alive) Subtract UNC Wilmington and Towson—each likely to be ineligible for postseason play due to their APR issues—and there would be a grand total of seven teams competing for the title in Richmond.

This would be GREAT news for the Flying Dutchmen as well as everyone else sticking around. Hofstra would still not be a favorite in this scenario—that honor would probably be shared by Drexel and Delaware—but the path to the NCAA's is a lot clearer with the big three gone and only seven teams in the tournament.

In the longer term, Hofstra has been absent from the realignment talk (that we know of, anyway), as has the rest of the America East five (that we know of, anyway) and UNC Wilmington (that we know of, anyway), and, to a large degree, James Madison and William & Mary (that we know of anyway).

The irrelevance makes sense on multiple levels. As noted above, VCU, Old Dominion and Mason have been the conference's marquee programs (though UNC Wilmington is the only school still in the CAA to win a title in the last 18 years). They have the cache that other conferences want.

It's also appropriate the America East five and UNC Wilmington have been ignored as everyone frets over the future of the CAA, which can talk all it wants about the footprint but has made it abundantly clear it cares the most about the schools located inside the 10th of the original colonies (American history lesson!). Now that those schools may be the ones that end the CAA as we know it, and lead to a worst-case scenario of mass defections of core members, the CAA might find itself needing the AE5 to save its backside all over again. (Oh yes, we haven't forgotten)

Let's assume (yeah yeah I know what happens when you assume) that Old Dominion, VCU and Mason all leave. That drops the CAA to eight members: Hofstra, Delaware, Drexel, Northeastern, Towson, James Madison, William & Mary and UNC Wilmington. In order to maintain its automatic bid, a league must have at least six schools that have been in the league for at least five consecutive years.

At this moment—and again, anything can change at any moment—it looks like non-football schools Hofstra, Drexel, Northeastern and UNC Wilmington are the most stable. In that case, just ONE more school has to stick around—either William & Mary remains or one of the trio of Delaware, Towson and James Madison decides I-A football is a bloody awful idea—for the CAA to keep its NCAA golden ticket as it rebuilds around what is now its northeast-based core. After years of drawing the short straw, Hofstra, et al, would now be in a position of power—maybe even powerful enough TO GET THE TOURNAMENT ROTATED AMONG A BUNCH OF DIFFERENT SITES.

Who knew we might be able to get the conference home we wanted by hanging tight? And all it would take is anarchy in the CAA. Bad for the league, terrible for tradition, but pretty damn good for Hofstra. Unless what's happening to the CAA is what happened to the East Coast Conference, in which case this isn't good for Hofstra. We'll have more on that possibility later in the week. Unless there's nothing to write about. I'm not really sure.

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