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.