Monday, April 30, 2012

In which I request your help to save The Chronicle's office

Despite what has turned into my annual springtime silence here at Defiantly Dutch, there are no shortage of interesting Hofstra-related sports topics to cover. And in the days and weeks to come, I will—I swear—write about the baseball team enjoying its most successful season ever, the softball team returning to its usual level of ruthless dominance, the search for a new athletic director and, of course, the ever-fluid future of the CAA (Today: EVERYTHING IS GREAT! Who knows how things will be tomorrow, though)

But today is for a cause even more important to me than Hofstra sports. I am writing to express my support for Hofstra's student newspaper, The Chronicle, as it tries to remain in its long-time office in the Student Center. Hofstra's Student Government Association has proposed a realignment of the second floor offices in the Student Center, including moving The Chronicle about 20 feet down the hall into a much smaller space that is currently occupied by the Nonsense humor magazine, and will meet to vote on the issue Tuesday at 6 p.m.

Such administrative issues between SGA and The Chronicle might not seem even tangentially related to Hofstra sports, yet without The Chronicle there would be no Defiantly Dutch (go ahead, Mason fans, have your fun).

The Chronicle is as old as Hofstra itself, and while nobody can say for sure if the office is similarly aged, nobody can remember when the newspaper was housed anywhere else. Room 203 in the Student Center has been the home of hundreds of student journalists who spent more time there than in our dorm rooms—or in classrooms for that matter—and learned priceless lessons that no amount of tuition could ever buy and no amount of communication classes could ever teach.

We laughed and cried, fought and made up, flirted and fell in love, screwed up and earned the admiration of our peers, sometimes all in the same night. In that office we learned how mutual passions and goals could supersede suspicious first impressions, unite otherwise dissimilar people and create lifelong friendships.

Of course, sometimes it wasn't that complicated. I remember the day 18 years ago this month when I saw a very cute and very pretty news writer walk in wearing a New York Yankees 1961 jacket. Michelle and I will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary in June and welcome our first child in September. By our count, we are one of four Chronicle marriages from that era while our child will be the third Chronicle baby.

Interpersonal relationships aside, there was something magical about that office, sensed by all who inhabited it even if it was hard to describe. It was equal parts invigorating and humbling to know we were sharing the same office space as those who'd produced The Chronicle decades earlier, and exciting to think of future journalists walking in with wide-eyed wonder before they became the next link in the chain and generated their own memories.

When I think of The Chronicle office, I am reminded of the last—and probably only—pure journalistic enterprise in which any of us would ever participate. We didn't have to worry about "doing more with less" or compromising our coverage because of real world issues such as staff (or lack thereof) and the type of conflicts between business and editorial that we were never told about in a class about journalistic theory. We had all the resources to do the best job we could possibly do.

The office has certainly undergone transformations over the years. When we attended The Chronicle reunion last April, we were excited to see the darkroom (GOOGLE IT) had turned into the library where the paper's archives were stored. The computers were certainly faster and better than anything we could have imagined in the mid-1990s.

We were amazed upon seeing the modernity of the back right corner of the office, which now features two sleek looking couches as well as a wide screen flat TV. Back in our day, the office was partially closed off by a file cabinet and contained a perpetually messy desk on which we cropped photos and pasted up that week's paper for delivery to the printer (GOOGLE EVERYTHING) as well a decrepit couch on which many of us slept off Wednesday night layout exhaustion and Friday afternoon hangovers.

We were disappointed to see the "Tuition Bricks"—at the end of every year, the editor-in-chief would write on a brick the cost per credit to attend Hofstra and place it on a wall to serve as a timeline of the school's skyrocketing tuition—had disappeared over time, but thrilled to see plaques and certificates honoring the newspaper's achievements through the years hanging around the office. And my heart swelled with (you guessed it) pride as I saw a framed masthead from 1995-96—my year as managing editor—hanging just to the right of the entrance.

The d├ęcor was different but it was still The Chronicle office, a place where technology could not change the common experience shared by everyone in the room. Moving to a different—and much smaller—office is unimaginable for a newspaper that not only needs the space provided by Room 203 to produce each issue but for an institution that appreciates its history and continues to rely on it after more than 75 years of publication.

If you ever wrote for The Chronicle or ever read an issue—or even if you've never stepped foot on Hofstra's campus yet value the tradition of a college newspaper—I implore you to write to the Hofstra SGA today at Hofstra.sga@gmail.com and ask them to keep The Chronicle in the only home any of us have ever known. Email addresses for each member of the SGA can be found here. Also send your letters to former Chronicle editor Lisa DiCarlucci (l.dicarlucci@gmail.com) and express your support for The Chronicle at the Facebook page she has started for this cause. On behalf of every Chronicle alumni, I thank you.

Email Jerry at defiantlydutch@yahoo.com or follow Defiantly Dutch at http://twitter.com/defiantlydutch.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

What will uncertainty yield following Hayes’ departure?

We should have known better than to think Hofstra would be immune from the free-for-all enveloping the CAA this off-season. Those of us who breathed a sigh of relief as Georgia State prepped to exit the CAA (gosh I guess that must have been some hastily called cocktail party!), rumors continued to fly about the long-term home for VCU and George Mason and the bottom fell out once again for UNC Wilmington got a swift kick in the Tony Skinns late last night, when Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com reported Hofstra athletic director Jack Hayes is leaving to accept the same position at Brown University. According to a source, Hayes will be introduced at a press conference today at 1 p.m.

Hayes will have to do more with less at Brown—the school fielded 35 teams with an athletic budget of almost $15.8 million in 2011 while Hofstra fielded 17 teams with athletic budget just shy of $17.5 million; all monetary figures from BasketballState.com—but the move to the Ivy League is certainly a step up in prestige as well as a chance to return home. Hayes is a native of Providence, Rhode Island, the same city in which Brown is located, and graduated from Providence College in 1989.

As for the school he’s exiting after more than seven years at the helm: There’s cause for concern for Hofstra’s head coaches and fans alike. New athletic directors tend to like to bring in their own coaches, and of the 15 coaches that were on campus when Hayes arrived in October 2004, seven were elsewhere within two years.

In fairness to Hayes, three of those (football coach Joe Gardi, volleyball coach Fran Kalafer and women’s soccer coach Joanne Russell) retired, three others (women’s basketball coach Felisha Legette-Jack, wrestling coach Tom Ryan and men’s lacrosse coach John Danowski) moved up to BCS schools and the seventh (women’s lacrosse coach Shelley Klaes-Bawcombe) went to her alma mater (James Madison).

Still: Suffice to say Mo Cassara and the rest of the head coaches are a bit tenser this morning than yesterday. The uncertainty is no fun for anyone, but especially a men’s basketball program that is just getting to the point of stability after two seasons of almost constant tumult.

The good news for Cassara is he’s got the most powerful ally of all in president Stuart Rabinowitz, who signed Cassara to a long-term extension just after his rookie season and is fond of the coach. History works a bit in Cassara’s favor as well: Tom Pecora had just completed the first year of his second contract when Hayes was hired in October 2004 and he stayed on another six years.

This morning’s uncertainty isn’t all that pleasant for fans, either, who have been fretting about Rabinowitz and athletics since he disposed of football in December 2009. We are told often of how enthusiastic Rabinowitz is about sports, despite his infrequent attendance at games, but he can declare the university’s commitment to this level of athletics with this hire.

It would be encouraging if Hofstra hired from within to maintain continuity, and a source indicated this morning Danny McCabe, Hayes’ longtime assistant, will be the interim AD. If McCabe or another internal candidate doesn’t get the permanent gig, let’s hope Rabinowitz oversees a smoother search than last time, when he turned down the search committee's initial recommendation of former Stony Brook AD Richard Laskowski, and one that ends with someone whose pedigree suggests Hofstra is looking to keep the status quo—i.e. make the best of a borderline lousy situation in the CAA while trying to position itself for a move up at some point.

As for Hayes, like most athletic directors, he leaves behind a resume with plenty of pluses and minuses. Many fans will forever associate him with the demise of football, though that was a decision that clearly came from above. He bolstered fundraising for the Pride Club, which raised $1 million in three straight years under his watch, and increased corporate sponsorships.

In retrospect, though, the “re-seating” policy for season ticket holders at Hofstra Arena instituted following the Flying Dutchmen’s wildly successful 2005-06 season was too much too soon. Coincidentally, one of Hayes’ final acts as AD was sending a letter to men’s basketball season ticket holders informing them reseating (which was supposed to take place again prior to this coming season) will be suspended for at least two more years.

Several facilities were built (including Hofstra Field Hockey Stadium) or refurbished (including University Field, the home of the baseball team) during Hayes’ tenure while Shuart Stadium hosted the NCAA men’s lacrosse quarterfinals in 2009 and 2011. He also brought back the Hofstra Athletics Hall of Fame in 2006 and retired more than 20 numbers over the last four years.

Hayes was hired as the eighth athletic director in Hofstra history on October 4, 2004. With almost eight years on the job, his tenure ranks as the fourth longest, in terms of continuous service, at the school, behind Howdy Myers (23 years), Bob Getchell (12 years) and Jim Garvey (10 years). Hofstra’s first two athletic directors, John Bartlett MacDonald and John Archer Smith, each spent eight years in the position over two different stints.

Email Jerry at defiantlydutch@yahoo.com or follow Defiantly Dutch at http://twitter.com/defiantlydutch.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

DEFIANTLY DUTCH EXCLUSIVE: Hofstra is joining the Atlantic 10!

Tom Yeager was right: The Atlantic 10 hasn’t been talking to George Mason and VCU. But the A-10 has been talking to Hofstra—and is about to cement itself as the premier basketball conference on the east coast by luring the school from the CAA.

“It’s a done deal,” said a source nowhere close to the negotiations. “Hofstra will be in the A-10 for the fall.”

According to another source completely unconnected to any of the particulars in this story, the Atlantic 10 convinced otherwise reliable reporters to float rumors of its interest in George Mason and VCU in order to complete an end-around to its actual goal of getting Hofstra into the fold.

“We knew George Mason and VCU were never going to leave the CAA,” a source not employed by the A-10 said. “Why would you leave a conference where everything is set up for you to succeed? I mean, really. VCU leaving Richmond? Are you insane?”

The source said the A-10 was drawn to Hofstra by the program’s history of sending players to pro ball. Since 2000 alone, Speedy Claxton, Norman Richardson and Charles Jenkins have gone to the NBA while more than a dozen other alums have played overseas, including Rick Apodaca, who played for Puerto Rico in the 2004 Olympics.

“Going to college is about preparing students for their chosen profession, right?” said the first source (or was it the second?). “Nobody in the CAA has done a better job of sending basketball players to pro ball than Hofstra. At least I don’t think so. I haven’t looked it up.”

Added the source not connected to the A-10: “Final Fours are a pile of hooey. I mean, if they mattered that much, we would have two since 2006 and the CAA would have none. That’s what we say to get ourselves to sleep at night, anyway.”

This source (or was it the first one?) said Hofstra’s connections to current A-10 programs made it a natural fit and a natural new rival. Hofstra played in the East Coast Conference with Saint Joseph’s and LaSalle while former Flying Dutchmen stars Halil Kanacevic (Saint Joseph’s) and Chaz Williams (Massachusetts) transferred to A-10 schools two years ago. So, too, of course, did ex-Hofstra coach Tom Pecora (Fordham). And Stevie Mejia went to Rhode Island before transferring to Hofstra.

“OK, fine, it’s five so-called rivals, only three of whom have any real tangible connection to Hofstra,” some source, no idea who, said. “But is that any worse than what Hofstra has now in the CAA?”

A Hofstra spokesman declined to comment on the imminent move, mostly because no spokesman was contacted for comment, though another source who doesn’t even know how to spell Hofstra said plans are in place to commemorate the move from the CAA by erecting a statue of Jack Hayes. It will stand outside campus and be named “The David S. Mack Jack Hayes Statue.”

Another source who doesn’t exist said the only hurdle to clear was the location of the conference tournament. Some A-10 members were concerned Hofstra would have a home court advantage for the conference tournament, which will begin a five-year run at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn next season. To alleviate those concerns, the A-10 agreed to move its conference tournament to a place nobody at Hofstra ever visits: The David S. Mack Nassau Coliseum.

Email Jerry at defiantlydutch@yahoo.com or follow Defiantly Dutch at http://twitter.com/defiantlydutch.