Sunday, March 13, 2016

An open letter to Jeff Hathaway

File photo of me.

Dear Jeff:

Good afternoon. It is with great trepidation that I sit down to write this letter to you. Not because I’m worried you won’t read or like its contents, but because the open letter is the laziest form of journalism/bloggery. It allows the writer to take the easy way out, because it erases the challenge of story construction while automatically giving him the lede and his conclusion, which are usually the hardest parts to figure out. It also speaks to the ego of the writer, who believes that what he has to say is so important that it warrants a bigger audience than just the intended recipient. 

Anyway. Now that my lede is out of the way, let’s get to why I’m writing you this open letter: Jeff, you need to do whatever you have to do today to get the Flying Dutchmen an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

I wish, almost as much as you do, that this letter was not necessary, that the Dutchmen had held on to a 12-point second half lead Monday night, beaten UNC Wilmington and won the CAA’s automatic bid. That would have allowed allowed you to spend the subsequent six days working the Selection Committee for a decent, travel-friendly draw and the rest of us to redden the skin on our arms from pinching it so often because we were in disbelief over our good fortune.

But as you have come to understand over the last four years, we aren’t allowed to enjoy nice things at Hofstra. And so most of us are spending this week wondering where we’ll be seeded in the NIT, and how the good ol’ boys on that selection committee will find a way to send us on the road to a Power 5 school on one day’s notice despite an RPI that suggests we should get a seed that comes with it at least one and maybe even two home games. (Also, we are reddening the skin on our arms from pinching it so often because we are in disbelief over our good fortune of avoiding the CBI)

I wrote “most of us” because there’s a segment of fans (plus one very loyal and very hard-working employee) pounding the pavement to get Hofstra considered for an at-large bid. I have tried avoiding this discussion, because getting into it requires reading the work of the major network bracketologist, which is the only American occupation lower than meter maid. And also, because as I have noted, we don’t get to enjoy good things, so why get my hopes up for an at-large bid that’s not coming?

Alas, as you know by the occasional glimpse at my Twitter feed, self-control isn’t one of my strengths. So here I am, jumping into the fray, and getting my hopes up only to end up blinded with rage.

It shouldn’t have come to this. You shouldn’t have to spend the final few days before Selection Sunday generating an at-large candidacy from scratch. Joe Mihalich, with other things on his mind a week ago Saturday, shouldn’t have had to stump for the CAA, the ninth-ranked league in the country, long before Hofstra fell into the at-large pool.

Why must the at-large train be driven by the coach, the athletic director, the SID and the fans, and not the league? The MAAC, the 19th-rated conference in the land, has a commissioner stumping for Monmouth at every opportunity.

It’s an amazing coincidence that the CAA’s leadership is quiet every time a non-Virginia school is jostling for an at-large bid. It happened in 2006, it happened in 2007, it happened in 2012 and it's happening again. I guess this year the leadership was too busy devising goodbye hashtags and ordering a pair of commemorative scissors. I bet you never had to worry about this in the Big East. 

But this is our lot in life, and so as an athletic director with experience on a selection committee, you can help ensure Hofstra an unusually happy ending. There’s more to getting this done than just numbers, as you no doubt know, but here they are, mostly in case anyone else stumbles across this. Here is Hofstra’s case, compared to Joe Lunardi’s “last four in” and “last four out” and the RPI numbers per Jerry Palm. (I need a shower now)

Hofstra (55 RPI) SOS 108 6-4 top 100 RPI, 10-0 201+

South Carolina (62) SOS 123 8-5 top 100 RPI, 7-1 201+
Temple (59) SOS 81 7-8 top 100 RPI, 13-1 201+
Monmouth (53) SOS 164 3-4 top 100 RPI, 16-3 201+
San Diego State (32) SOS 67 3-6 top 100 RPI, 5-1 201+

St. Mary’s (37) SOS 148 6-3 top 100 RPI, 18-0 201+
Michigan (56) SOS 50 4-11 top 100 RPI, 9-0 201+
Vanderbilt (63) SOS 36 7-10 top 100 RPI, 5-0 201+
Syracuse (70) SOS 42 8-10 top 100 RPI, 6-1 201+

So to review:
—Hofstra has a better RPI than five of the eight bubble teams
—Hofstra has a better SOS than three of the eight bubble teams
—Hofstra has a better record vs. the top 100 RPI than six of the eight bubble teams
—Hofstra is one of four bubble teams unbeaten vs. teams with an RPI lower than 201

I know a mid-50s RPI from a mid-major doesn’t usually elicit at-large consideration, but it is warranted in a year of abject parity/mediocrity amongst the big boys. And mid-majors pissing off the establishment and receiving an at-large bid is not unprecedented. Air Force did it in 2006 (trust me, we remember it). VCU did it in 2011 (trust me, we remember it), despite being so far off the bubble that the team supposedly didn’t even bother watching the selection show. 

So why are we not at least in the discussion? Maybe people feel sorry for us and don’t want to get our hopes up by touting Hofstra’s at-large candidacy. Maybe it’s something more sinister, some kind of Illuminati scheme by the bracketologists and the selection committee. Maybe—hopefully—it’s just sheer incompetence by the bracketologists, something that can be fixed by the selection committee.

Regardless. Unlike any of your predecessors in the athletic director’s office, you have the experience and ability of supplementing cold hard numbers with weathered fingers and sharpened elbows. You have been in the smoky meeting room, where you’ve massaged the backs of others and, when necessary, gotten down and dirty, in order to get what your school deserved.

(I don’t know if the meeting room is smoky. It feels like it should be)

Plus, and I can’t say this loudly enough or often enough, the selection committee OWES US.

You’ve been on the selection committee. You know their standard spin—teams are evaluated on numbers only, there is no consideration given to storylines, everyone’s hunkered down with no outside influences during the selection process—is a crock of crap. Everyone in that room today is going to remember Hofstra got screwed, in historic fashion, in 2006. There is a CAA athletic director, Northeastern’s Peter Roby, in that room. It’s time to get some payback for 2006. It’s time to right a wrong. 

“This league is the ninth-best league in the country,” Mihalich said following the CAA quarterfinals win over Drexel. “Not enough people know that. Not enough people know that. The ninth-best in the country. Who knows that? More people should know that.”

You know the people that should know that, Jeff. You can help us finally enjoy a nice thing at Hofstra. Get us into the NCAA Tournament today.

Cheers and regards,
Jerry Beach

P.S.: See you at the home NIT game.

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