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2009 Hawks of the Year Award

What better way to close out the 2009 season than with my annual "Hawks of the Year" awards?

Every year my "Hawks of the Year" are tallied based on my "Hawks of the Week" during the season. While there's no pretty trophies or luncheons available for the winner of my LFN awards (yet), it's still an honor that is not easily earned and should be a recognition from the fans for outstanding achievement during the football season.

This years "Hawk of the Year" nomination may not come as too much of a surprise - but, perhaps, some of the other nominees may be - including many players who will be returning next year. (More)

Closing the Year with Winter Sports

Being a rabid Lehigh sports fan during the holidays can be challenging, especially if you want to have any semblance of a normal home life. With time off my day job to celebrate Christmas - and dealing with the inevitable down-time that is necessary after a grueling four months of football coverage - covering all the goings-on foe Lehigh's winter sports, the final awards for Lehigh's football team and commentary on the wider football world is surprisingly tough, sometimes, to cover.

(Add to that the the success this year of the NFL's Eagles and Saints, the Red Sox getting John Lackey and probably losing Jason Bay, and there's more opinions I have than time to post.)

Add to that the fact that it's a different world from last with Facebook and Twitter entering the mainstream and the increasing expectation that they are a robust, often-updated tools for fans to use.

For the football fan, tomorrow will probably provide a Lehigh mention on ESPN during their broadcast of t…

My Christmas Wishes

First of all, merry Christmas, dear Readers. Like every one of you, I have wishes for Christmas as well, and I'd like to share them with you.

* As a Lehigh fan, I'd like a better offense for the 2010 season. Sure, there were flashes of what was possible in 2009, but I really don't want to sit through another home shutout anytime soon if that's OK with everybody.

* Maybe part of that wish above might involve Lehigh hiring a quarterbacks coach, Santa, to help the quarterbacks with mechanics and the like. I know university athletic departments aren't exactly teeming with money right now, but what about inviting a local guy that cares about the program, like former QB Phil Stambaugh, to work with them sometime? This isn't just for next year, either: this would pay off for the next generation of Lehigh quarterback, too.

* While I'm wishing, Santa, I could use some Saints playoff tickets. And some round-trip tickets and accomodations to New Orleans for me and my fam…

Your Commitment to Athletics

(Photo courtesy the Chicago Examiner)

The guys in the picture to my left are definite diehards. Though it looks like they might be Holy Cross fans, they're actually Baltimore Ravens fans that submitted their picture to the Chicago Examiner's "Tailgater of the Year" competition.

While it's not easy sometimes to summon up that football (or athletics) spirit during the offseason, there's a Lehigh alumni survey that is still open that, among other things, asks about the importance of athletics in your alumni experience.

Ordinarily such a survey wouldn't raise many eyebrows. But then again, the landscape around collegiate athletics in general and football in particular has to make anyone have cause for concern these days.

Ask the folks at Hofstra - who suddenly and dramatically had the plug pulled from their program thanks to a "double-secret" athletics study that is still waiting to be made public. Ask the folks at Northeastern - who made a decision …

Lehigh Weekend: From Exams to A Must-Win Game?

Lehigh returns to the hardwood this weekend after a twelve day layoff for final exams. On the men's side, the 3-5 Mountain Hawks (Real Time RPI: 198) have the quintessential trap game against 2-6 Dartmouth (Real Time RPI: 311) tonight at 7:00 PM at Stabler Arena (that will also be broadcast online courtesy of Yahoo! Broadcast).

LU65 on the Lehigh Sports Forum has done such a good analysis of the game, I'm just going to reprint it here:

There can never be a "must win" game in OOC play, right? Well, this one comes close. Lehigh has dropped its last three (one excusably to Dayton, one we could have had against Columbia in well played game and the other a truly awful effort in a 19 point loss to Stony Brook) after winning three in a row and beginning the year with two other losses to solid programs in Richmond and Rider. Now, it's time we got back on track and formed an identity - especially on defense - against a team who was picked to finish at the bottom of the Ivy…

More All-American Nods for Lehigh Players

Two more All-American teams were announced with Lehigh players on them this year, one from the ECAC and the other from the Associated Press.

Senior LB Matt Cohen added to his Walter Camp All-American nod by making it to both the ECAC and Associated Press All-America Teams. The ECAC list, given to the best football players in the Eastern region, was a first-team selection, while the national AP list was a second-team selection. It's great to see the quiet Allentown, PA native get recognition for his great defensive performance as a member of the Mountain Hawks. Cohen wrapped up his Lehigh career with 177 total tackles, 18.5 sacks and 44 tackles-for-loss (which may not be an official Patriot League record, but it most likely is).

Senior DT B.J. Benning got his first all-America as a part of the ECAC team. This put Benning in such heady company as James Madison senior DL Ryan Moats and William & Mary senior DE Adrian Tracy, both in the running for the Buck Buchanan award for th…

Cohen Gets All-America Nod

Senior LB Matt Cohen can now add something else to his trophy case: all-American.

Cohen becomes Lehigh’s first First-Team All-America since 2004 when DL Tom Alfsen and TE Adam Bergen garnered the accolade from various outlets. Cohen, who is a three time All-Patriot League selection, is just the 14th player in Patriot League football history to be named to the Walter Camp All-America Team, which is voted upon by the head coaches and sports information directors of the FCS schools.

Cohen was one of three linebackers from around the nation named to the Walter Camp All-America Team, joining J.C. Sherritt of Eastern Washington and Brandin Jordan of Southern Illinois. A native of Allentown, Cohen led the Patriot League in sacks (9.0) and tackles-for-loss (13.5) marking the second consecutive season he has accomplished that feat. A business supply major, Cohen was the first Mountain Hawk to win a major award from the Patriot League since PK Jason Leo in 2006 and the first Lehigh player to e…

Why Have Football?

Earlier this week, I posted some of my thoughts about why I am still mad about Hofstra dropping football. Reaction was fairly positive - but some folks, in so many words, questioned what a CAA schools' problems with supporting football have to do with Lehigh, the Patriot League, or even private school football programs in general (gently reminding me that the name of this blog is "Lehigh Football Nation", not "Hofstra Football Nation", "Defiantly Dutch" or anything else).

The answer to this question is: Hofstra's decision means a whole heck of a lot to every football program in FCS. But it especially means a lot to the Patriot League's seven football schools.

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Hofstra is a private university, just like Fordham, Lehigh, Georgetown, and every other school in the Patriot League. And Hofstra's president - by many accounts, unilaterally - made the decision to drop football.

Hofstra's president, Stuart Rabinowitz, cited costs and lack of…

Still Mad About Losing Hofstra Football

(With sincere apologies to anyone involved with the movie Network, and the estate of one of my favorite writers, Paddy Chayefsky.)

"I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's work, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter... [and now Hofstra's president, in the blink of an eye, drops its football team.]

Well, I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot - I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about [the demise of Hofstra football]. All I know is that first... you've got to get mad!"

- Howard Beale, UBS Newsman

This wasn't really what happened in the movie Network, but the way Hofstra's president suddenly and surprisingly pulled…

Northeast Football: Endangered Species

Two weeks ago, the Colonial Athletic Association had twelve teams, had four of the top teams in FCS, and had the biggest conference in FCS. With Old Dominion coming in 2011 and Georgia State in 2012, the future couldn't have looked any rosier.

Now, CAA football looks like it will be two teams shorter for next year - and the long-term future of CAA football is very, very much in doubt - and makes one wonder, who's the next domino to fall?

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Right after the 2009 season - suddenly, and without much warning, Northeastern was the first team to bite the dust. The official release offers some clues (or excuses, if you prefer) as to why they could not sustain football:

“Our goal for athletics is to achieve sustainable excellence in all areas,” said Athletic Director Peter Roby, who made the initial recommendation, which received the strong support of the university administration, the president, and the Board of Trustees. In an open letter to the Northeastern community, Roby co…

Sunday's Word: Worry

It's the last "Word" of the year, right after the last football game of the year involving a Patriot League team. (Again.) Without a doubt, it's "Worry".

The first dimension of this Sunday's "Word" involves the game this weekend.

I was definitely rooting for Holy Cross to win this weekend, but going into to the game I didn't have very high hopes for a Crusader victory.

Villanova gives teams plenty to "worry" about: a multi-faceted offense, a swarming defense and just great talent at so many positions. After seeing them dismantle Lehigh early in the year, I told anyone that would listen that Villanova had a heck of a lot of answers to a lot of questions. To me, as good as Holy Cross was during the regular season, the Wildcats were going to pose a multitude of matchup problems for the Crusaders.

Fortunately, my "worries" were unfounded. Holy Cross senior QB Dominic Randolph played the game of his life, lighting up the Vi…

Holy Cross 28, Villanova 38. Final

Some years, it's not easy for Patriot League fans to rally behind the league champion as they take on the best teams in the nation in the FCS playoffs. This year was different.

With senior QB Dominic Randolph finally breaking the Crusaders' championship drought (1991) and postseason drought (1983), the boys in Purple were a very easy team to root for on Saturday. It took Randolph four years - including a return for a fifth year for his final year of eligibility - to finally get Holy Cross over the hump. After three excruciating November swoons, it was awesome to see Randolph finally get a shot at a national championship.

Randolph and the rest of the Crusaders battled hard against a team that is a threat to win the Division I National championship. They gave them a scare, but ultimately Holy Cross added yet another "moral victory" to the Patriot League column as they battled bravely but fell, 38-28, to the CAA champions.

It was a script that was very similar to the f…

Happy Thanksgiving - and Holy Cross/Villanova

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. I know mine was great!

I wanted to mention that I'll be twittering about the Holy Cross/Villanova game this weekend, as well as writing a full wrapup of the game on my blog.

For my College Sporting News preview of the game, click here.

Finally, I couldn't be happier for senior QB Dominic Randolph, head coach Tom Gilmore and the long-suffering Holy Cross football fans. I'll be pulling for you.

Why Dom Randolph Tops My Walter Payton Ballot

Every year, I get to vote on the major FCS awards of the year, including the Walter Payton award (for the best offensive player in FCS), the Buck Buchanan award (defense), and Eddie Robinson award (head coach). I've been voting on these awards for years, but never have I had a Patriot League player on top of the list.

The one I submitted this year did, though.

I've seen a lot of quarterbacks this year, and Holy Cross senior QB Dom Randolph is, in my opinion, the most deserving.

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There are players with gaudier stats (like Stephen F. Austin junior QB Jeremy Moses, with 36 TDs), already-legendary players (Appalachian State senior QB Armanti Edwards) and high-profile FBS transfers (Jacksonville State senior QB Ryan Perriloux).

But no team in FCS meant more to his team than Randolph.

Why? Let me count the ways.

His 37 TDs - 31 through the air, 6 on the ground - was 77 percent of the Crusaders' touchdowns this year. More than three quarters!
As a sophomore, he was not a hugely …

All Patriot League Teams Released: Matt Cohen Defensive POY

Following the most low-key nine-sack, thirteen and a half tackle for loss season in history, senior LB Matt Cohen saw four years of hard work as a Mountain Hawk pay off as he was selected as Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year today.

Cohen, a local product from Allentown, was a model of consistency on Lehigh's defense. While he only won Patriot League Defensive Player of the week once (with 6 tackles, and 4 tackles for loss including 3 sacks), in every game he was a disrupting factor, with six games where he had at least one tackle for loss. His 9 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss led the Patriot League, and his 63 tackles were among the Lehigh leaders on a defense that doesn't favor one tackler.

It's great to see the quiet supply management chain major get recognized for his four-year contribution to the Mountain Hawk program. Congratulations to Matt!

While we're talking about low-key seniors on the All-Patriot Team, two more seniors got recognized on the firs…

Monday's Word: Awesome

As soon as he came in the press conference, he told the media folks there that it was "fitting that we win a football game in this way." It was a quote that was used in many of the local press reports of the game as well.

What the rest of the media did not pick up was the pause, and the word "Awesome" right after it.

Do I know if coach Coen set out to make "awesome" the word of the week - and the game? I don't know for sure, but I do know that as soon as coach Coen mentioned the word, he mentioned it again a bunch of times in the post-game press conference (and, for good measure, on Lehigh Sports Magazine tonight), I knew it simply had to be the "Word".

When many folks think of the word "awesome" they think of the 1980s. Big hair, Whitney Houston records, the (ack) Breakfast Club, you know the drill.

But that wasn't what coach Coen was talking about.

 He was talking about the true definition, meaning "inspiring awe&quo…