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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 the plug on the Pride football program has made many, many people very mad. Including me.

Don't just take my word for it: take the word of the 7,567 (and growing) members of the Facebook group, Save Hofstra Football. In Paddy Chayefsky's time, Facebook was a concept that was ungraspable, but in this day and age it is proving to be an invaluable way for people to stick their heads out the window and yell, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

Here's some highlights:

What they are banking on is that we become apathethic and let this slide after a week or two. We have built a school of law, school of business, basketball arena, school of communications, theatre, etc.. without ever once contracting a program or service. Force them to open the books. Hofstra although private, accepts public funds, we can get this done!

if they didnt want to waste money, they should re consider giving out all the FREE bmws to the department executives, and maybe charge them for gas instead of getting their tanks filled everyday for free ....

what an unbelievable disappointment. I was crushed upon hearing the news. i am putting away all my hofstra gear, taking off my license plate frame. nice job board of directors. what will you do for an encore, burn down some christmas trees?

There is also a Hofstra blogger called "Defiantly Dutch" who has been active as well in his displeasure:

We all could have done more to save Hofstra football. But the person who could have done the most instead killed it, even if Rabinowitz said Thursday “…there really is no concrete rebuttal possible” to the decision.
But there sure are plenty of Unispan-sized holes in it. For instance: Rabinowitz said dropping the program to the non-scholarship level was not a legitimate option because if Hofstra is going to compete athletically, he wants to do so at the highest level and for national championships.
Yet he also said no other program is in danger of being cut. Well, if rubbing shoulders with the elite is the objective, then everything except the basketball, lacrosse, soccer, softball and wrestling programs should be in big trouble.
...
When Rabinowitz talks about how the money from football will go towards need-based academic scholarships, I don’t want to hear him tugging at the heartstrings with stories of kids who can’t afford to go to Hofstra or can’t afford to finish their studies there. Not when he has presided over a school whose costs have risen at rates that almost defy description.
During the 1999-00 school year, the Hofstra student paid $20,922 for tuition, room and board and student fees. The cost this year? $42,526.
Tuition and room and board at Yale, by the way, is $47,500, an increase of 3.3 percent. Tuition at Hofstra this year ($29,980) increased more than nine percent from last year ($27,600). Tuition rose almost four percent from 1998-99 ($13,328) to 1999-00 ($13,750).

There's also an incredibly pissed off bunch of football alums, including an up-and-coming government lobbyist, who quickly formed a group to save football as well. Brad Gerstmann, who has put himself front and center, mentions the following on his reaction to Hofstra President David Rabinowitz's decision to pull the plug on football:

“The University is part of the fabric of Long Island and I believe this is damaging to Long Island and the reputation of the school,” Gerstman says. “More importantly, Hofstra isn’t simply a small private business operating in a vacuum. They receive grants from our government and decisions made by the administration can and do impact the region. As such, it’s curious to me that as caretakers of an institution which has had football since it’s inception in the 1930’s, they can make such a radical change in a secretive way, without any notice to anyone, input from outside stakeholders, or public debate.”
So far - and in line with the initial decision for Rabinowitz in dropping football - folks are still yelling out "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" But the seeds are there for folks to pressure Hofstra to bring back football - and the organizations are taking shape.

****

And, yes, I'm mad about it too. Here's why.

One, Rabinowitz pulled the plug without telling the players or coaches. Just the night before, some of the coaches were out recruiting for the upcoming season. Two and a half weeks of wasted time and money by head coach Dave Cohen, the staff, and others, who could have been looking for jobs with other football schools - not to mention to give players some real time to weigh their options. The players and coaches were treated like trash by the college president.

Second, in Rabinowitz' press conference, when he dropped the bomb, he mentioned the following in regards to Football Championship Subdivision football (or FCS):

“Three of the last four years, Appalachian State was the champion,” Rabinowitz says. “Last year, Richmond was the champion, I don’t know if too many people will remember that because of the lack of national coverage. In a sense, this subdivision of football is like football purgatory. It’s like you need to spend a lot of money to be competitive, but there are none of the benefits that a robust athletic program produces.”

When this bastard sticks a middle finger up in the air at what I do, you better believe I'm going to take notice.

Never mind my efforts to publicize FCS football on a national basis with the College Sporting News. How about the Sports Network, who sponsors the Walter Payton, Buck Buchanan and Eddie Robinson awards and the FCS Top 25 during the year? How about AP, who covers all the games? How about Sports Illustrated, who covered the death of Hofstra's football program? How about ESPN, who is carrying the FCS playoff semifinals and finals?

Rabinowitz might want to check the internet every once in a while when he claims that nobody remembers FCS football, and won't remember their champions. Apparently, the folks at Michigan do. So do the folks at Virginia, who just nabbed Richmond head coach Mike London, last year's Division I national champion, 24 hours after he lost to Appalachian State in a 35-31 thriller.

How about the old "Google test" as to the reputations of the last two football national champions versus Hofstra? "Appalachian State University" yields 1.9 million results. "University of Richmond Football" - 2 million.

"Hofstra University?" Try a piddling 496,000.

Who knows if Hofstra had made a run at the Division I national championship in football what it could be? All I do know is that the last two national champions have just about four times the national Google traffic Hofstra does - and that will go down further once football is canned. Bank on it.

Say you want to pull the plug on the program. Say you want to keep your perks as president. But do NOT say there is a lack of national coverage about FCS, or that it does not matter, or that there are no benefits. That is complete and utter bullshit. And maybe if he lifted a finger and did a Google search, he'd have figured that out.

*****

I'm just getting warm. Here's more, from the Defiantly Dutch running day blog:

Rabinowitz says the University has not come anywhere close to making back the $4.5 million it spends annually on the football program. The football endowment, after 69 years, is around $400,000. Only 500 students attend games, a figure he says includes cheerleaders, dance team and pep band members. The season ticket base for football is 172. In basketball, he adds, it is 750.
“So people have voted on this, in terms of their financial support and their attendance for it,” Rabinowitz says.
“We are just sad every time I hear a good student say ‘I really want to go to Hofstra, it’s my first choice but I can’t afford it,” Rabinowitz says. “‘My parents can’t afford it’ or ‘I can’t afford it.’ Or students who are here and have done well who say ‘I can’t stay here and graduate.’ "We need Hofstra University to really keep good students.”
The 7,000 person strong Facebook group would certainly imply otherwise about people's "votes", but let's do one better and look at numbers.

$4.5 million certainly sounds like a lot of money. But the way Rabinowitz talks about the numbers, he makes it sound like Hofstra takes a check from its general fund that would normally go towards making the world safe for puppies, kittens and babies and instead have to make a check out for $4.5 million for the football program. That's a lie.

The great majority of "money" "spent" on the football program is financial aid. Hofstra's tuition is $42,526 a year. Multiply that times 60, and you get a little over $2.5 million in scholarship money. (Money which - oh by the way - largely goes to folks who need full or partial assistance anyway, and goes to the most diverse team on campus.)

So let's say that this is put back into the main scholarship pool. This money will go towards all students now - unless the goal is to replace the one hundred or so football players with more well-to-do, less diverse, less needy students.

If it's about saving money, the plan has to be to make the student body less diverse and less needy - the only case in which there is significant scholarship cost savings in dropping football, since "needy" students would be replaced with "not-needy" students (probably students that are whiter and richer, too). Either that, or else the university will use those funds to target diverse students that need financial aid - in which case there will be no savings.

If you take Rabinowitz at his word - that he really is trying to make university more affordable for underprivileged students - then there will be no cost savings. Period. Of course, he doesn't mention that 100 or so "good students" who DID get a chance to go to Hofstra as a result of their talent in football, who now, most likely, will be leaving to be able to play the game elsewhere.

Evidently, he is not sad for them.

*****

"OK", says the skeptic. "But what about that other 2 million?"

Well, for starters, there is sponsorship income. Folks may not realize this, but Modell's Sporting Goods, the LIRR, the Wing Zone, State Farm Insurance, the LI Herald Community Newspapers, and Fresh 102.7 FM all were partial sponsors of Hofstra football last year (never mind the Hofstra bookstore, whom you'd expect to be a sponsor). While harping on the expenses, Rabinowitz pointedly did not mention all these sources of income last year.

There is the $400,000 football endowment - which, presumably, will not be a part of future plans with Mr. Rabinowitz. Could it have been bigger and better? Sure - but it's not an insignificant chunk of change.

There's also $3.5 million dollar Margiotta Hall, a display of the "history of Hofstra Athletics", which was dedicated this past summer with the names of two former football players and made possible by one-time lacrosse player John C. Metzger. Metzger's generous contribution, it was pointed out in this release, was made "to support the men's and women's lacrosse programs and the football program". Would Metzger have made the gift if he thought that there wouldn't be a football program to benefit? Maybe, maybe not, but it does demonstrate that the possibility of athletics contributions drying up at an institution without football is very real.

(No word if the former players, Mike D'Amato '68 and Lou DiBlasi '61, will be taking their names off the project and Hofstra hall-of-fame. Maybe they can erect a bust of head basketball coach Tom Pecora in its place, and a monument to the zero NCAA tournaments he's been to. Fun fact: in the last 12 years, the football team has more NCAA playoff appearances (4) and conference championships (1) than the men's basketball team (0).)

There's more, too. There's revenue generated by playing at FBS Western Michigan, where FBS schools almost always pay financial "guarantees" for FCS schools to play them. Many, if not all, of these checks have six figures.

Does this total $2 million? I don't know. But I do know it's not a $4.5 million dollar check from Hofstra to keep a program alive. And I do know that millions of dollars of revenue for Hofstra athletics - including funds to keep, say, a state-of-the-art weight training facility, or upgrades to Shuart Stadium - will now be vaporized as a result.

$4.5 million of expenses? Without revenues? Talk about only stating one half of the story.

*****

Finally, again from Defiantly Dutch:

[WFAN Sports Radio announcer Mike] Francesa asks what schools Rabinowitz wants Hofstra to be compared to. Among the ones he lists is Boston University, where football was dropped in 1997.
Rabinowitz calls the decision the most painful one of his career—“Times like this I wish I was back in the classroom teaching law”—but says it was an inevitable decision “because there is no pot of gold” at the end of the rainbow in Division I-AA.
Francesa ends the 17-minute interview in familiar fashion. “You need to get that basketball team into the A-10,” he says.
“Well, give me a hand, will you?” Rabinowitz says.
Could it be this is all about getting Hofstra's basketball team in the A-10? "Maybe if I take the football team out back and shoot them, maybe Jodie Foster might be impressed?"

I can't even to begin to say how misguided this is, never mind the casual way he was lobbying Francesca. The timing of it in terms of gunning the football program - treating the coaches, students and fans as if they were trash, and then getting on only hours after the decision to make a pitch to a basketball league is ISN'T A PART OF - is just inexcusable.

It's also interesting that he wants Hofstra to be compared to Boston University - considering that the former college president that presided there that killed the Terriers' football program, John R. Silber, collected $6.1 million two years after he stepped down as president - ample money to keep, say, a FCS football program alive. (There'd even be enough left over to help pay off the outstanding bond debts from BU's $100 million Agganis center, which still isn't paid off.)

Saving a million a year, so he can get, oh, six million a couple years after retirement? Perhaps that's what Rabinowitz is looking for - his words, not mine.

Did I mention I was mad?

Comments

JimS said…
kudos to you.. im a hofstra football alum and this is a devastating decision. Its nice to see others from similar schools stand up when they see an injustice. thanks
Anonymous said…
Chuck-

Although happy to learn that you are "mad about Hofstra losing football", perhaps you should channel your righteous indignation toward Lehigh. Whoever is running things seems indifferent toward the direction of the LU program, to the extent that they run a very real risk of losing fan and alumni support. In these times, that can be the death knell to any 1 AA program, especially the non-scholarship model.

The facts are that the program under Andy Coen has diminished in every way that counts. I will acknowledge that he has managed to beat Lafayette twice...goody goody! Unfortunately, we have also gone from being perennial top 20 program with a chance at a PL championship every year or so to what we are - a mid pack team who has to expect loses, except when we play Georgetown and Bucknell.

If that makes me "demanding", then I am proud to be in that category. It sure beats wherever you are.

Do you use this forum to demand improvement from the school you blog about? Why on god's green earth not? This blog has potential but I think you should be leading the charge here (toward improving and saving the Lehigh program), not writing long essays about Hofstra.

Just an opinion.
Kymermosst said…
Can I offer one tiny bit of criticism? It's Stuart Rabinowitz, not David.

But outside of that, everything is spot on. I almost laughed in the face of one of the upper administrators here last week (being that I'm a GA and she's probably half a dozen positions above me, I bit my tongue) when I asked if anyone knew what the actual savings would be. She insisted that it would actually be $4.5M going back into the university. Now, she isn't high enough to have been a part of the actual decision, but I do hope that was her being uninformed, and not the true beliefs of the people who did make the decision.

Also, just another figure to throw out there: The actual operating expenses (after scholarships/salaries/etc.) is only $645,650. I can't believe the president and board were slimy enough to go through with this, and ignorant enough to think it would better the university, when a bit of actual investment in the program, and the experience, could have yielded significant results.
Anonymous said…
Hofstra, Like St. John's, St. Peter's, Iona, and many other FCS schools should have followed Fordham's lead, and go Full Scholarship Football, and push for FBS Status? FCs Football doesn't really make money unless they play 2 FBS Teams for the payouts?....yes, bring back Hofstra football (Northeastern and Boston U as well).

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