September 5, 2010

Hofstra eliminates football: Sunday will never seem the same

By Frank Barning

This is a weird Sunday morning for me. Another college football season has just begun but a Hofstra University score is nowhere to be found in the morning newspaper.

On December 3, 2009, The New York Times reported, "Hofstra’s decision to eliminate its 72-year-old football program because of costs and waning interest among fans shocked players, coaches and alumni.” The Times story continued, "Hofstra’s president, Stuart Rabinowitz, said the $4.5 million invested annually in football would be channeled to student scholarships and other academic priorities."

In 1964, I graduated from Hofstra University where I had covered the football team for the Hofstra Chronicle and worked as a student assistant in the sports information department. For two years, 1969-70, I was the sports information director. Hofstra football was an important part of my life back then.

In 1982, we moved to San Diego and in 2005 to Las Vegas. Although I could no longer attend games or follow the team in Newsday, each Sunday during the season I made it a point to get the final score. This was done religiously, a very small part of my life for sure. But there was a special history, a continuum. I was proud to be a Flying Dutchman.

To make matters worse, a few years ago, it was decided to drop the Flying Dutchmen nickname which went back to the late 1930s. The school was named for William S. Hofstra who was of Dutch ancestry. Hofstra was renamed...The Pride. Excuse me. Are you freaking kidding?

My friend and fraternity brother, Les Bayer, has been attending Hofstra football games for more than 40 years. I sent him a condolence note last night. My loss is infinitesimally smaller than his. Les has attended, by his estimate, close to 400 Hofstra games.

Gary Parker, Division Avenue class of 1962, attended Hofstra on a football scholarship. He was among the first Blue Dragons to play college football. After quarterbacking at Division, he became a standout pass receiver for the Flying Dutchmen. Imagine his disappointment that Hofstra football is no longer?

Mike Dyer, my first sports editor on the Hofstra Chronicle commented, "I'm sure soccer will be a super homecoming for them."

The Times story reported that "The Pride established a tradition of producing N.F.L. players in the last two decades. The former Jets receiver Wayne Chrebet, the current New Orleans Saints wideout Marques Colston and the Steelers offensive tackle Willie Colon reached the N.F.L. after stellar careers at Hofstra."

One of my Hofstra classmates, John Schmitt, was the starting center on the 1969 Super Super Bowl champion New York Jets. That was Super Bowl III, the Jets' only Super Bowl appearance. Schmitt was Joe Namath's center. A year or so later John showed me his Super Bowl ring and I will never forget the size and beauty of that treasure. Imagine how big John feels about the demise of Hofstra football?

Our son, Randy, graduated from UCLA in 1995. Since he entered that university in 1991, the Barnings have been Bruins fans. We live and die with them, just as I did when Hofstra was my team decades ago.

But it is not the same.

1 comment:

Terry SMOLEV said...

I too share your loss of HOFSTRA tradition, both in the no longer cheering for the football team and the loss of the real name of the Flying Dutchman. Ever wonder how much of the savings mentioned by the president went to the new medical school?