Hofstra does the right thing by dropping its football program
Citing little fan support and huge losses, Hofstra disbanded its football program
School president Stuart Rabinowitz made a prudent decision to put academics first
Football is big for a school's image, but at most places it's a financial drain
The announcement of the canceled football program came Thursday afternoon, and I immediately knew what I wanted for my children's futures:
Fancy automobiles -- No.
Fame -- No.
Power -- No.
What I desire, more than any possession or achievement or victory, is that my offspring one day attend a school like Hofstra University.
A school with principle.
For the 99 percent of you who missed the press conference, well, take a little time out of your life to watch this. The man with the white beard and serious look is Stuart Rabinowitz, the Long Island-based school's president and a person I consider to be nothing short of remarkable. Or, in other words, here we are, in the year 2009, and mental derangement reigns across the collegiate grid landscape.
Notre Dame is paying Charlie Weis an estimated $18 million not to coach. The programs at the University of Alabama and the University of Arkansas are led by men, Nick Saban and Bobby Petrino, who reek of past disloyalties and minimal decency. Stanford's Jim Harbaugh was caught on film screaming a homophobic expletive at an official, and USC's Pete Carroll and UCLA's Rick Neuheisel recently engaged in a life-sized pissing match called Who Can Be the Bigger Anus? In Florida, Tim Tebow -- a 22-year-old college senior and future NFL backup tight end -- is treated as a deity because he can throw a tight spiral and run over defenders (all without cussin'). The media, meanwhile, have a field day, primarily men in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s, hanging on the every word and action of pimply-faced muscle-heads who might attend a class. Or two. Or, just maybe, three!
Mark Ingram is the most amazing player I have ever seen...
Toby Gerhart has the guts of a lion tamer...
Jack Bernards throws the tightest spiral...
So what does Hofstra do? It washes its hands of the whole damn thing.
Oh, Rabinowitz didn't make it sound quite that dramatic. He spoke eloquently of a small fan base and poor ticket sales and the minimal earning potential of those residing in the wild, wacky Football Championship Subdivision (a.k.a. Division I-AA). Yet the most important words to emerge from his mouth were ones you'll surely never hear from men holding similar positions at schools like Miami and Ohio State. Namely, that sports aren't nearly as important as, oh, classrooms and books. "The strategic decision to reallocate resources is based on our academic mission and priorities," Rabonowitz said, "and our vision of attaining recognition as one of our nation's leading universities."
In an interview with Mike Frasncesa on New York's WFAN, Rabonowitz elaborated, giddily speaking of Hofstra boasting both law and medical schools; of all the amazing academic goodies that could be purchased with the dough that had gone to a sport nobody much cared about.
Hoftra was spending $4.5 million annually on its football program, and making nothing off the investment. That was one of the stated reasons for the move, and it's a good one. Yet anyone who believes logic and reason generally prevail in decisions involving college football lack, ahem, logic and reason. According to the NCAA's latest report on revenues and expenses, fewer than 25 percent of Football Bowl Subdivision schools make money, while the remaining 302 schools competing in Division I struggle to break even.
So why does college football conquer all? Well, for a small handful of schools, it is, indeed, a moneymaker and a way of bringing positive attention to an otherwise unknown entity (Were it not for the Tigers, would 100 people in the state of New York know that Clemson exists?). Yet, more than anything, it comes down to greed and ego. These days, few things scream, "We're a major university!" more than a college football program. Hence, the insane dollars and the admission of subpar students and the influence of rodent-like boosters and the hiring of suspect men who would otherwise be selling used cars at Lenny's Lot O' Gems.
At Notre Dame last week, Jack Swarbrick, the overwhelmed athletic director, said in a statement that, "We have great expectations for our football program, and we have not been able to meet those expectations." Hence, he was firing his coach.
At Hofstra yesterday, Rabinowitz said in a statement that, "If we are to continue our momentum and strive to become one of the nation's best institutions of higher education, standing for excellence in every way, we must invest in academics and programs in which we can compete at the highest level." Hence, he was ending his program.
Now ask yourself this: Which school would you pick?
Jeff Pearlman can be reached at email@example.com