Thursday brought a sad announcement from Hofstra President Stuart Rabinowitz. The school announced that they are ending their football program. The move is effective immediately and ends a tradition that stretched all the way back to 1937 at the Long Island school.
The reason had nothing to do with the results of the team. The Pride, who were a Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division 1-AA team) in the Colonial Athletic Association, finished 5-6 in 2009 and they've sent players like Saints receiver Marques Colston, Steelers tackle Willie Colon and, perhaps most famously, ex-Jets receiver Wayne Chrebet to the NFL. Rabinowitz said its a matter of dollars and cents, not touchdowns and interceptions.
"The cost of the football program, now and in the future, far exceeds the return possible from an FCS program, which does not generate significant national interest," Rabinowitz said. "Given that, along with the low level of interest, financial support and attendance among our students, our alumni and the community, the choice was painful, but clear. In the long run, we can touch and improve the lives of more students by investing in new and enhanced academic initiatives and increasing funds for need-based scholarships."
A painful choice, perhaps, but the correct one. And they're handling it correctly. Coaching salaries will continue to be paid, the decision was made early enough for people to find other jobs or for current players and prospective recruits to look for other schools that might want them to come and play for them. Or they can keep their scholarships and remain at Hofstra, which is a nice way of looking out for the futures of students who saw a big portion of theirs torn away on Thursday. More than that, though, the powers that be are looking out for the entirety of their constituency instead of a limited portion.
Schools like Notre Dame, Ohio State and USC are able to use their football teams as money-making vehicles, but they're the exceptions and not the norm. In those cases, having a football program makes all the sense in the world since they generate revenues that benefit the entire university. If that's not happening, though, you're just throwing money at a small segment of the school's population with no discernable greater benefit. That's true for some top-level schools, but especially so for schools at Hofstra's level where football success will never result in enough dollars for it to make sense.
According to the press release accompanying the announcement, Hofstra pegs the net cost of the program at $4.5 million. That money isn't being cut from the budget, it's being spent in ways that benefit a wider swath of the student body and faculty. As much as we love college football, that's the true mission of an institution of higher learning. Other athletic programs won't be affected, which is surely a better response than taking away from them to continue filling the false need for a football program to seem like a more legitimate schho.
There's no doubt that football teams can act as a source of pride for schools, but the cost that it takes to maintain one at even the second rung of the sport is rarely worth the sacrifices that a school may have to make in other areas. Northeastern, another CAA school, just made the same decision and it all comes down to how you invest your resources. Football's really expensive and unless that changes there will likely be other programs getting jettisoned as schools shift their priorities.
It's sad that things played out this way for Hofstra, but doing the right thing isn't always easy.