Saturday, May 1, 2010

A Rough Few Weeks for Hofstra

If you are a Hofstra men's basketball fan, the last few weeks have been various types of punches to the chin. You could say that it all started in late March when long time coach Tom Pecora left Hofstra to go to Fordham. It was a haymaker from Thomas "Hit Man" Hearns, but you braced yourself enough, knowing that it was coming. It wobbled you but you got yourself righted and sort of delivered a haymaker of your own, which could describe at least how I felt when Hofstra hired Tim Welsh as their new head coach.

But it really started two weeks ago with Branden Frazier following Pecora to Fordham. That was kind of like making a stupid comment to your wife, then she slaps you in the face. Based on your actions, you knew it was coming. Yes it stings, but you shake it off in a few minutes...and then go back for more :-) . Frazier had originally given a verbal agreement to come to Hofstra, but that was when Pecora was head coach. So no surprise that Frazier would go to Fordham once Pecora and the entire Hofstra staff followed suit.

Then last week, Halil Kanacevic delivered a Sugar Ray Leonard right hand to the chin when it was announced that he asked for and received his release from Hofstra. It was definitely a punch you hadn't seen coming, which resulted in knocking you down for a five count. You eventually get up, but you remember the punch for a while and do anything you can to avoid another one.

In an interview on Defiantly Dutch, Kanacevic talked about how he may have signed up with Hofstra but he had really signed up for Pecora and his coaching staff. Strangely, when he met with Welsh, he originally told him he wasn't leaving. But he explains in further detail what his thought process was during that time

Kanacevic said his biggest regret was telling Welsh earlier this month that he wasn’t thinking about transferring. “Someone gave me a little advice, talk to the coach, reassure him you’re not leaving,” Kanacevic said. “I was like ‘All right.’ I did that. I probably never should have done that, because I kind of lied to the coach [and gave him] the wrong impression [saying] ‘I’m not going anywhere’ as far as the rumors.
“He brought it up, when I had a meeting with coach Welsh, and I basically told him ‘Man, that was a mistake I made and I shouldn’t have done that to you. I misled you.’ He asked if there was a reason and it was the reason I told you—not the situation I signed up for.”
No doubt that Welsh got a Marvin Hagler hook to the chin. He never saw that coming (as did I and numerous other Hofstra fans). It's really a strange decision. First, if he transfers to another DI school, he must sit out a year. Also noted in Beach's article is that AD Jack Hayes gave Kanacevic a conditional release, where he can not go to ten teams. No doubt Fordham is one of them. Most of them are probably other local teams (St John's Manhattan, Iona, Stony Brook to name a few though no verification on that). And he certainly won't go to any other CAA teams, because the rule in the CAA is that you have to sit out TWO seasons, not the mandatory one the NCAA rule mandates.

So if Kanacevic is looking locally, his choices are probably limited. And really, it's a mistake. He had a very good freshman season where he made the CAA All Rookie Team. He certainly showed he is a CAA level quality forward and would only likely get better. Also, had he stayed, Kanacevic had a chance to go to the NCAA Tournament with Jenkins, Washington, Chaz Williams and him back. Throw in Fordham transfer Mike Moore and a now eligible Brad Kelleher and there was much hope. Plus he was apparently well liked by the new coach. So it all doesn't make sense.

After spending a week shaking off the Sugar Ray Leonard right hand, I thought, well at least Welsh's recruiting skills will now be put to the test. And I heard through the grapevine that Hofstra was looking at an up and coming prospect in Josh Elbaum. Elbaum actually came to Hofstra for a visit (Siena also has interest in him).

Then late yesterday morning, I was checking my e-mail from my IPod when I received a message from my good friend Tieff. It was also addressed to our friend Mal as well. So that usually means it's either Hofstra related, since we have Pride season Tickets, or Jets related
since we have season tickets for them. The e-mail said the following;

Is his contract void now?
Immediately, my heart sank. I had a truly bad feeling it was Hofstra related and I knew that the link was about Tim Welsh. And then my finger pressed the link and the WINS story appeared, complete with his mugshot. My worst fear had been confirmed. Welsh had been arrested for a DWI and shortly after was suspended by Hofstra University pending an investigation.

I felt like I had got hit by the big one, a right cross from Mike Tyson in his prime. Out on the canvas for the ten count, in a state where you need to be scraped up with a spatchula. A blow that it will take weeks to recover from. For a Hofstra fan, who had such high hopes on April 1st watching the Welsh press conference streaming live on my computer, it's utterly demoralizing.

First and most importantly, it's fortunate no one got hurt. He was very lucky in that regard. Second, it was incredibly stunningly poor judgment on his part. Why would you risk losing a five year, three million dollar contract in such a way? Especially after your second part of your interview with Beach where you state the following about an incident at Providence where several Friars basketball players were dismissed from the team.

Five years later, I showed the videotape of that to a team, I think, of how it was exposed locally on the news. We took all the articles that came out from it and handed them out to our team.Basically put it on them that you’ve got a lot to be responsible for, but the main thing is how embarrassing it is to your family. You get your players [to think about] your mother and father—what would they think if they picked up the paper and saw you in handcuffs? How devastating would that be?
It's truly mind numbing that someone gives an interview like that (which is published the morning of his arrest), which should be fresh in his mind, yet goes out and gets arrested yesterday morning. It may be the most damming evidence for Welsh when AD Jack Hayes reviews the situation. Welsh states in the above how important it is to conduct yourself, then he is on news web sites with his mugshot.

And yesterday, I did a stupid thing. For maybe the last time, I reviewed the Hofstra CAA Zone Board just to see what Hofstra fans' reactions were to the arrest. There were several people who did try to offer support and talked with reason about the situation. But then, I also read on the site someone calling the hiring of Welsh to be a mistake.

Mistake? No, it was not a mistake. Many major college coaches thought the hiring of Welsh was a home run (Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun among others). Jack Hayes contacted Jay Wright for advice on hiring a new coach. And Wright advised Welsh about Hofstra and thought it was a great move. So to say it was a mistake? Sorry, no way.

And it's not like Welsh has a history of trouble. When Hofstra hired Welsh, Welsh had just finished his second year of working for both ESPN and SNY. I am sure they did their background checks as well on Welsh. This seems to be one truly bad case of judgment on Welsh's part.

But I could live with someone saying it was a mistake. As I read further on in the discussion on the Hofstra CAA Zone, you had one person, who names himself after a John Candy character, gloating and I mean gloating about what happened.

Excuse me, but what rock did you crawl out of?

First, no one and I mean no one, should be gloating about this. Again, someone could have been seriously hurt. Fortunately, no one was hurt. Second, a man's career may be ruined as a result of this. How can someone gloat about this? Seriously?

Then this genius has as his signature line about how the administration killed Hofstra football. Ok, this begins a tangent.

I have said this before in an article in December and I will say this even more bluntly this time, the Hofstra fans, student body and the community in general is to blame for the loss of Hofstra football by not supporting it enough. And I will put myself in that group. We all could have tried showing up to games and rallying support. We had a good program, but the stadium was two thirds empty at least for most games I went to.

And as I noted in my aforementioned article and as Jerry Beach notes in his article today, that even the basketball program "struggles to draw fans even in the best of times". It's sadly a malaise that Hofstra has had since at least I have first been on the campus in 1984. So you certainly can't blame that on the current administration.

I was there on November 10, 2001 when Villanova with Brian Westbrook traveled to now Shuart Stadium to face Hofstra with Marques Colston. The game was for first place in the A10 (which is now the CAA in football). Westbrook had over 300 all purpose yards as the Wildcats defeated the Pride 54-34. It was really a great game to watch.

And I remember getting there right before kickoff time and still getting good seats. Why? Because the stadium was a third full, that's why! And this would be the second season in a row that Hofstra would make the I-AA playoffs in football. So it was not like Hofstra football was an unknown quantity. And it was like that even in the late 80's when Hofstra was still Division III and I went to a playoff home game vs. Fordham on an extremely cold day. The stadium again was a third full.

And again, it's not like Hofstra was the only team to end it's football program. Iona did it a few years ago and Northeastern did as well last season. They understood the economics and how a football I AA program (sorry that's how I still look at the Football subdivision) with poor attendance is such a drain on the program. Kyle Whelliston talks about this in his article about Xavier basketball. Xavier did that back in 1973 and never looked back. Worked out pretty well on the basketball front for the Musketeers I would say.

Yes, there are two facebook groups that have "Save Hofstra Football" and the two groups combined are 2000 people. And that's great to see that support, but the total members combined are less than 1/5 the size of Shuart Stadium.

Hofstra said it was not taking the money spent on football away from the athletics budget. And it went out and spent money on a CBI home game, which turned out to be a mistake, but at least they tried. And then Hofstra went out and got a top notch men's basketball coach.

And yet you have a yahoo like the John Candy named character on CAA Zone gloating about Welsh's arrest because it's somehow karma for the administration for killing the football program. I have one thing to say to this guy.

This hurts all Hofstra fans and has nothing to do with football. Get over it and get a life.

Now back to Welsh. I don' t have any idea how this is going to play out and nor am I going to speculate. Currently, though it seems Steve DeMeo, Mo Cassara and Allen Griffin were all hired by Hofstra, there is no formal recognition of them being hired. I don't know where that leaves them, though they have been recruiting apparently.

All I know is this. What seemed like a glorious second chance for Tim Welsh a month ago, came crashing down in one month due to a very poor decision. All he can do is admit his wrong doing. Be up front about it. As recent history has shown, people will respect someone if they admit they did wrong and are remorseful for it. And as a result, people often will give that person a second chance.

Here's hoping Welsh will do the right thing. And maybe he will get a second chance.

I just don't know if he will get it.


  1. Haha, you moron. I said in my post there is nothing funny about DWI. This just absolutely makes the university and Welch look bad. I don't give a rat's backside about his career, he blew a .18 two hours after he was caught passed out at the wheel. They need to lock him up and keep him there for a good long while. As for your Rabinowitz statement, I absolutely hold him accountable for killing the program. Having an alleged two year study and then sitting on your hands watching something flounder without helping it is not leadership. So you can sit here behind your blog and say what you want, but considering you have season tickets to hoops and are probably one of the lemmings that love Rabinowitz, I'll take your drivel with a grain of salt.

    Vince Pisano aka Uncle Buck

    PS, if you're going to knock the save Hofstra football attempt, try using the correct numbers when referring to the support on Facebook. The main group has 8,217 people on it as I write this, did you just conveniently leave that out for the piece? I like your journalistic integrity.

  2. Well nice to see you come out of the wood work, Vince. First, the two groups called "Save Hofstra Football" have 1,283 and 795 members respectively for a total of 2,058, so I can add. Apparently there is a third group that I did not see. So am I wrong on that part.

    Second, more importantly, other members of the CAA Zone took you to task for your comments, one of them calling your comments "infantile". It wasn't just me.

    You can hold the President accountable and that's your right. The fact is the board of trustees was unanimous in their support for it, the Academic Senate vote unanimously in its support.

    Look up the attendance figures, the lack of support killed football. And like I said, it was like that since the late 80's thru the 90's when Shuart was president. If the stadium was 2/3 full on average for football games, the football program would still be standing today. I'll stand by that.

    I remember saying to my friend back in 2001 when Villanova with Westbrook played against Colston and Hofstra that I couldn't believe the lack of attendance for a first place game.

    And yes, I have had basketball season tickets since 2001. Damn proud of it. I support my university and have since 1984. If that's what you call a lemming, an alum giving back to their school and supporting athletic programs, so be it.

    Rather be a "lemming" than someone who makes infantile comments on a discussion board.

    Gary Moore
    Class of 88

  3. well said Mr.Moore

    Class of 01