Last week’s announcement that Hofstra University was ending its football program was a complete shock to Long Island. It was a missile out of the darkness, and its destruction to the reputation of the Hofstra administration is serious. Even more hurtful has been the impact to the student athletes whose world has been turned upside down.
Picture this, a nineteen year old student is given a text message to report to a conference room at the school. The student, a full scholarship college undergraduate, plays for the Hofstra football team. It was just five months ago that this high school senior was recruited to come to Hofstra to realize his dream.
During the month of August, the student athlete reports to camp and his life is scheduled from sunrise to sunset. The student performs well both on and off the field. This is a standard description of all of these young men. It is the norm.
The student arrives that fateful day for the football meeting announced in a text message. The meeting is called at the precise time when students should be heading to class and getting geared up to take their final exams and prepare their classroom presentations. This meeting is different. It’s called just days before final exams. This is anything but normal.The student athletes gather in the room early that morning and sit down. Three men in suits walk in and dryly announce that the program they were recruited for was eliminated in a College Board of Trustees vote. What happens next is a mixture of disbelief, anger and confusion.
That’s it. The program is done. The “men in black,” as they have now been dubbed, leave the room and what is essentially said by the college administration is: “oh, and by the way, go to classes and start to take your final exams.” Shocked coaches are left trying to pick up the pieces of these traumatized young men. Even more hard to believe is that the coaches were told just minutes before and had no time to prepare even themselves. They have just lost their jobs and now they have to not only put on a brave face, but explain the unexplainable. Remember that pesky missile out of the darkness?
Hard to believe? It’s true.
Think about it. These young men came to Hofstra to get an education. They came to Hofstra to play football. They were recruited. They worked hard. They made it. And in a span of minutes, a decision that took two years to make, was crassly broken to the very people that it would change the most. These young men came from all over the country. To name a few states- California, Florida, Pennsylvania and even right here one had roots in Elmont and walked the halls of Dutch Broadway elementary school.
And now, these student athletes have to put their life back together. They will, because they are strong.
The decision to eliminate the football program is a moot one at this point. However, what led up to this meeting is not. It needs to be explored. First, the greater community now knows that a college “secret committee” was established to evaluate the sports program. It has been working over the last two years, under the cover of night. The committee conducted a process that was closed and not open to debate. There was no input. There was no discussion. Committee decisions were made from the comfort of and out of the watchful eye of those who might have looked at what the impact would be and challenged their findings.
How’s that for the majesty of higher education whose principles are supposedly clear thought, research and debate on the issues? Is this the Hofstra decision making model?
Quite frankly, this model sounds more like the smoke filled rooms of Tammany Hall instead of the hallowed halls of higher thinking. One can't help but think that the Hofstra administration likes Presidential debates, but no discussion or intellectual argument on their internal workings. By the way, did someone tell the Hofstra President he was playing with the lives of students?
Let’s take the committee and discuss for a moment. Isn’t it a bit odd that the Hofstra President didn’t inform the greater Hofstra community that a decision like this was being debated and contemplated? Just months earlier, Hofstra University took part in a roundtable discussion regarding the revitalization of Hempstead Turnpike and the value of sports and economic development pointing to Shuart Stadium as an economic development resource. I guess they must have forgot their public statement.
It has been established that the Board of Trustees were handed a document with a recommendation by the President just weeks before the vote was taken. Incidentally, was there any indication that a vote was even going to take place? The simple answer is no. But why get caught up in real debate and be accountable. The real question many have asked is simply this: was there a commentary period for the students, faculty, staff, football program and community during that time?
A one word answer can be given on that score- no.
Why was it so important to have a committee work in the shadows without scrutiny of the press, students and community stakeholders not to mention the football program? The silence of the President’s office is deafening.
One of the most disheartening factors the President cites in his decision is attendance at the games. Well, if the President cared enough to ask, here is the answer. The base for attendance at college games is more than students, it is the greater community. The community can not attend football games when the games are scheduled during the very same time as high school games. Most colleges schedule their games in early evenings under the lights and out of that specific time period for that precise reason.
Then again, to even ask that very question, and be open to an answer, takes open lines of communication. It actually might result in the issue that he highlighted being solved. Instead, a closed system committee operated in the dead of night. Why?
Clearly, there was a motive and reason for that. Could it be that stakeholders in the football program would have addressed the issues found in the report and refuted them? Interesting thought huh?
For two years, this committee worked hard to make the desired result become a reality. If it weren’t so, a more open, accountable and collective process would have been used. It wasn’t.
The President of the school has a lot to answer for. Can you imagine a leader of a college not showing these young men the respect of going to that football meeting and telling the coaches and students of his recommendation to the Board of Trustees? Remember these are students who walk the halls and take classes and are more than just run of the mill attendees of Hofstra. They represent the school. They have worn the colors in Michigan, Virginia, Maine, Rhode Island, Delaware and the list goes on.
Many must be saying to themselves that "the President of Hofstra must have told them. He couldnt have done that."
He did. He said nothing. He hid from them.
The fact is, he cowered and let another administrator dismiss the team. His actions represented a corporate fat cat boss cutting his employees by sending in the attorneys to do his dirty work. It was disgraceful.
It begs the question. Is Hofstra a college, or is it a personal kingdom?
The fact is the President and his “select committee” took two years to come to a decision to eliminate a program but couldn’t take two minutes to go to those students and face them to explain his decision. More importantly, he didn’t take two minutes to have the support systems put in place to help those young men outside of the immediate coaching staff who were essentially told they lost their jobs.
Simply stated, the President failed all of these men.
Comically, the President made the time to go on ESPN radio. He took the time to write a letter and email it to students. He took great time to do press interviews and do a press conference. But he had no time or respect to talk to the students? Shame on him.
Guess who the President treated with even greater disrespect? Guess who he has failed to communicate with even to this day? The parents of those eighty six men. They still have not been given the respect of a letter, call, email, fax, telegram, pigeon carrier note or even a meeting. Many parents and guardians found out about this shocking news from ESPN, radio, CNN, yahoo and cable network news sports shows. It’s disgraceful.
I wonder if the College Board of Trustees and the President thought out the timing of this destructive decision to these young men and the impact it would have to their taking final exams? I wonder if any thought entered into their minds about the college visits and work that takes place to transfer into another program with football and the time it takes. Clearly, the President did not take that time and didn’t care.
The facts are that no support system was put in place to help these student athletes. No consideration was made for helping them to transfer to other viable programs. The fact is the work that had to be done fell onto coaches, engaged parents and significant others to insure that these young men had a college to go to in January that met their needs- not his corporate mentality.
The President will boast “we’re going to honor their scholarship!” That’s kind of like saying we’re giving you a severance package that cuts your healthcare, eliminates your pension and takes away your accrued time. The President knew full well these student athletes came to Hofstra to play football. Who is he kidding? The timing of his decision blocked opportunities for these young men to transfer to good schools. The reason? Most schools do not offer midyear scholarships. The President knew this. He played a game. He was found out. If he truly cared about the well-being of these student athletes he would have told them the truth before they moved into their dorms in the fall semester. He didn’t.
Most shameful is the fact that Hofstra knew what they were embarking upon and still allowed the continuation of high school student athlete recruitment. Some students locally were even offered scholarships. And, all this was going on while the report was sitting on the President’s desk in his ivory academic tower.
Hofstra was a bright shining star that people respected in our greater community. It is now tarnished by the leadership of a College President who has chosen to take the low road of ignoring the most important resource the College had- its students. It was his job to help them in the aftermath of his recommendation and he failed.
Hofstra Pride? No, Hofstra Shame.