The late fall has brought yet more cold reality to mid-level college football in the Northeast with two longtime programs, both in the same league but both private schools in very crowded markets lacking a huge rush of on-campus support. Those programs, Northeastern and Hofstra, were both wiped from the slate of the Colonial Athletic Association in the past three weeks. It is another reflection of tough economic times for sports that need to show ROI for colleges…Northeastern cited more of a lack of additional funding as opposed to support, while Hofstra went more of the road of lack of funding, interest and return for the Long Island school. End of the day the fact remained for both…and could be true for several other schools in the Northeast…football at the former 1-AA level does not increase revenue and in many cases with exposure is limited does not effect enrollment so in tough times the focus can now go elsewhere. While disappointing for supporters and more importantly for athletes and support staff, both schools took similar and somewhat effective tactics in breaking the news. They waited until the season was over, thereby avoiding the potential for sentimental groundswell and negative media coverage. They both provided ample amounts of data on cost benefit for the program, along with a longtime study on feasibility and where those dollars could go. They spoke as one voice…president and athletic director…and both spoke with remorse and understanding for the student-athletes. They did not hide in a statement, but faced the media and anyone who had questions when the decision was made. They also worked to pick the right time and date so as to minimize the news cycle and get the University focused on the business at hand. Now did the cloak and dagger plan by both Universities cause “shock” amongst athletes and coaches and alumni not involved in the day to da. Yes as expected. Was there the understandable emotional heat leveled at the decisionmakers and did they take such heat wel. Yes they did. Were their answers well thought out and conveyed effectivel. Yes they were. ironically, the loss of mid level football in the Northeast is not the tragedy it would be in markets where college football is king. ironically in many of those markets…especially in the south…Universities are adding football program to move to 1-A and find new revenue sources. However in the Northeast, college football is very much an afterthought in a crowded marketplace at a time when most private schools have solid enrollments…enrollment numbers which in other years may have been boosted by the value of an additional 100 male students coming to play football. End of the day, both schools made a tough choice but spoke effectively with one voice, minimized the newscycle and set the stage to move on as positive as possible. At a difficult juncture, both Universities should earn points for their effective communication of a tough message.
Some other good reads…the Washington Times’ Tim Lemke had a good piece on the relationship between EA Sports and the World Cup…Kevin Sullivan had a great piece on his blog and in the Sports Business Journal on what people who don’t follow sports miss in life…and Reuters’ Steve Ginsburg had a great piece on New York's legendary Gleason's Gym.