• September 21, 2014

Hofstra U. Is 2nd University in 2 Weeks to Drop Its Football Team

Hofstra University has eliminated its football program and will redirect the team's $4.5-million budget toward new academic ventures and need-based scholarships, the university's president said today, echoing a similar announcement last week at Northeastern University.

The Hofstra team suffered from low attendance and flagging interest among students and the local community, and financial support was dwindling, the president, Stuart Rabinowitz, said in a letter to the university. He called the decision a "strategically driven reallocation of resources."

"The football program, the largest of the athletic programs, is by far the most expensive," Mr. Rabinowitz wrote. "In the end, we could not continue to justify the expense of football compared to the benefits it brought to the university."

Hofstra's Board of Trustees recently completed a two-year review of the football program, which competes in the NCAA's Division I-AA in the Colonial Athletic Association. The board voted unanimously last night to discontinue the program and put the $4.5-million into academics and scholarships.

There are no plans to cut any more of the college's 17 sports, Mr. Rabinowitz wrote, and the 84 athletes on the football team will keep their scholarships, if they choose to stay at Hofstra.

The program has struggled in recent years. This past season, the average student attendance at football games was 500, while general attendance averaged 4,000. The team sold 172 season tickets, far less than the men's basketball team, which has sold 750 season tickets. The athletic department has an overall budget of $22.5-million, with $2.8-million of that going to football scholarships. Officials said private donations from boosters had been insufficient to pay for the entire program.

The university is not the first to spike its football program. Last week Northeastern University, another member of the Colonial Athletic Association, dropped its football team. Like Hofstra, officials there said the cut was not a response to the recession, but an unwillingness to spend the millions of dollars needed to revive a program that had produced six consecutive losing seasons.

Mr. Rabinowitz said the decision to cut Hofstra's football program, which began in 1937 and had been competing in Division I-AA since 1991, was key to the college's long-term health.

"This was not an easy call," he said, "but for the future of the university, we believe it was the right one."

Comments

1. cwinton - December 03, 2009 at 04:00 pm

Amen to that. Whatever the reasons for colleges fielding football teams in the first place, they have long since gone by the wayside with the commercialization of the sport. Collegiate football has increasingly become an imitation of the pro version, with fancy stadiums, expensive equipment, and luxurious facilities, not to mention a huge cast of highly paid coaches and trainers pushing a win at any cost mentality. If enough schools follow the path chosen by Northeastern and Hofstra, opting instead for sports that don't require a multi-million dollar campus empire to be competitive, perhaps collegiate football can be returned to fiscal sanity, or failing that, go the way of the dinosaurs.

2. physicsprof - December 03, 2009 at 04:22 pm

"After 5 years of playing football, I got a college degree" (Forrest Gump); finally, some sanity in the US edutainment industry.

3. 11272784 - December 03, 2009 at 05:14 pm

However, you can bet that if these teams had been consistently winning, the programs would not have been cut.

4. rebek56 - December 03, 2009 at 05:23 pm

If more schools eliminated their football teams, perhaps colleges could focus on academics.

5. physicsprof - December 03, 2009 at 05:32 pm

#3, but if you eliminate losing teams, the number of winning teams will decrease and there will be more incentives for further cuts.

6. lslerner - December 03, 2009 at 05:54 pm

The existence of the football team comes to the fore at two junctures in the history of a college. When the college is new and unknown, there is strong motivation to create a football team to make the existence of the college known. Then, if and when the college achieves academic success and prestige, it can well drop the team as an expensive distraction from its real purpose.
The University of Chicago was perhaps the first to display this double phenomenon, completing the cycle about 1938. But many others have followed.

7. marchk - December 03, 2009 at 07:00 pm

European universities cannot understand the spending of so many millions of dollars on non-academics like sports. They just are not considered part of a university's task. My university is showing many cracks and fissures, like others across the US. Yet donors who were often not academic stars insist on maintaining teams that do not even have great records. Why not? They get their names on sports fields, buildings, locker rooms. They have in the past refused to give to the library, as if a university were only about sports.

Don't get me wrong - I like sports, but when choosing between cutting a program in, say, art history or Spanish vs. cutting a couple of costly, losing teams along with their multiple coaches and trainers, there is no doubt in my mind which has priority. After all, higher ed cannot be, and never was, about going to games but about going to class.

8. 22228715 - December 04, 2009 at 07:24 am

Intellectually and logically, it all makes sense. But the trouble is that emotionally, it does not, to a lot of members of the community (at least at some institutions.) Referring to comment #7, I think donors and others have a loyalty to the football program that they do not have to the library or individual academic departments because the football ritual is transparent, accessible, understandable, participatory, and brings large numbers of people together (crossing many group affiliation barriers) in a way that is socially rewarding but not terribly taxing. Few people love a giant organization - most love a small part of it where they feel at home, and generalize that love to the rest of the organization. This is why real, substantial student engagement in academics and residence and clubs is critical - it builds identity. Football has been a shortcut for that at many places, but I would suggest that a common student/alumna football affiliation at the vast majority of institutions is a weak form of engagement for those who are interested, and not attractive as an engagement for most others. A small number of places that work that magic of affiliation through football mesmerize the rest, and create the very expensive mistaken belief that good practice is copying best practices from elsewhere.

9. bobshea - December 04, 2009 at 10:00 am

Look to the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) for the right way of combining academics and athletics. As the parent of a two sport NESCAC student athlete paying full retail for tuition, the NESCAC does it right. Athletics helps students learn to compete which is essential in a very competitive world.

10. wantonlife - December 04, 2009 at 10:59 am

Kudos to Hofstra for axing football. Compared to many other sports, football tends to be a resource drain -- especially at the I-AA level. The teams themselves are huge, which often means accepting many underqualified men to field even a mediocre group. And then there's the all the staff and equipment and space resources. Schools like Hofstra don't gain any notoriety through football, so this is a wise move.

11. 11261897 - December 04, 2009 at 11:18 am

Collegiate football is the classic validation of Lord Acton's comment about power. The entire system is corrupt through and through, yet noone (beyond Hofstra and Northeastern) seems to have the moral courage to proclaim it as such.

JMoriarty

12. goldenboot - December 04, 2009 at 04:52 pm

This is great news for civilization. But without the jocks, who will flunk the tests?

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