Hofstra University dropped football because of costs and fading interest and will use the $4.5 million spent annually on the team on scholarships and other priorities.
The board of trustees voted unanimously Wednesday night to shut the program, which had been in existence since the school’s founding in 1937.
“The cost of the football program, now and in the future, far exceeds the return possible,” Hofstra president Stuart Rabinowitz said Thursday. He added that despite Hofstra having sent several players to the NFL, the program does not attract enough national attention.
“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.”
Rabinowitz noted that even on the Hofstra campus, there was little interest in the team. He said students were offered free tickets to games, but only an average of 500 students attended games at the 13,000-seat campus stadium. The team only played five home games per season at the stadium and should not see a significant drop-off in use, he noted.
The decision follows a two-year review of sports spending at Hofstra. Rabinowitz said there are no plans to cut any other sports at the school.
“We could better use those resources toward our academic programs,” he said, noting that the athletic scholarships make up “a large chunk of the budget.”
Last month, Northeastern University in Boston dropped football after 74 years. Northeastern, like Hofstra, plays in the Colonial Athletic Conference. Four of the final eight teams left in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs are from the league.
Hofstra was 5-6 overall and 3-5 in the league this season. Northeastern went 3-8, 3-5 in the CAA.
“We know this is a difficult time for our football team members, their dedicated coaches and loyal fans, and we will do everything we can to help them navigate this transition as smoothly as possible,” Rabinowitz said.
He said the 84 players were told of the decision Thursday. All players were told they can keep their scholarships if they remain at the school. Those who transfer will be eligible to play immediately.
“It’s devastating,” redshirt junior linebacker Rashad Swanson of San Francisco said. “Football is pretty much our lives here. There’s some guys who are thinking about staying. But me, personally, I’m thinking about leaving. I can’t be here if I can’t play football.”
Keith Ferrara, a junior from Queens, said his teammates were shocked.
“It was the last thing I was expecting them to say,” he said. “I had no idea it was coming. I want to play football, so I’m probably going to transfer out.”
Rabinowitz added that the school aims to raise the profile of its athletics program in other areas. “We want to become the lacrosse capital of the North East, if not the East Coast.”
Four former Hofstra players are now in the NFL: Kyle Arrington of New England, Stephen Bowen of Dallas, Willie Colon of Pittsburgh and Marques Colston of New Orleans. One of the best-known Hofstra players to have played in the NFL was receiver Wayne Chrebet of the New York Jets.
“I am both saddened and shocked to hear the news that the Hofstra University football program has ceased,” Colston said. “I owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to the university, my coaches and my former teammates and I am sure that they share in my disappointment.”
While Hofstra and Northeastern are dropping the sport, eight small schools have announced they will begin playing football, including three next season.
With Timothy Bolger
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.