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Scholarship Football at Stony Brook?????

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College Sports


Steven Marcus


SBU needs to initiate scholarships in football


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Non-scholarship football is passé at Stony Brook University. It belongs in the memory bank of a rickety grandstand, port-a-potties and a decaying field built on a landfill. What used to pass as a quaint Currier & Ives portrait needs a bold brushstroke. The $22 million, four-year old stadium needs a new product - the old one is outmoded.


Stony Brook offers athletic scholarships in every sport except football. It may be classified as I-AA, but it is playing Division III-like football compared with the 63-scholarship version played at other institutions, such as Hofstra.


The non-scholarship game prospered when every program in the area - Hofstra, Post, St. John's, USMMA - competed at that level. There was no basis of comparison to the real college football unless it was the ones being televised. It was great while it lasted, but former Hofstra president James Shuart elevated the sport nearly 15 years ago when he steered his football program toward scholarships.


Now, Stony Brook needs to do the same. Substitute Delaware, New Hampshire and UMass for St. Francis, Marist and Sacred Heart. The magazine U.S. News & World Report ranked Stony Brook as one of the top 100 universities in the country. Football is off the chart in the other direction and it pains those on campus.


President Shirley Strum Kenny keynotes the desire to upgrade saying, "We have made a significant investment in the athletics program, including football, and we have a beautiful new stadium. [scholarship football] is an exciting idea, but it would require an increased financial commitment and substantial fundraising. If we can do it, we'll do it right."


She can do it. Kenny started the Division I initiative more than a decade ago. Being named to the university's athletic Hall of Fame last week was one of her proudest achievements. Her imprint on athletics can only be enhanced by finding a way to complete this significant portion of the D-I landscape. It will be all about raising money. State funds provided the stadium, it will not subsidize athletic scholarships.


"Scholarship funding doesn't come from the state, it doesn't come from university coffers," said Richard Mann, the university's vice president for administration.


Athletic director Jim Fiore calls scholarship football the "next logical step in the maturation of the athletic department. My job is to raise this program to great heights. The administration thinks football is going to help get this athletic program to a different level."


The initial scholarship tab is estimated at $2 million. How is the money to be raised? Fiore is working on a plan.


There is the rubber chicken circuit of endless banquets and reliance on boosters to increase their level of support. Selling naming rights, such as the Indoor Complex where basketball is played, will be explored. The donors are out there. Wall Street financier Stuart Sharoff, a Stony Brook graduate, gave $250,000 for his family's name to appear on the football stadium scoreboard. Minnesota Twins pitcher Joe Nathan, another SBU grad, can expect his phone to be ringing.


Stony Brook has no alternative but to seek the scholarship sport. The non-scholarship game is dwindling each year in Division I. Only 22 schools remain.


Stony Brook football is in a progress or perish state. "Dropping football is not an option," Fiore said, "Take that right off the table."


That leaves only one viable alternative: scholarships.

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