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New Head Coach Augur An Interesting Year in Rhode Island
Forecasters are calling for one of the hottest weekends of the summer, so I offer this touch of fall to cool you off.
On Aug. 3, the University of Rhode Island football team will report for preseason training camp. The Rams will not kick off until Aug. 30 (at home against Monmouth), but their arrival on campus will mark the beginning of what should be a most interesting year in college sports in Rhode Island.
Think about it. URI has a new football coach, Providence College, Brown and Bryant have new men’s basketball coaches, Salve Regina has a new director of athletics, and Bryant has jumped to Division I.
URI coach Darren Rizzi, the former Ram tight end and All-American, started generating buzz the day he was hired last December. All he had to say was that he would open up the URI offense by throwing the ball. As a result, die-hard alums are looking forward to this season as they have not since the glory days of Bob Griffin and his URI Ehr Force, directed by quarterback Tom Ehrhardt, in 1984 and 1985.
And Griffin is back, as Rizzi’s tight ends’ coach and special consultant. All-Conference fullback Joe Casey returns for his final season and a chance to break the URI career rushing record.
“As a staff, we’re very excited,” offensive coordinator Chris Pincince said yesterday. He mentioned excitement around the program stemming from Rizzi’s hiring and Rizzi’s decision to involve Griffin, his coach at URI.
“That brought back a lot of alums and supporters from the ’80s. Our golf outing at the beginning of the summer was sold out, and our spring game had better attendance because guys from the ’80s and ’90s who played for Griff and with Rizz wanted to check out the new product,” he said.
URI is promoting season ticket sales now and promising individual game sales starting Aug. 1. Check GoRhody.com.
Bryant University coach Marty Fine will welcome his Bulldogs in mid-August and begin writing a new chapter in the school’s athletics history. Bryant is Division I now and will open the season Aug. 30 at Central Connecticut. The Bulldogs will play old Division II Northeast-10 Conference foes Southern Connecticut and Merrimack and then face a Division I schedule the rest of the way, the highlight of which is an Oct. 25 trip to UMass-Amherst.
That’s correct. Bryant will tackle a team that is a perennial contender in the tough Colonial Athletic Association.
Brown has been picked to finish third in the Ivy League behind Harvard and Yale, but coach Phil Estes is more optimistic. With 19 starters back from a 5-5 team, he is confident his Bears can make a run for the title.
Bryant was so successful in its final Division II season - the Bulldogs won the Northeast-10 Conference Presidents Cup for the third time in four years - that it will be interesting to see how often the Bulldogs win in their inaugural season in Division I. Ron Machtley, the university’s president, expects a winning atmosphere on his campus, and while he is realistic and understands his program will experience growing pains, he will want to see more Ws than Ls before long.
Colin Sullivan, senior associate athletics director at Marist College, is the new AD at Salve Regina. He replaces Del Malloy, who is the new commissioner of the new Division III New England Collegiate Conference.
New coaches augur an interesting year at Rhode Island colleges
By Mike Szostak, The Providence Journal