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Iona Football Program Future in Question
The Iona College football team returned a majority of their roster from last year to play in the 2008 season. They wear the same jerseys, play on the same field and have the same head coach from last year, yet something is different. Familiar names like Marist and La Salle are no longer present on Iona’s schedule of games.
With the elimination of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, Iona became an
independent team along with MAAC rival Marist for the 2008 season. While Marist has decided to move their football team to the Pioneer League in 2009, no immediate plans have been made for Iona.
“The league was disbanded,” President Br. James A. Liguori said. “Marist is the only other team from the MAAC to still have a football team. It’s no secret that it would be a huge investment to move to the Pioneer League like Marist did or to stay independent. It just becomes more difficult to compete.”
There has not been a decision to eliminate the football program either. According to head coach Fred Mariani, the team is ready for next season and “we’re recruiting for next season also.”
As an independent team so far, Iona has had some success. With two exciting wins at home, fans are coming out to see thrilling games. The overtime Homecoming victory against Stonehill gave cheering students, parents and alumni a win to celebrate. However, their tough schedule has also led to
defeats at the hands of larger programs. After their recent trip to California, the Gaels came home with a 55 – 24 loss against U.C. Davis.
“We kept football last year to see how we’d survive as an independent,” Liguori said. “It’s hard to schedule and it’s not like we’re playing on the same level. The size difference is noticeable. You worry about not having
a league to play in, but also about the kids’ safety.”
Mariani believes that his team has been doing their best considering the circumstances. “We’ve been having a lot of injury problems, but Iona football will always bounce back and will always be competitive,” he said.
“We don’t have scholarships, but we still get quality players who play with a lot of heart.”
Other competitors from the MAAC have long since dropped their football teams. Canisius College eliminated their program first in 2002 and was then followed by Fairfield University, Siena College, St. Peter’s College and then finally
La Salle University at the end of last season.
According to The St. Joseph’s University Hawk, each of these schools was disappointed in the loss of their football programs, but felt it was the necessary step to take for their athletic departments.
“All these other colleges have made the decision because there is no chance to be competitive in the main league,” Liguori said.
According to Liguori, the state of the football team is being studied by a special committee. “We’d be very foolish not to be studying it,” he said. “But if the MAAC still existed, I would have given you a completely different answer.”
“The status is what it is now,” Mariani said. “They’re always going to discuss the status of football. Every year they discuss it.”
This is not the first time an Iona sport’s future has been in question. “We had studies done in the past and eventually eliminated hockey and tennis and
used that money elsewhere,” Liguori said. “We reinvest it into other sports to make those teams more competitive.”
Mariani does not see the end of the MAAC as the end of Iona football. “Would it be nice to be part of a league?” he said. “Absolutely. Is it the end of the
world that we aren’t? No. As an independent, we are going to California and Maine. It presents the football team with a whole new experience and challenge.”
“I think football belongs on campus, but you’re asking the head football coach,” Mariani said. “Br. (Liguori) will make a decision, and whatever his decision is will be what happens.”
No decision has yet been made about Iona’s football future. The team still has four games left in the season; the final two will be played at Mazella Field.
Football program future in question
By Jamie Burns, The Ionian