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An Open Letter to the Hofstra Community and FAQ
After a comprehensive review, the Board of Trustees has, at my recommendation, voted unanimously to eliminate our intercollegiate football program in order to redirect those resources toward academic initiatives and need-based scholarships.
This decision is not a budget reduction, but rather a strategically driven reallocation of resources. We have no plans for any further major changes to our Division I athletics program, which we believe is an integral part of a fully textured university experience. We will continue to host 17 intercollegiate sports and to continue to invest significantly in our athletics program. However, at the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-AA) level, football could not attain significant national recognition, and it has had low student, community and media interest, attendance and financial support. In addition, the football program, the largest of the athletic programs, is by far the most expensive. In the end, we could not continue to justify the expense of football compared to the benefits it brought to the University.
This was a difficult decision, undertaken after a thorough review of all aspects of the issue. After much discussion and analysis, we believe with certainty that it is the right choice for Hofstra University. This strategic decision to reallocate resources is based on our academic mission and priorities, and our vision of attaining recognition as one of our nation’s leading universities. Investment in academic initiatives and need-based scholarships is warranted for the long term benefit of our students and the University community.
Simply stated, academic excellence has been and will continue to be our highest priority. Hofstra has made significant strides in the past decade, dramatically improving the credentials of entering classes, adding new professorships and chairs, creating national centers such as the Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency and the National Center for Suburban Studies, and establishing the Hofstra University School of Medicine in partnership with North Shore- LIJ Health System. Hofstra’s potential is limitless, and there are many exciting and new possibilities for the future, including enhancements to our hard science and engineering programs, including new graduate programs, as well as new programs in public health and other health related fields.
Our first priority, at this time, is to work with the 84 football student-athletes to ensure that they manage this transition in whatever manner is most comfortable for them. We hope that they will continue to make Hofstra their academic home, and will fully honor their scholarships so they can complete their degrees. However, we will also understand if they decide to transfer to continue playing football while attending school. Whichever they decide to do, we will provide the necessary assistance. We are grateful to all of them, and to our coaching staff, for their dedicated efforts for our University. All of our students and alumni are valued members of the Hofstra family, and we respect and honor the contributions of our football student-athletes over the years.
If we are to continue our momentum and strive to become one of our nation’s best institutions of higher education, standing for excellence in every way, we must invest in academics and programs in which we can compete at the highest level. It is more essential than ever that we invest our resources wisely, and consider fully how we meet our mission as a university.
President, Hofstra University
On Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009, the Hofstra University Board of Trustees voted to eliminate the University’s Division I football program, and use those funds to increase need-based scholarships, and strengthen academic offerings. This was a strategic decision to invest University resources in those initiatives that enhance its academic mission.
How did the trustees reach this decision?
This is the culmination of a comprehensive review of all university spending to determine the best ways to build upon Hofstra’s successes and reach the highest level of academic excellence, nationally and internationally. The board voted unanimously last night (Wednesday, December 2) to eliminate the football program and reallocate those savings to academic initiatives, in order to further the University’s academic mission. At the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-AA) level, football could not attain significant national recognition, and it has had low student, community and media interest, attendance and financial support. In addition, the football program, the largest of the athletic programs, is by far the most expensive. In the end, we could not continue to justify the expense of football compared to the benefits it brought to the University.
How will you reallocate the money that was spent on football?
We will increase need-based scholarships, and consider enhancements to a variety of existing programs, including the hard sciences and engineering, as well as investments in new programs such as public health and other health-related fields. Hofstra has made significant strides in the past decade, and academic excellence has been and will continue to be our highest priority. To continue our momentum and strive to become one of our nation’s best institutions of higher education, we must invest in academics and programs in which we can compete at the highest level. It is more essential than ever that we invest our resources wisely, and consider fully how we meet our mission as a university.
How much did the football program cost? What is the total athletic budget?
The net cost of football is approximately $4.5 million per year, including scholarships. The total net athletic budget, excluding football, is about $18 million annually.
Did you consider cutting other sports? Are there future plans to cut other sports?
The Board of Trustees reviewed all athletic spending, and has determined that there will be no further cuts to our sports program.
What has the attendance been?
In 2009, for example, the football program sold 172 season tickets, compared to 750 season tickets for men’s basketball. While student attendance at the average football game is about 500, basketball games draw an average of 900 students. We could not continue to justify the expense of football, compared to the benefits it brought to the University.
What will happen to the football players and coaches?
All 84 players will keep their scholarships if they choose to stay at Hofstra, and we hope that they decide to complete their studies here. But if they want to transfer to continue playing football, we have advisors ready to help them communicate with other institutions and make their transition as easy as possible. Head Coach Dave Cohen’s contract will be honored. We will offer the 11 assistant coaches assistance in finding new positions and support their efforts to move forward.
Would you reconsider if alumni/boosters raise enough private funding to keep the football program going?
No. Private donations have not been sufficient to pay for the program. It would be difficult to recruit players and coaches if the program relied solely on private donations.
Did you consider moving to FBS football, or to non-scholarship (Division III) football?
We looked at those options as part of our total athletics review. Hofstra University’s football team is a Division I Football Championship Subdivision program (FCS). Unlike Football Bowl Championship (FBS) programs, FCS programs cannot compete in national title bowl games. To move into FBS football, Hofstra would have to join a league that sponsored I-A football, average more than 15,000 in paid attendance at games and make an investment in additional scholarships and increased stadium capacity. Moving into Division III is not an option because the NCAA does not permit universities to compete at the Division I level in some sports and at Division III in others.
How much does the University give out in overall student scholarships each year?
In the past seven years, the University has more than doubled scholarships, from $26.3 million in 2001-02 to $62.4 million in 2008-09. Of that, approximately $9 million was spent for the equivalent of 208 full-time athletic scholarships. Football is allocated the equivalent of 63 full athletic scholarships totaling $2.8 million. Including football players, there are 400 student-athletes on campus.
But isn’t football an important part of campus life for all students? How will the University replace football during Homecoming Weekend?
While football has long been a part of life at Hofstra, student attendance has rarely been more than a fraction of overall attendance at games, even at Homecoming. We will continue to have a strong and competitive Division I athletic program. We are planning a robust series of activities for Homecoming that may include a concert and other athletic contests.
What other intercollegiate sports programs exist at Hofstra?
Hofstra University continues to field competitive Division I teams in 17 sports. They are baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s soccer, softball, men’s and women’s tennis, wrestling, and volleyball.
Does this decision have any implications for the federal gender equity law known as Title IX?
Title IX was not a factor in this decision. Hofstra was, and remains, in compliance with Title IX. However, with the elimination of football, the number of men and women student-athletes more closely mirrors the population of the overall student body.
What is the history of the Hofstra football program?
Football began at Hofstra in 1937 and over 69 seasons (including a four-year suspension during World War II), the team has compiled an overall record of 403 wins, 268 losses and 11 ties. The team has logged 42 winning seasons, and three 500 seasons. In 1991, Hofstra moved up from Division III to Division I, and 2009 was the University’s third in the Colonial Athletic Association.