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NEC schools must give teams resources needed to compete
It’s like comparing apples and oranges.
And that’s why the next two years are so important for Monmouth University football.
It’s not like the Hawks, with just over 30 scholarships, can’t compete with fully funded Football Championship Subdivision programs with 63 scholarships. But when Lehigh showed up at Kessler Field on Saturday with a nationally ranked squad, the gap was clearly on display for all to see.
Not that the home team played particularly well in 49-24 loss, but it wouldn’t have mattered, as the Mountain Hawks went on a 42-3 run after the Hawks drove for a touchdown on the game’s opening drive.
It’s time for Monmouth, and the Northeast Conference as a whole, to figure out at exactly what level they want to compete at.
Let’s start with what the school can control.
No one has been a more strident supporter of Monmouth University athletics than president Paul Gaffney, who has proven himself to be an extremely talented fundraiser during his tenure.
But he’s only planning on being here two more years, and it would be a shame if Kessler Field didn’t have a makeover before he leaves. It would be the final step in a complete overhaul of the school’s athletic facilities.
Lights would be nice, but at a minimum the stands need to be overhauled and expanded.
As far as the conference goes, Rhode Island will play football in the NEC beginning in 2013, and the Rams are coming in an effort to reduce costs as they reduce their number of scholarships.
That certainly isn’t a good sign.
But there remains some support among the school presidents within the conference to increase the number of scholarships, if not to 63 then to a number closer to that than the 40 they’re set to expand to in 2013.
The NEC may have an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs now, but it’s unrealistic to think they can compete with the elite teams at that level with their current level of funding.
The Hawks will face the same obstacles in two weeks when they travel to face Villanova.
“We’re certainly challenging ourselves and we know going into these games that that’s going to be the case,’’ Hawks coach Kevin Callahan said. “I think we’ve demonstrated over the years that we can play with those teams, maybe not win them. I was a little disappointed that we didn’t play well (today).”
After a flawless 14-play, 72-yard drive by Monmouth to open the season, Lehigh exerted its will over the next 2½ hours.
It’s time for the Northeast Conference schools to give their football teams the resources they need to compete with the top teams at this level. And for Monmouth, the clock is ticking to get that done.