Friday, December 4, 2009

What? No More 900-0?

By the time I arrived to attend New College at Hofstra University in 1969, Hofstra was well passed any reputation it had for beating Bill Cosby's Temple University football team 900-0. But it was not unusual that the only time people had ever heard of Hofstra (a name my mother can still not pronounce correctly) was because Bill Cosby told this story.

I did actually once meet a Hofstra graduate who had been on those winning football teams, but he was a number of years older than I and I'm not sure I believed him. I remember attending one football game on an autumn evening, but that was before I started dating Bob Mackreth and had better things to do on Friday nights.

Hofstra was, I think, the first college to have astro-turf on its football field. This may have had something to do with it being the summer home of the New York Jets in those days. Broadway Joe was around and we may have gotten a brief look at him before the team left for its season (in the days before football preceded Labor Day.) Astro-turf, as any photographer can tell you, is dangerous stuff. Most of us would rather photograph dirt and grass stains than the blood that sliding on astro-turf is likely to produce.

The university has had a significant basketball team in recent time, but the article I read today said that football seems to face the same indifference from the community and lack of success it did when I attended. The school plans to reallocate the $4.5 million the program costs to other areas. This sounds like a good idea.

When I think about Hofstra, I think about its theatre department, which is outstanding. Actors such as Madeline Kahn, Susan Sullivan, Lainie Kazan, Christopher Walken, Mike Starr, Robert Davi, and Peter Friedman have come out of its program. Davi used to sing opera on the Unispan because of the acoustics and Peter Friedman was the star of the department when I was there. Francis Ford Coppola was an undergraduate. Throw in music and the communications department, and you'll find lots of folks floating around Hollywood. Ray Romano wore a Hofstra sweatshirt on "Everybody Loves Raymond" because show-runner Phil Rosenthal went to Hofstra. Scott Ross, one of the founders of Digital Domain, was my first-year classmate at New College--I got my B.A. in the planned three years, he took a little longer, but obviously he didn't suffer for it. I've seen the name of my college buddy, the charming Arturo Porazzi, in many a Playbill as stage manager, confirmation that his theatre tech major paid off. There are others I wonder about, but with family in that business, I certainly know how difficult it is to succeed.

So, my suggestion would be to tell the university to put its money where its success is: theatre and communications (and maybe some to its very successful law school.) I realize that there are alumni who will be irritated that football is gone, but I've always thought that college sports draws money away from academic pursuits and if they are so important for developing professional talent, pro sports owners should be picking up the tab. More people benefit from a run of Richard III (and Hofstra runs the oldest college Shakespeare festival in the country every spring) than from a football game.

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