Major college football sells. More than 37,000 fans attended Connecticut's season-opening game against Hofstra on Thursday. Juxtapose that to Hofstra's historically minuscule draw against its standard fare of JMU, William & Mary, Rhode Island et al. The logical conclusion is that mid-major college football in these environs does not appeal to the broad fan base. Hofstra is wise to schedule FBS (formerly I-A) schools. And Stony Brook is smart to follow suit next season. By playing UConn, visiting Hofstra earned a $250,000 guarantee and a vision worth dreaming. "I would love to see us on that level someday," backup quarterback Cory Christopher said. "I definitely think we can compete on that level."No one expected Hofstra to beat UConn. The 35-3 loss perhaps was a bit skewed by the Pride's starting quarterback, Bryan Savage, being scratched with back spasms. (Savage will be re-evaluated this week.)
It is not about how close Hofstra can come at this point. Just playing at the higher level is good experience and great exposure. Was Hofstra testing the FBS waters by scheduling a BCS team? Has the Pride tired of its less-than-fan-appealing classification? Does stepping up mean stepping out, or is it merely an exercise in fantasy football? "You can never say never, but there is nothing in the plans to do that," Hofstra athletic director Jack Hayes said. "The games we are playing at that level are being played to remain competitive in our conference." Perhaps that could change if rival Stony Brook keeps expanding. Despite being only a few years into scholarship football, SBU's administration might contemplate an upgrade to FBS. Stony Brook is studying luxury suites and additional seating at 8,136-capacity LaValle Stadium. "Moving to the FBS level is not something I'd rule out," SBU athletic director Jim Fiore said. "Football is important to our future, and if pursuing the FBS level will be advantageous to our university and athletic program, we will cross that bridge when we come to it."Stony Brook has scheduled road games against South Florida, Buffalo and Army in consecutive seasons beginning in 2009. Hofstra visits Boston College and Army in 2009 and 2010, respectively."It is a good opportunity for us to play a game against an opponent that generates a lot of attention," Hayes said.Long before UConn had major college football in sight, the Huskies played at Hofstra in 1999 and drew a still-standing Hofstra football record of 9,381. Only the diehards get jacked for the CAA schools' visits to 13,000-seat Shuart Stadium, where attendance generally averages less than 5,000. When local football truly was king, Hofstra played Post in front of 8,023, a Hofstra attendance record that stood for nearly 40 years. Now the campus record for a football event belongs to Brett Favre's first practice with the Jets, which drew 10,500. For one night, Hofstra was in the big leagues of college football. A transfer from Nassau CC, Christopher essentially went from the JC ranks to the upper echelon on the collegiate level."The atmosphere takes a lot of getting used to," he said. "It was kind of hard to focus. Some plays kind of get miscommunicated because of crowd noise."Hofstra coach Dave Cohen enjoyed the big-time feel."It's a great experience, from the state troopers escorting the bus to the stadium to the big crowd to the higher level on the field," said Cohen, who added that there is no hidden agenda in playing up. He thinks that conversation is premature until Hofstra dominates its current division. But Hofstra wide receiver Ottis Lewis, who grew up in Norwalk and saw UConn's somewhat seamless transition from I-AA, sees no reason why Hofstra cannot elevate."Down the road, I believe this program, which has put quite a few guys into the NFL, could play at that level," he said. "I don't see it as far-fetched at all."