I had the choice yesterday of covering Penn State at Temple or Northeastern at Drexel. While there was more talent on the floor at the Liacouras Center, I went with the CAA matchup because it was a conference game and because it was closer.
Lo and behold, it also turned out to be higher-scoring. I certainly didn't expect that. But at least I felt a little better aftewards.
Northeastern coach Bill Coen spent much of his press conference trying to to rationalize the events that led up to Matt Janning's missed jumper at the buzzer. But while he was speaking, I realized that ther was a much bigger story going on in Boston's Back Bay - and indeed, across the CAA - this past week.
You've heard by now that Northeastern and Hofstra have cut their football programs. The aftershocks are still being felt, and won't be finished until the CAA re-aligns itself and sets its schedule for next season.
In the short term, though, the news has had real effects on real people. But I was surprised to hear Coen say that wasn't the case at all for his team.
"Obviously, when something like that happens, you feel for all the parties involved on both sides of it," Coen said. "We have kids on our team that have friends and classmates with people in there. It was a difficult decision, certainly a decision that I know was difficult for all the parties. But I don't think it's had one ounce of effect on how we've played on the court."
Drexel coach Bruiser Flint used to coach at Massachussetts, whose football team also plays in the cAA (though it was the Atlantic 10 when Flint was in Amherst). Now he coaches at a school without a football program. I asked Flint for his thoughts, and it seemed to strike pretty close to home for him.
I'll tell you what. One thing I will say about Northeastern - I don't know if you guys have ever been up there and seen their football [facilities]. I mean, I don't want to say it was good because you don't want to cut it off for the kids. But that was tough for them. Had to be. It's like Drexel having football, actually. It would have been the same thing. That had to be tough
Hofstra I was a little surprised at, because the Jets practice there. They've had good teams, they've at times been in the playoffs. But I mean, times are hard, man. You just hate to see opportunities taken away from the kids to play the sports that they went to the school for. That's the thing that makes it really hard.
For an athletic director to be able to walk in there and say, 'Look, guys, we're not going to have the team anymore,' I can't imagine that. Seriously, I can't imagine that. Because you're going to get some kids, like, where do they go? You can say to a kid, yeah, you're going to keep your scholarship, but I want to play football. That's hard.
But I mean, times are hard, man. I know I-AA football, because I was at UMass. They lose a lot of money. I hate to say it. They really do. You know, they've got to do what's best for their universities. But it's hard.
At the very same time that Flint was talking, two CAA football teams - Villanova and New Hampshire - were meeting in a I-AA playoff quarterfinal on the Main Line. 'Nova won in a 46-7 rout, and will host another CAA team, William & Mary, in the semifinals.
I don't have any numbers to back this up, but I've heard many times that the I-AA playoffs are a net revenue loss for the participating schools. Maybe at some point this week I'll try to get Andy Talley's thoughts on all this. I'm sure he would have a lot to say about it.
In the meantime, as you spend this Sunday watching the Eagles and other football teams, spare a thought for the players and coaches at Northeastern and Hofstra. Who knows where things will go from here?