Monday, December 17, 2007

Student writers and their fall stories

I helped teach Newswriting and reporting this semester at UNH, and we have a few news features to show you that I'll post in the next few days. This one's about UNH football:

Football Is Back In Town
UNH announces return of its football program

By Mark Lengieza
WEST HAVEN – Tiffin 28, New Haven 17.
That was the final score of the last football game played at Dodds Stadium on the campus of the University of New Haven. It was Nov. 15, 2003. A mere 250 fans watched the UNH Chargers finish off their 2003 season with a loss, dropping their record to 1-9 that year.
The football field has been still ever since, as the university dropped its football program after that season. But the sights and sounds of football will return in the fall of 2009, when UNH football makes a phoenix-like return from the dust after six years.
The team folded primarily because it was not in a specific conference, and as an independent had difficulty scheduling. It was forced to play some of its games out of division, against schools from the Division I Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA), as well as Division III schools. The problems with scheduling just made it too hard for the program to survive, UNH Athletic Director Deborah Chin said.
Ever since the 2003 season, students have been clamoring for the resurrection of the football program, Chin said.
“It’s the students that wanted football back,” said Chin, “It is great for school spirit and a great weekend activity.” The school used to give away prizes for best tailgates and best floats at the homecoming game. It used to be a big event each Saturday to go to a UNH football game, Chin added.

The stunning switch back to football came in September when UNH was admitted into the Northeast-10 Conference for the start of the 2008 academic year. That means that starting in the year 2009, there will be football once again being played at Dodds Stadium.
“It was a long struggle to get into a conference which had football. We worked with the Northeast-10 for three years and finally we were accepted at the start of this year,” said Chin. The students believe this is a great opportunity for them, as well as the school, Chin said.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Michael Valente, a sophomore communications major at UNH. “It provides many opportunities for the students currently in (the school) and (for) the future of UNH.”
The university took a major step moving forward with the program on Thursday, announcing the hiring of Peter Rossomando as head coach. Rossomando, 35, started his coaching career at the University of New Haven working under head coach Tony Sparano for five seasons. He has been on the coaching staff at the University of Albany for the past seven seasons, serving as associate head coach, offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. Rossomando is the ninth head coach in the program’s history.
Ex-head coach for the UNH football team Tony Sparano, now the associate head coach for the Dallas Cowboys, was very pleased with the hiring of Rossomando.
“He will do a terrific job of not only making our team great athletes, but also great men,” Sparano said. This sentiment was echoed by UNH President Stephen H. Kaplan.
“It took me about three minutes to realize that we were quite fortunate,” Kaplan said. Rossomando is fully aware of the challenge that he has been given. He is faced with starting an entire program from the ground up.
“There’s a lot of work to be done ahead of us. We don’t have a player on campus that has been recruited yet,” said Rossomando. He added that he is fortunate to have a year in between to recruit and get his team in playing shape.
It will indeed be a daunting task to get the program back to where it was back when Rossomando first started working for the staff. The university was coming off an 11-1 season that ended in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division II playoffs. The season also featured the university’s most famous player, Roger Graham. Graham won the Harlon Hill Trophy, awarded to the best player in all of Division II.
In the five years that Rossomando was on the staff at UNH, the team had a record of 41-14-1, including two trips to the NCAA Division II playoffs. In 1997, the program had its crowning achievement, reaching the Division II national championship game. UNH became the smallest school in NCAA history to play for a national title. Rossomando was the defensive line coach for the team at the time.
“Without having a football team, we have not been tapping into a whole resource of fans,” said Director of Athletic Media Relations Matt McCullough. Football brings many positive things to the university. It makes homecoming a big deal. It gives alumni a reason to come back to the university. The media cares more when you have a football team, as football is the most popular sport in the United States, said McCullough.
The addition of football also brings more recognition to the other sports that UNH offers. The university can use halftimes of the football games to give awards to other student athletes from other sports. This will help get the word out about the other sports that may not be as popular, said McCullough.
People will come to games that know nothing about UNH; they are just fans of football. This will bring a huge amount of notoriety to the university as a whole, not just athletics, McCullough said.
The UNH football program will officially start the process of recruiting for the 2009 season on Jan. 1, 2008. That gives Rossomando 21 months to get his team ready before players take the field for their first game. The game is set for Sept 5, 2009, and the opponent has yet to be determined. This marks the 32nd season of UNH football. Each of the other sports at UNH will begin play in the Northeast-10 starting in September of 2008.
So until then the students, faculty and alumni will be waiting. They’ll be waiting for the day when they can get together at their parking lot tailgates, faces painted and some bare-chested. They’ll be huddled around their grills, cooking hamburgers and hot dogs, awaiting the kickoff of a new era of UNH football, looking to bury memories of a 1-9 2003 season, and start fresh, with a program UNH can once again be proud of.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mr. A: Enjoy reading your comments. Food for thought: The old English Barristers would not handle money (the clients payment) it was demeaning. Now TV ads show lawyers promising to win litigation...holding a baseball bat.
Just a sign of modern times? Or what?