A screenshot from a 1994 issue of The Statesman. Stony Brook University rebranded itself as the Seawolves that year, after nearly 30 years as the Stony Brook Patriots. STATESMAN FILE

Originally published Aug. 15, 1994

After having two applications rejected by the New York Collegiate Athletic Association (NYCAC), Stony Brook now may have a choice of two athletic conferences to enter. The news came in a series of bizarre twists over the last week, but no one in the Division of Physical Education and Athletics is complaining. 

The NYCAC rejected Stony Brook’s application twice this past spring. According to the Dean of the Division, Richard Laskowski, an athletic director from the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) inquired Stony Brook’s Director of Men’s Athletics, Sam Kornhauser, if the Brook would consider the more northern conference. Kornhauser passed on the information to Laskowski who promptly called the NECC Commissioner, Bill Moore. 

“I called my friend at Dowling, Robert Dranoff, because they’re in NYCAC,” said Laskowski. “I said, ‘I’m going to begin formal talks with the NECC conference.” Two days later, Newsday staff writer Steve Marcus called Laskowski and informed the Dean that the NYCAC developed interest in the Seawolves, even after two rejections.  


There are a number of reasons for each conference’s interest. For the NECC, adding Stony Brook means adding a Long Island university and expanding its already large recruiting base. It also means adding a school with some of the best facilities in the region, especially now that funding for a new stadium has been approved. For the NYCAC, it appears that the interest is more in keeping the NECC off Long Island than in accepting the school for its own sake.

As far as Stony Brook is concerned, joining either conference is a plus. “There are some very good schools [in the NECC], both academically and athletically,” said Laskowski. Many of them “are teams that in basketball in Division II are very outstanding teams.” The NECC, which covers most of New England and now New York with the recent addition of SUNY at Albany, also appears to be more stable, financially. As a result of their athletic success, the NECC received more NCAA post-season money ($172.000) than any other Division II conference in the country.

On the other hand, the NYCAC is much more convenient and less expensive. “With NYCAC, there are a lot of local schools. The furthest one obviously is Philadelphia Textile,” said Laskowski. “Baseball to me is a problem when you do series,” he continued. “You travel for a weekend series, you get rained out, you stay over the next day. It’s a really expensive thing between changing the airlines, the extra day in the hotel, feeding the players.” Laskowski also said that basketball teams traveling by van in the winter to New England could be problematic.

However, there are distinct advantages just in joining a conference, no matter what their acronym. Scheduling is much easier for a conference-affiliated program then it is for an independent program. Also, publicity-wise, affiliated programs are more likely to receive more frequent coverage. With the NECC, Stony Brook could look forward to a lot of press, but in small papers with small circulations. On Long Island, the Brook would receive limited coverage (though probably more than it does currently) in a paper that is nationally read. 


Furthermore, there are disadvantages to each conference. Laskowski has noted the frequent changing of athletic directors and coaches that takes place in the NYCAC, something he would choose to avoid. On the other hand, the NECC could be attractive to prospective athletes, even over Stony Brook. “A lot of students would like to get off Long Island. They see some of the schools [in the NECC]. It would be their advantage to play against us,” Laskowski said. “I don’t know how many students want to leave New England to come to us at this time.”

Laskowski is scheduled to meet with the NECC directors on August 25. He will deliver a formal presentation and obtain as much information as possible. He will also try to obtain the results of a NYCAC mailing which is assumed to read, in essence, “Stony Brook has the opportunity to go to another league. If we want them to stay, we better consider it as soon as possible.” When Laskowski has all the information he can secure, he will discuss the pros and cons with Kornhauser, Sandy Weeden (the Director of Women’s Athletics) and incoming University President Dr. Shirley Strum Kenny. Only after meeting with them will he make a final decision. Of course, there is no guarantee that both or either conference will extend an invitation, but Laskowski remains positive. “I think there’s a very good possibility that we will have at least one to go with,” he said. “if it’s only one then I’m going to take that… I don’t think we’re going to have a vote I think it’s a done deal then.”

Laskowski said he will not submit a formal application until the decision is final. “I wasn’t going to re-apply [to the NYCAC] anymore because it was an embarrassment to me and the University,” said Laskowski. “the understanding [with the NECC] is that if they don’t want us, then we would never have applied. And if we go somewhere else, we don’t embarrass them either.”

Finally, Laskowski said that he harbors no hard feelings toward the NYCAC or the people that originally voted against the Brook. “They were concerned that we were going Division I and that we wouldn’t be there for long,” he said. “They were also concerned about the size of our school and the fact that we have good facilities.”

Laskowski likened the situation to that of Notre Dame and the Big East. “If you’re struggling athletically, to add another strong team could have its drawbacks. I think the Big East must have considered this when they just let Notre Dame in… The Big East was willing to look past that in order to get another very attractive team. Maybe in Division II that’s not the priority, but that’s okay.”


Stadium Fever

The New York State budget includes $3.6 million for the construction of a new football/ lacrosse/track stadium on the Stony Brook campus. Laskowski is pushing to have the new structure built on top of the current track, which is in desperate need of renovation. Since the track is hardly used – Stony Brook has not hosted an intercollegiate track meet in years – it would make sense to build there than at the present football field. Lacrosse and football will continue to operate business as usual, but the tracksters will need to relocate for up to two years.

But, that’s just the beginning of some potentially good news. Suffolk Life recently reported that Suffolk County legislators, led by Donald Blydenburgh (R-Hauppauge), are looking into building a major stadium in the county. The stadium, which legislators hope to house a Major League Baseball franchise or a National Football League team, is likely to be a domed-type, possibly retractable. Laskowski expressed interest in finding out more. “I would like to talk to whoever it is… about the possibility of bringing that stadium to Stony Brook,” he said. “I think that would be a great asset.”

Laskowski said that there may be a chance that land by University Medical Center may be attractive for such a plan. If such a plan is plausible, Laskowski asserts that it would be a “tremendous, tremendous boost to the University” and to the local high schools, which would likely be able to use the facility periodically. 

SportsChannel Still Interested

Solidifying a position in a conference will add to Stony Brook’s likelihood of finalizing a TV deal with New York SportsChannel. The Division is tentatively planning to deal for five televised events: September 27, women’s soccer versus Hofstra; October 15, football versus Norwich (Homecoming); and three spring lacrosse states, including games against North Carolina, Rutgers and one other team.


“We have to get the word out,” said Laskowski. “This deal is going to throw us into the limelight.”


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