Head to any sporting goods store and you’ll see plenty of Gators, Longhorns, Tarheels, Bluedevils and Wildcats apparel. After the introductory press conference for new Stony Brook Director of Athletics Shawn Heilbron, it is apparent that the former Oregon State Senior Associate Athletic Director has the lofty goal of having a Seawolf on those shelves right next to the rest of the nation’s powerhouses.
What does this mean to Stony Brook fans, athletes and students? It means their athletic program’s new leader no longer wants to settle for being the team that has a mysterious mascot that is completely unknown if one leaves the tristate area. From recruits to fans, students to spectators, Heilbron wants to get the Stony Brook program to the point where the question of “What’s a Seawolf” is no longer necessary.
Dean Jerrold L. Stein, who recently announced his retirement, was quietly in attendance at the back of the press section for Heilbron’s introduction. Among many accomplishments, Stein coined the phrase “What’s a Seawolf?”
“No one coast to coast will have to ask, ‘What is a Seawolf?’” Heilbron said. “They will know who we are.”
The idea of having an Athletic Director who wants his university’s name to be known has to inspire the student population, especially student-athletes.
At the end of the day, although administration, coaches, support staff and the students are important in an athletic program, the driving force will always, 100 percent of the time be the student-athletes. With most of the team and its coaches in attendance, hearing aspirations of pushing our brand across the country must be music to their ears.
“The sky is the limit for the Seawolves,” Heilbron said. “I am so thrilled to help work together to increase our heights and make sure that everybody knows what a Seawolf is.”
Today, Stony Brook’s football team is in the Colonial Athletic Association, which is within the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), the lower end of the Division I football spectrum. From what Heilbron led the crowd to believe, he wants the school’s football program to lead the way to national prominence, with recognition among the LSU’s and Alabama’s of the college sports world. However realistic or unrealistic that is at the moment, the thought that Heilbron wants Stony Brook to get there has to give student-athletes confidence.
If Stony Brook’s new leader is willing to set such a steep goal of recognition for the school, one has to think they would take that challenge and run with it. Big time recruits want to go to a school that they recognize with success, one that they can identify with a brand. More times than not, from football to basketball and beyond, the recruiting lists show time and time again that the same schools get the highest quantity of top-level recruits. Why? They have heard of the school, and think of it with success. If Stony Brook shows recruits that they are shooting for the stars, they’ll be more inclined to jump into that rocket and blast off with the rest of the Seawolves.
Sure, it is unrealistic to think that when we wake up tomorrow, Stony Brook will be on SportsCenter getting mentioned by the analysts of College Gameday, First Take, and so on, but the attitude which Heilbron displayed at his introduction left an optimistic taste of where this program is aiming to go moving forward. To get there, we need to win.
“That’s what I am here to do. I am here to win,” Heilbron said. “ I want to win in everything that we do.”
Something that should not go unnoticed was a comment Heilbron made about Donna Woodruff, who acted as interim director of Athletics during the nationwide search for a new Athletics Director, continuing the year with seamless ease.
“I don’t think enough has been said about her leadership, and class and dignity with which she’s led this program over the last six months,” Heilbron said.
For all intents and purposes, Stony Brook’s department could have done an about-face and started trending in a negative direction after the buying-out of our previous Athletic Director’s contract. Instead, the Seawolves have advanced to multiple NCAA Championships, won multiple America East titles, and established itself as a mid-major powerhouse. Stony Brook has not trended downward under Woodruff, but continued on its upward path.
Let us remember this press conference years down the road as the day that Stony Brook made its move, from not only being an academic powerhouse, but a sports powerhouse as well.