Allen Lessels' UNH Notebook: No worries over BU-less America East
Marty Scarano knew his month of June was going to be a busy and perhaps jumbled one.
Boston University helped stir the works even more late last week when it announced that it was leaving the America East conference and taking all its athletic teams to the Patriot League.
“It happened very suddenly,” said Scarano, who has been the director of athletics at the University of New Hampshire since the summer of 2000. “I don’t think anybody had any forewarning. I think there has been speculation about BU leaving for as long as I’ve been in the league, plug in league X, Y or Z, but to me the surprising thing was the sense of urgency. It seemed to happen kind of out of the blue.”
The conference’s athletic directors were in league meetings on Thursday when they received word of BU’s move and the good news was they were already scheduled to meet in conjunction with the presidents of the league schools on Friday.
“The timing was good and we spent most of the day on Friday talking with the presidents about how to go forward,” Scarano said. “We gave it a lot of thought and it’s not going to be a kneejerk reaction. We want to create value. We don’t want to just jump out and bring in any member. We want to bring in a member that will bring value to America East in one way or another.”
The loss of BU leaves league membership at eight — UNH, Maine, Vermont, Hartford, UMBC, Albany, Binghamton and Stony Brook — and there was some sentiment toward staying at that number, Scarano said.
There has been talk that Stony Brook will move to the Colonial Athletic Association for football at least and if it did, it’s unclear whether all the school’s sports would play in the CAA.
Other speculation has teams such as Quinnipiac and Bryant looking to move into America East.
Scarano declined to discuss specific schools that have been discussed, but did say plenty are interested in coming into the league.
UNH plays in the CAA for football and Scarano was at meetings for that sport earlier in the month and today and Thursday is taking part in Hockey East meetings. The CAA is looking to rebuild after the recent loss of Massachusetts and the impending departure of Rhode Island, Old Dominion and Georgia State.
“Hockey East is going in a different direction,” Scarano said.
Notre Dame is joining Hockey East for the 2013-14 season and it’s expected that the University of Connecticut will receive an invitation to come aboard, perhaps for the 2014-15 season.
Tuesday morning, America East was on the front burner and Scarano had a meeting with his coaches who compete in that conference.
“They’re all in a tizzy. ‘What do we do? Is it the end of the world?’” he said. “They’re concerned, as they should be.”
But it’s not the end of the world, he said.
“I’m not worried about America East,” he said. “It will prevail and will go forth. It’s a matter of what we look like. I would say this: There’s no shortage of schools that want in to America East.”
That said, various other options, if they’re not on the table, are at most an arm’s length away in a desk drawer or a click away in a computer file.
“You have to look and ascertain the lay of the land every day,” Scarano said. “What if America East collapsed tomorrow? What if four teams left tomorrow and there was no America East? . . . If you’re an athletics director in Division I today, as every day goes by you have to be considering where you stand in your league and where your league stands and what your options are. It’s just the way it is right now in the industry.”
Scarano is especially comfortable with UNH’s standing in the big picture.
“That’s where I have the most confidence,” he said. “UNH has a high value with an unbelievable academic reputation and with everything we do. We’re fairly competitive across the board and people want to be associated with us. At the end of the day, we’re going to be fine.’’
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FORMER Wildcat hockey standouts Darren Haydar and Ellen Weinberg-Hughes will be among the honored guests at UNH’s 2012 Hall of Fame ceremony on Saturday at 6 p.m. in Lundholm Gymnasium.
Haydar (Class of 2002) and Weinberg-Hughes (1991) are among the five new inductees into the Hall of Fame.
Concord’s Jim Jeannotte, the longtime radio voice of the Wildcats, will be feted as the winner of the Joan Leitzel Award. Jeannotte concluded his career with the football team last fall and will call men’s and women’s basketball games again next season.
The Hall of Famers joining Haydar and Weinberg-Hughes are football’s Stephan Lewis (2002), alpine skier Greg Blaisdell (2003) and gymnast Nicole Mullins (1994).
Weinberg-Hughes also played women’s soccer and lacrosse at UNH.
Allen Lessels covers UNH athletics for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.