Monthly Archives: October 2003
Homecoming Weekend is typically a time for getting together with old college buddies, tailgating in the parking lot, and watching football.
This year, the only football being played at Fairfield is in the quad. In the dirt. At night. Chances are slim that distinguished alumni will want to see that.
“There is only one reason I go to [homecoming], and that is to socialize with people that I don’t get to see that often,” said John Thoren, a class of 2000 Fairfield graduate.
Nevertheless, Thoren does not plan to attend Stagtober Fest. He feels that there is “no real main focus to the weekend and no major event to go to.”
Other alumni are more optimistic.
“If you’re a recent grad, you’ve probably still got friends on campus, so you’ve got people to visit and places to go,” said Greg Newman, also of the class of 2000. “That is the biggest driver, regardless of the events planned. Losing the football team might hurt, but probably not too drastically.”
Homecoming Weekend, this year being dubbed “Stagtober Fest,” will run the weekend of Oct. 31 – Nov. 1. Since Fairfield disbanded its football and hockey teams last spring for budget reasons, this will be the first time in seven years that there will be no varsity football game for the weekend.
In spite of having lost one of its most popular Homecoming Weekend events, the University does not feel that the lack of a football game will be a deterrent and expects a crowd comparable in size to previous years.
“They’re hoping for similar returns,” said Kevin Neubauer, FUSA President, in regard to projected attendance for the weekend.
“Considering the spirit, value of tradition and passion that alumni have for Fairfield, we do not expect attendance to decline,” said Janet Canepa, ’82, Director of Alumni Relations.
However, according to an article published in The Mirror last winter, many alumni were said to be “up in arms” about the elimination of the football and hockey teams and considered lowering their yearly donations. This sentiment of displeasure about the team cuts may be echoed at Stagtober Fest.
Some former students are having trouble envisioning a homecoming weekend with no football. The football game has been seen, in recent years, as the main attraction at which grads can gather and socialize.
According to Canepa, Homecoming Weekend began approximately 40 years ago with the idea that alumni would return “‘home’ for various festivities as well as basketball games and other sporting events” – not necessarily football.
“I’m told to expect similar numbers, but we won’t know till it actually happens,” said Frank Ficko, Associate Director of Security at Fairfield. “Tailgating doesn’t have to surround specific sporting events.”
Fairfield is not the only Jesuit school on the East Coast without a football team. Le Moyne College in New York and Loyola College in Maryland have no football teams. Neither of these schools hosts autumn homecoming events, instead offering various reunion weekends and alumni chapter events throughout the year.
“Throughout the years, Homecoming has taken on many styles and has taken place in various months,” Canepa said. “The idea of football as the main attraction for Fall Homecoming started when it became a Division 1 sport in 1996.”
This year, the addition of family-oriented activities to Stagtober Fest aims to draw graduates back with their families. Special ticket pricing is offered for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, to be held at the Arena at Harbor Yard Nov. 1.
Back on campus, Dapper the Clown will perform magic tricks and make balloon animals for the kids later in the day.
FUSA has arranged a stand-up comedy show featuring Dave Chappelle Nov. 1. The show is open to everyone.
“I actually don’t know much about Homecoming Weekend,” said Rebecca Valencia, ’06, “but I’m excited about Dave Chappelle.”
Sports events to be held during Stagtober Fest include an Alumni Lacrosse game and a Rugby Club game. The women’s volleyball and soccer teams also play throughout the weekend.
There will be a Pep Rally for Fairfield’s 2003-2004 men’s and women’s basketball teams, and the teams will be available for pictures and autographs afterward.
“The real purpose of Homecoming Weekend … is the camaraderie,” said Martha Milcarek, University Spokeswoman.
What is the darkest day in Fairfield men’s basketball history?
We have two choices:
The current alleged NCAA violations, or Fairfield winning a big MAAC tournament game at the buzzer only to have the victory taken away due to a last second bench technical?
In the 1988-1989 season, Fairfield was the No. 8 seed in the conference tournament. The Stags were playing St. Peters College in a game where the Stags were heavy underdogs.
Fairfield was down with only seconds remaining in the game. Marvin Walters had the ball and passed it to Harold Brantley who sank a shot at the buzzer to win the game for the Stags. The team and coach rushed the court in excitement. The Stags had won, but the referees had other thoughts.
Fairfield was given a bench technical for running on the court even though the game was over. Willie Haynes of St. Peters made both foul shots and Fairfield had its victory stolen away.
Bill Daughtry, co-host of MSG’s “Sports Desk” and “Talk of Our Town” was doing play-by-play on the radio for that game.
“I remember seeing the team running out on the court and I thought what’s this?” said Daughtry. “Right away I knew they were in trouble because they ran on the court so quickly. It cost them the one of their biggest games ever.”
Fairfield men’s head basketball coach Tim O’Toole was a graduate student at Fordham University at the time.
“It was shocking for games to end at the buzzer at that time, and kids get carried away and go on the court,” said O’Toole. “The referees thought it interfered with team play and called a technical on the Stags.”
Fourteen years later, Farifield men’s basketball faces another controversy. The team is now facing allegations of violated NCAA regulations.
According to athletic director Eugene Doris, the school is following the normal process by calling for a complete investigation.
“I do not know how far along the investigation is, due to the investigation company keeping the details to themselves,” said Doris. “When they know, we’ll know and we want the truth.”
But what if the investigation proves Fairfield violated NCAA regulations? The image of the team, athletic department, and school are all at risk.
“This would be the worst day in Fairfield basketball history,” said Doris. “It would have a negative result on the image of Fairfield.”
Daughtry also feels that this could be the worst scenario for the basketball program, especially after making it to the finals of the MAAC Tournament last season.
“The whole program is in jeopardy and its future is on the line,” said Daughtry. “This could really hurt the conference if they get knocked out.”
Despite the dark cloud hovering over the team, Doris said the Stags are still in good spirits.
“The team’s mood has been outstanding,” said Doris. “It hit them hard, but I don’t see it affecting them.”
Season ticket holders and boosters have been very supportive, according to Doris. He also feels there will be good student support when the team hits the floor this year.
“I think the enthusiasm will be there at the beginning of the season,” said Doris. “But if we are not successful and the fans have a lousy time, they won’t come back.”
Students have mixed opinions on the men’s basketball program’s current situation and the disaster that happened to the team in 1989.
“It’s worse to lose that game [in 1989] because a championship was in the palm of their hands,” said Kevin Nyarady ’05.
“It must have hurt the team so much to lose on a stupid foul,” said Nyarady.
Nyarady added that no matter what happens he will be there for every game giving his full support.
However, Adam Belardino ’06 believes the current allegations will have a more negative impact on the entire school.
“The allegations they are facing are far worse because this could humiliate us in front the whole country,” said Belardino. “Not just the basketball team, but all sports and the school.”
According to Doris, the team will definetly play it’s season’s scheduled games no matter what the outcome is. However, there is a chance that the team will be prevented from playing in the postseason.
Fairfield’s tennis teams have finally proved this year that they can compete with the best. Both the men’s and women’s teams won both of its fall matches, and have proved to other teams that the tennis program is turning around.
The men and women closed the season with a 2-0 record in the fall, which is a tuneup for the longer spring MAAC schedule. The men defeated Fordham and Fairleigh Dickinson, and the women defeated Providence College and Hartford University.
The women’s team also had its best showing ever at the New England Championships, coming in second place, and won 18 out of the 27 matches. Last year, the team came placed eigth there.
“The women had a tremendous performance at the New England Collegiate Championships,” said coach Jeff Wyshner.
Players also agree that this team has improved greatly over the past few years.
“This is by far the best team we have had in years,” said Andrea Suriano ’04. “With the incoming freshman added to the lineup, we have a very strong team and a very good chance of winning the MAAC.”
Kevin Nyarady ’05 also has confidence in his team.
“We need to identify our weaknesses and work on them in the off-season such that we can put ourselves in position to contend for the MAAC title,” he said.
“If we stay focused and work hard, the MAAC is ours for the taking,” Nyarady added.
In the 1990s the tennis program was used to winning the MAAC title. However, the team faced some difficulties in the early 2000s and finished at the bottom of the MAAC. Wyshner took over in 2001, and he hopes to bring the team back to where it used to be in the ’90s. Wyshner also thinks this is the best team the program has seen in years.
“Both teams have certainly raised expectations for themselves by playing so well this fall,” said Wyshner. ”While neither team is a favorite to win a MAAC Championship, both teams know that for the first time in five years, they are legitimate contenders for the title.”
After picking up two wins this past weekend, the women’s soccer team hopes to carry its momentum into the MAAC Tournament starting Nov.11.
The team (8-7-1 overall, 5-3-0 MAAC) was impressive this weekend dominating Marist and Siena. This weekend also marked head coach Maria Piechocki’s 100th career win.
According to Piechocki, this weekend was a turning point for the team and showed that the team can have good results in the MAAC Tournament.
“The team showed what kind of team we are capable of being,” Piechocki said.
“If we can carry our momentum into the conference tournament, then it’s a whole new game at that point. Given that we are starting to peak it could be a lot of fun,” she said.
Against Siena, the Stags wasted little time dominating the field, scoring the first goal less than two minutes into the game last Friday.
Danielle Della Corna ’04 had two assists off corner kicks to lead the team to a 2-0 victory. Shannon Helm ’06 scored the final goal.
According to Piechocki, the Stags did not play as well against Marist but were still able to pull out on top.
“Against Marist we lacked intensity in the first half and played flat but had the ability to kick it up a notch, outshooting them 18 to three in the second half alone,” Piechocki said.
The game was scoreless for the first 62 minutes of play. The first goal was scored by Lindsey Pulito ’04 and was assisted by Della Corna’s corner kick. Mareen Miller ’04 scored the Stags final goal to win the game 2-0.
With a less than perfect record, it would take a lot for the Stags to be able to win the MAAC regular season and the MAAC tournament. However, according to Piechocki, the Stags may be able to upset some top teams after stepping it up recently.
“For a regular season MAAC title to happen it would take a small miracle for the MAAC teams ahead of us to crash and burn in the rest of their conference regular season games,” she said.
“I may be a regular visitor to the chapel this week,” Piechocki joked.
“Offensively we have been starting to click,” Piechocki said. “We have been gaining momentum these past three weeks and are starting to peak at an opportune time.”
The Stags return to play in their final non-conference game at Yale on Wed. at 7 p.m.
One may wonder why a team so rich with talent and leadership struggles for the duration of the regular season and question its postseason life.
Entering the 2003 season, the Fairfield women’s volleyball team had sky high expectations. And why not? It was coming off of its seventh straight winning season, and with two preseason all MAAC selections in the lineup, all was in line for the Stags.
The women have a strong history, winnign seven regular season conference championships, and have won the conference tournament championship six out of the past seven years. The Stags tied with Manhattan in first place with 82 points in the preseason coaches’ poll.
But Saturday’s loss to St. Peter’s put the exclamation point on another disappointing week as the Stags dropped to a dismal 3-19 overall record, and 1-3 in the MAAC.
This only further distances the women from their goal of winning the league crown and an NCAA tournament berth.
At week’s end they are in seventh place in the ten team league and are near the bottom of a scuffle for the fourth and final spot in the conference tournament.
The reason for this year’s letdown seems on the surface to be rather simple: injuries. The Stags have been devastated at first by the loss and later by the hindered play of three key players.
Setter Kelly Sorensen ’04 had off-season shoulder surgery which left her sidelined for the first four weeks of the season. Sorensen, who ranks third on the Stags’ all time assist list, was soon joined by her standout classmate Kristin Anderson ’04, a first team all MAAC selection as a junior.
Anderson had early season shoulder problems and missed about four weeks of action. Last year’s MAAC rookie of the year, Casey Machon ’06, broke her hand in the squad’s 3-1 win over Army, a game that was fittingly followed by an 11 game losing streak. Machon has only recently returned to the court.
The aforementioned injuries left second year coach Jeff Werneke with an under-armed six-woman team for a good portion of the first half of the season, and when his three fallen stars did return to action, they were not fully recovered.
Werneke says that he is often left with an undersized practice squad because of injuries.
In addition to being handicapped for a good portion of the season, Werneke says part of the problem has been an extremely strong non-conference schedule, one that included ten teams from the Big East and Atlantic 10.
“It’s not like we were losing to teams from the Northeast Conference or America East,” said Werneke.
All that aside, this battered yet experienced team heads down the stretch with a chance to collect what it feels it rightfully owns-the MAAC championship trophy, and a spot in the NCAA tournament. Werneke doen’s t seem to think this goal is unreasonable.
“We have to have more consistency in every aspect of the game. We’ve been losing because of errors, which is good, because we can control that.” Werneke said.
The four seniors-Sorensen, Anderson, Becky Guess ’04, and Laurie Brands ’04 look to finish their storied careers just how they started them-as members of a championship team.
Many Fairfield University students have heard that Fairfield’s current president, Rev. Aloysius Kelley, S.J. will be leaving his post as President of Fairfield this spring after 25 years at the helm. The cast of “Friends” has nothing on him! The university has been busy carefully orchestrating a committee that would represent the many faces of Fairfield in search for a new president. Rev. Edward Glynn, S.J.-the President of John Carroll University-is the chair of the search committee.
Father Kelly has led Fairfield for the past 25 years – we need another great leader. Father Glynn, I think I can save you a lot of time and yellow legal pads: recruit one of your alums, a John Carroll U. Blue Streak-Tim Russert, host of NBC’s hit political show “Meet the Press” to serve as president of Fairfield University.
Basically, Fairfield needs a souped up Father Kelley. While Father Kelley made huge strides for Fairfield – the construction of new buildings, the increase in prestige and recognition of the Fairfield name and above all a ton of fundraising, many students regret not being able to pick him out of a line-up. In choosing its next leader, Fairfield needs someone who is smart, personable and a regular sight around campus.
Too bad Father Kelley didn’t spend more time with current tuition paying students as opposed to courting Fairfield alums for donations.
Enter Tim Russert. Russert is incredibly smart (a grad of a Jesuit university), quick-witted, engaging and in the know. A quick look at his website reveals his stunning resume. He has been awarded 29 honorary doctorate degrees – I wonder how many core classes that amounts to?
He was also received countless journalism awards – including the David Brinkley Award for Excellence in Communication. Fairfield needs an extremely articulate president to formulate and carry out its vision of Fairfield – who better than a hard-line journalist? Also, Irish America Magazine named him one of the top 100 Irish Americans in the country.
Russert has been noted for his use of classic “Irishman” charm when engaging with his guests. Who better to market Fairfield than a charismatic Irishman? As a Jesuit institution, Fairfield is looking for a service-oriented leader. Russert happens to be a member of the Board of Directors of the Greater Washington Boys ‘ Girls Club and America’s Promise – Alliance for Youth.
Lastly, the National Fatherhood Initiative named Russert “Father of the Year” in 2001. He may not be a Jesuit, but he’s still a father…and therein lies the problem.
In a campus-wide e-mail sent last week, it was expressed that the Search committee was “…committed to selecting a Jesuit who embodies our vision and ambition for Fairfield University.” I totally agree with Fairfield’s goal of finding an ambitious, dedicated leader to lead the university to even bigger success (and thus increase the value of the Fairfield degree) but does a Jesuit institution necessarily need a Jesuit president? Look at Georgetown University’s recent appointment of a non-Jesuit President. Russert is smart, hardworking and passionate. Why should Fairfield limit itself and its students by only looking at Jesuit candidates?