Players move on after Hofstra dumps football

NEW YORK (AP) - Former Hofstra co-captain Luke Bonus lives in a house just a short walk from the stadium where he played college football.

“I’m reminded by it 50 times a day, and that’s not an exaggeration,” the former linebacker says.

Sometimes when he looks at the place, he recalls exact conversations from those days. “I feel like I can hear coaches talking,” he says. “It’s a weird thing.”

It’s also bittersweet, or sometimes, just plain bitter.

The reason: Hofstra administrators cut football last December. The school cited financial reasons and a lack of fan interest but the move shocked the school’s 84 players.

“You plan out the next four to five years of your life, and you have it ripped away from you,” defensive back Keith Ferrara said. “It felt like someone had died in my family.”

Now, with another season about to start, the players have moved on. Some have graduated, others are staying at Hofstra without football, and some have transferred _ at least six have moved up to FBS programs. Whatever they chose, they share a lingering anger about the way they got the news and the disruption it caused.

The school, meanwhile, maintains it tried to make the transition as easy as possible. Vice President for University Relations Melissa Connolly said the announcement’s timing was “purposeful” and designed so the players could make a well thought-out decision with the season behind them.

“Our focus was always on them,” she said.

Hofstra is not a place with a glorious football tradition, not a USC, Oklahoma or Notre Dame. But the private FCS school with 12,000 students in Hempstead, on Long Island, produced its share of pro players over the decades (football started at the school in 1937).

More than 20 of its alumni have gone on to the NFL. Marques Colston got a Super Bowl ring last season with the New Orleans Saints while Willie Colon earned two with the Pittsburgh Steelers from their most recent titles. The New York Jets used to hold preseason practice at Hofstra, and alum Wayne Chrebet was a fan favorite when he played for them.

The Pride even moved up from Division III to what was then Division I-AA in 1994.

“Historically you wouldn’t think that Hofstra would drop its program,” wide receiver Derek Benson said.

Even though fellow Colonial Athletic Association school Northeastern also dropped its program in 2009, the players say there were no rumors about Hofstra getting rid of football.

“There wasn’t even a whispering that would happen to us,” said Bonus, who graduated last spring.

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