The move to Division I athletics began at a crawl for Stony Brook University, but the pace of improvement has accelerated dramatically the past few years with two NIT bids in basketball, the first FCS playoff appearance in football last season and the landmark breakthrough by the baseball team to the College World Series in June.
The Seawolves' football team made another leap forward with its thrilling 32-31 comeback victory over Colgate Saturday night, but the victory over the 1-3 Raiders wasn't as big a story as the mob scene that followed.
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First, athletic director Jim Fiore and his department promoted the "Wolfstock" party for Homecoming well enough to attract a record LaValle Stadium crowd of 10,278 fans. When the Seawolves then gave the student section reason to rush to midfield to celebrate as fireworks exploded nearby, it was a dream scene for players, coaches and administrators.
"I think it speaks volumes of what everybody has put into it," head football coach Chuck Priore said in the afterglow. "You start from the administration to the people that handle things on campus to our athletic administration with Jim and Matt .
"We go on the field and play, but to put that event together and to get 10,000 people to a Stony Brook football game I don't think was in anybody's dreams, at least, seven years ago when I started. I think it shows we've arrived as an institution and as a community. I think that's just a great thing."
Priore's football team made it happen on the field, coming back from a 28-20 deficit entering the fourth quarter. Running back Miguel Maysonet and linebacker Jawara Dudley emphasized how much the Seawolves believe in their coaches and the offensive and defensive systems. Priore called that the sign of a good program.
Having a crowd like the one Stony Brook attracted Saturday is a sign that maybe the Long Island community is taking notice, too.
"It's awesome," Priore said. "When you walk on the field and you've got fans in the stands, it's a different atmosphere. I think it was louder than last week in the Carrier Dome [when Stony Brook played at Syracuse]. It was pretty loud and pretty exciting, and it seemed like everybody stayed to the end.