BOZEMAN, Mont. -- Surveying 17,777-seat Bobcat Stadium and the beautiful snow-capped mountain backdrop before Stony Brook's 16-10 loss to host Montana State in an FCS second-round playoff game Saturday night, Seawolves athletic director Jim Fiore couldn't help but gush about the setting.
"This could be a model for us," Fiore said of the home team's stadium, which has a bowl at one end, a large bleacher section across from the press box side and a modern digital scoreboard in the open end.
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Right now, SBU's LaValle Stadium has a capacity of 8,000 seats. State funds allocated for stadium expansion remain frozen, but as Stony Brook moves to the Colonial Athletic Association in football next season and perhaps develops into a candidate to move from the Football Championship Subdivision up to the Football Bowl Subdivision in the future, the need for a larger stadium will be paramount.
The student section at the west end of LaValle Stadium sits atop locker room facilities and coaches' offices and easily could be closed off to form a bowl at that end connecting the grandstands on both sides. Filling such a stadium remains a challenge on Long Island, but continued success by coach Chuck Priore's team could drive attendance.
Certainly, Stony Brook went into its second-round game facing a significant home-field advantage for the Bobcats, who had sold more than 15,000 seats before kickoff and expected a walk-up sale to push it past 16,000. As results of earlier FCS playoff games showed, home-field teams tend to dominate. In the day's first six games, Appalachian State was the only home team to fall when a missed extra point in overtime led to a one-point loss to Eastern Illinois.
Priore did his best to downplay the problems of playing more than 2,000 miles from home in the playoffs. "It is what it is," he said. "The part that should not be a factor in the game is the travel part. You're on a plane for 4½ hours. You can't get over the George Washington Bridge in 4½ hours from [Stony Brook].
"Playing away from home is an issue at every level of football, but you can't allow 'home-field advantage' to be in your way."
At least, the Seawolves got a break with unusually warm weather for December in Montana. The temperature an hour before game time was a mild 50 degrees. However, winds gusting from 24 to 28 miles per hour from the southwest figured to affect passing and kicking.