With their Colonial Athletic Association opener Sept. 7 at Rhode Island just over a week away, Stony Brook's football team received a pep talk before yesterday's practice from Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr., the university president, that underlined the importance of the move from the Big South to a far more prestigious conference in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Stanley didn't just jump on the bandwagon. He addressed the team in each of his first four years as president, and he noted the Seawolves won or shared the Big South title all four seasons. "I think we're building some really amazing traditions at Stony Brook," Stanley said, "and football has been an absolutely critical part of that."
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Ticking off the football program's accomplishments, Stanley said homecoming has gone from being ignored to a major campus event; he noted that former SBU players Miguel Maysonet and Michael Bamiro currently are in NFL training camps, and he expressed pride that the team scored its first-ever victory over an FBS opponent when it won last season at Army, 23-3.
Referring to the Seawolves' only game against an FBS opponent this season, Stanley smiled and said, "I'd love to see you beat Buffalo." He said that would give Stony Brook bragging rights within the SUNY system since it defeated Albany in a playoff game in 2011.
"The biggest tradition you guys have done has been winning," Stanley said. "This has been a winning football team every year I've been here, and that's not easy to do . . . Winning is great, but you've been winning with class.
"So, I'm excited about this season. I know this is a big change. We're stepping up, going to the Colonial . . . We deserve to be in the Colonial, but that is a tougher environment. That is the league of champions for FCS. But I think we're going to make a big splash. People saw what we did last year."
The Seawolves scored a first-round playoff win last year over CAA champion Villanova, which is favored to win the league title this season. "So, the Colonial is on notice that Stony Brook is coming, and we're coming to play," Stanley said.
Stanley later said there's no mistaking the value of athletics and particularly football in raising the university's profile, and the move to CAA and a schedule of more prominent schools should boost recruitment, not only in athletics, but for the student body in general.
Increased ticket demand has prompted the school to order 140 new chairback seats at LaValle Stadium because sales of those more expensive seats have jumped 68 percent. The day might not be far off when Stony Brook feels the need to expand its 8,200-seat stadium. "We're looking at that, and we've commissioned a report essentially to help us do that," Stanley said.