Steven Marcus started at Newsday in 1972 and has covered high school, college and professional sports. He has Show More
Long before The Termination, Hofstra football coach Dave Cohen approached the 2009 season as fourth-and-long. Would his fourth season make it a long shot that he would return, or could he earn a long-term extension?
After a 5-6 record, but with two wins over nationally-ranked teams, Cohen (18-27) hoped for the latter as he entered Thursday's 9 a.m. meeting with athletic director Jack Hayes.
"I had a piece of paper with all the reasons why," Cohen said. "I prepared and researched. I was trying to put our best foot forward. But it never got to that."
Hayes told him about The Termination. A stunned Cohen said he was numb. "It's like standing on the sidelines while the quarterback is throwing interception after interception and you think 'Is this really happening? Wake me up,' " he said.
The brutal wake-up call set in motion by The Termination did not allow Cohen to remain in his all-but-catatonic state. "By 10 o'clock, I was dealing with 86 18- to 22-year-olds," he said of his players. "Talking them off the ledge, hugging then and telling them we're here to help them."
Later that night, Cohen became more reflective. What is next for him, I asked him at his Commack home.
"I turned two or three jobs down [last spring]," he lamented. "I had major college [assistant] positions offered and turned them down. This is where I wanted to be. This is where I grew up. This is my home. I really thought we were building a foundation."
At Cohen's hiring in December 2005, Hofstra president Stuart Rabinowitz said he expected Hofstra to compete for a national championship under the new coach. Two weeks short of four years later, strapped with mounting costs and low fan interest, Rabinowitz found himself acting as The Terminator.
And now Cohen will have to move on. He has a year left on his contract, which will be honored if he can't find another position, but he hopes to find a job long before that time. "I live 10 doors down from the house my wife grew up in," he said. "My kids go to the same school I went to. I played my college football on Long Island [at C.W. Post]. Every relative in my wife's family lives between Selden and Queens. Now we have to leave. We have to find another job. This was an opportunity to do what I love and to do it at home."
His wife, Denise, along with young sons Brian and Charlie, attended all of the games.
Cohen was the defensive coordinator at Delaware before coming to Hofstra. "I had one of the top three or four jobs in the country at Delaware," he said. "From pay to quality of life to fans to institutional support, we had a phenomenal situation there. At 43, I've had some accomplishments as a defensive coordinator. To [step] back and take the exact same job, I don't know. It would be nice to have some growth from the job I had before I came here, before this whole thing."
The only job that had made it worth leaving Delaware was to be a head coach on Long Island. "As a family, you've got to evaluate what your best opportunity is professionally," he said. "We've already been in the best possible scenario location-wise for our family. It only gets worse from here."
Along with Cohen, his coaches, including defensive coordinator Rich Nagy, will be uprooted. Nagy was recruiting in California when Cohen told him to come home. "I just moved here a year ago," said Nagy, who came from Murray State (Ky.) with his wife and two young daughters. "Now we have to turn around and move again." He said his wife, Erika, "was a little shocked. Not a little, a lot."
Any assistants who don't find new jobs will remain on salary until next September. After that, they will be terminated - like the program.