While negotiations aimed at saving Dowling College resumed Friday, an estimated 240 student-athletes already have started looking for new schools after an earlier announcement by the college that it will close because of financial reasons. Unless outside funding can be arranged, the administration said it will close on Wednesday.
East Coast Conference commissioner Robert Dranoff, who was the athletic director at Dowling from 1992-2004, said the ECC has heard from “seven or eight schools asking for information’’ on potential transfers from Dowling. All the athletes at Dowling have been given their releases, Dranoff said. He would not speculate on the status of those releases should the college resume operations.
Dranoff said the closure sent shock waves through his conference, which is largely composed of private institutions such as Dowling. “I’m not saying any of them are anywhere near the situation at Dowling,’’ he said of the member schools, “but they will have to make some tough decisions about the cost of athletic programs.’’
Dowling field hockey player Zoe Norton has one year of eligibility remaining. “You don’t know where to go, you don’t know what to do,’’ the Sayville High School graduate said. “It’s horrible timing. For fall sports, the rosters are already full. For me to get on a team and be able to play is going to really be hard for me now.’’
She said she would not be interested in returning to Dowling if negotiations succeed. “I would not go back 100 percent,’’ she said. “I wouldn’t risk it for a second time.’’
Dowling’s baseball team had just returned from an appearance in the NCAA Tournament when word spread that a closure was imminent.
Catcher Dwayne Page, a Connetquot graduate, had just finished his sophomore year. “I’m still set on leaving,’’ he said. “The financial instability is too significant to stay at a place like that . . . I would say the lesson to be learned here with me is I went to this institution knowing it was having financial struggles, and I think that maybe I should have weighed out the options more. Maybe I should have considered going somewhere else.’’ But he said playing ball and building strong relationships with his teammates will sustain him: “There’s no regrets, trust me.’’
Pitcher Chris Cepeda, who was voted the East Coast Conference rookie of the year, added, “I was like, ‘Oh my God, my college is closing down.’ I never even heard of a college closing down till now.’’
Cepeda, who attended Ward Melville High School, said he has heard from Hofstra, LIU Post, St. Thomas Aquinas, Adelphi, Bridgeport and Southern New Hampshire. He ruled out a return to Dowling. “It would be far-fetched to go back,’’ he said. “You can’t trust anything now. It’s not fair to us. One day it’s open, one day it’s closed.’’
Soccer player Kevin Diaz, who attended Brentwood High School, has one year of eligibility left. “For me, it’s difficult, ” he said. “Not many schools want to take a huge risk by taking a player who’s going into his senior year. You have to go through the whole process of looking into schools. You don’t want to make a bad choice by going to the wrong school. Honestly, my main concern is my academics. I want to finish school.’’
Soccer player Amber Pindulic, a graduate of Centereach High School, has two years of eligibility remaining. “When I woke up [Thursday] morning, I saw my jersey laying on my counter and I started hysterically crying,’’ she said. “I can’t believe it’s closed. It’s unreal. I feel like every school should be open-minded and help us out. It’s not our fault. It’s not like we wanted to transfer. It’s horrible for us. This shouldn’t have happened . . . Personally, I won’t go back. I don’t want to go through that again.’’
LIU Post athletic director Bryan Collins said his school will try to accommodate as many transfers as possible but added, “It’s difficult timing where many of our coaching staff don’t have athletic scholarship money available. I think that’s what institutions are kind of exploring right now. They’re in the middle of their college careers and now they’re a part of the recruiting process all over again, possibly. So that’s a difficult thing as well.’’
“I’m still set on leaving. The financial instability is too significant to stay at a place like that .”
— Dwayne Page