At Humboldt State, Revved Up for Success

Go down

At Humboldt State, Revved Up for Success

Post by Bryant on Wed Sep 12, 2012 12:38 am

At Humboldt State, Revved Up for Success
By MATT KRUPNICK
New York Times




ARCATA, Calif. — The Marching Lumberjacks, surely one of the country’s more irreverent college bands, had launched into “Misirlou.”

One member banged on a trash can lid while another knocked together sticks that could have been plucked from the nearby old-growth forest. All were clad in suspenders and hard hats. The band leader danced maniacally, an oversize ax hoisted above her head.

With each Humboldt State touchdown, six men and women dressed as lumberjacks fired up chain saws near the end zone, bringing cheers from the crowd as the power tools roared to life.

California’s only full-fledged N.C.A.A. Division II football team was on its way to an easy season-opening win against Colorado Mesa on Aug. 30, and the eclectic mix of fans in attendance knew it.

Wins are expected often this season in this isolated northwest corner of California, one reason Humboldt has held on to its pricey football team while other colleges in the state have folded theirs. Humboldt has been California’s only Division II program since the University of California, Davis, moved to Division I in 2003. The last Cal State campus to drop Division II football was Chico in 1997. In a region known more for marijuana culture and environmental activism than athletics, football has captured the locals’ attention.

“This keeps me sane,” Cedric Aaron, a Humboldt State alumnus and season-ticket holder, said as he watched the game against Colorado Mesa.

Two other Cal State campuses, San Francisco and Sonoma, also dropped football in the mid-1990s after the 23-campus university’s agreement with the National Organization for Women to abide by gender-equity laws. With more than 100 men per football roster, it became too difficult for some universities dependent on state money to offer enough women’s sports to meet the requirements.

Humboldt chose a different path, keeping football and adding women’s soccer and rowing. The rowing team was honored at halftime against Colorado Mesa after winning its first national championship this year.

With the nearest metropolitan area, the San Francisco Bay region, more than five hours away, Humboldt’s leaders have stuck with football, in part, to give residents behind the Redwood Curtain something to cheer. Arcata’s population barely tops 17,000 when school is in session.

“There’s a sense of pride in your team and your small town,” said Pete Ciotti, a season-ticket holder and pizzeria owner who moved to Arcata from Ithaca, N.Y., 15 years ago. An entire row of Humboldt seats includes Big Pete’s Pizzeria plaques.

“Everyone’s just really excited about it,” Ciotti added. “We all sat through terrible seasons, getting rained on. We knew things would get turned around.”

Rain still falls on Redwood Bowl, one reason an old-growth forest abuts the 7,000-capacity stadium, but the Lumberjacks bear little resemblance to the 2008 team, which went 2-9 in Rob Smith’s first season as the coach. The squad has improved significantly since then, culminating in last year’s 9-1 record and two home sellouts, which was new ground for Humboldt, which has traditionally had a loyal but small following.

Not including scholarships, Humboldt spends slightly more than $650,000 a year on football, about $213,000 more than the university spends on men’s basketball, the second most expensive sport. Football also costs about $380,000 more than Humboldt’s most expensive women’s sport, basketball.

Amid a financial crunch that has devastated the state university system’s academic and student-support programs, Humboldt administrators emphasize that the university spends no state money on athletics. The program is financed through a student fee and private money.

Humboldt’s president, Rollin Richmond, concerned about athletics’ future, raised the fee in 2010 over students’ objections and faculty concerns. In an advisory vote that year, students overwhelmed by quickly rising tuition opposed Richmond’s increase by a 2-1 margin.

“People here were somewhat divided on it,” said Richmond, a biologist who came to Humboldt a decade ago. “That was a challenge. Students, rightly so, feel like the state has abandoned them.”

The university system has staggered under a series of budget cuts that have more than tripled tuition in the past decade, forcing its 430,000 or so students to shoulder the country’s fastest-rising prices.



But animosity over Humboldt’s higher athletic fees appears to have decreased while the football team’s success has grown. Few Humboldt students seem to know or care that they pay hundreds of dollars a year each to keep the athletic department running.

“I don’t really mind,” said DeAndre Crenshaw, 20, as he sat on a bench on Humboldt’s central quad. Other students pay for his extracurricular activities, he noted.

University leaders say the student fees are crucial to football’s survival. Even with that money, the team can afford the equivalent of only 14 full scholarships, they say, far fewer than the 36 the N.C.A.A. allows for Division II universities.

The team is inventive when it comes to making its money go as far as it can. Athletes from other sports clean up Redwood Bowl after games to save money, which is why the university’s cross-country and track coach was carrying a leaf blower around the stadium after the opening game.

Humboldt has sponsored football since the mid-1920s, when it avoided travel costs by playing local high schools. The team still tries to limit travel expenses, sometimes taking 15-hour bus trips to road games.

Travel costs are one major reason Azusa Pacific, a private university of 5,200 students near Los Angeles, has decided to join Humboldt in Division II and the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. In 2007, the university’s football team traveled 18,000 miles, more than any other team in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, said Gary Pine, Azusa Pacific’s athletic director.

Humboldt’s football team came into the 2012 season ranked as high as No. 17 in national polls, and has moved up to No. 11 after starting 2-0. The Lumberjacks’ resurgence has led to recent, albeit short, N.F.L. stints for former players like Taylor Boggs (Jets) and Lyndon Rowells (Carolina Panthers).

The inviting confines of Redwood Bowl have come as something of a relief to Smith, who in 2005 left a job as Western Washington’s coach, frustrated by what he saw as a lack of respect for football on campus. Citing the shortage of Division II teams on the West Coast, Western Washington dropped football in 2009.

“It’s been very difficult for someone like me, who has given his life to this sport,” said Smith, who played in a Rose Bowl with Washington. “But football is always a target.”

During eight straight losing seasons from 1996 to 2003, the Humboldt football team sometimes had trouble attracting fans. But at the season opener, with a victory assured, Stephanie Lane, an assistant athletic director who grew up nearby as a Humboldt fan, proudly looked over bleachers filled with students.

“This is our N.F.L.,” she said. “I don’t miss football games. It’s just in my blood.”

The forced fee hike to pay for football is something Fresno State students (and I imagine our peers at other institutions) understand quite well. That said, I like Arcata. My wife and I go up there about once a year. Its a beautiful and relaxing area dominated by a strange mix of red necks and hippies. I figured this article illustrates that no matter how bad your NCAA team does this season, its better to be mediocre in D1 than be big fish in D2.
avatar
Bryant
Admin

Posts : 1452
Join date : 2012-01-28
Age : 29
Location : John Day, Oregon

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: At Humboldt State, Revved Up for Success

Post by Bryant on Wed Sep 12, 2012 12:42 am

Did I mention that Arcata is beautiful? This is what the area behind the football stadium looks like:

avatar
Bryant
Admin

Posts : 1452
Join date : 2012-01-28
Age : 29
Location : John Day, Oregon

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: At Humboldt State, Revved Up for Success

Post by Dennis324 on Wed Sep 12, 2012 1:07 am

You're killing me with all these gorgeousw pics of your state. Wish I could visit. Smile

So what are people saying about Fresno State's game with Colorado? I saw where you beat Weber State. And Oregon is probably one of the best teams in football right now. I dont know that Bama could handle them actually.

Also you guys play Colorado State, which is coached by one of your former offensive coordinators (Jim McElwain).

_________________

 


                   Roll Tide!
avatar
Dennis324

Posts : 1689
Join date : 2012-01-28
Age : 55
Location : Alabama

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: At Humboldt State, Revved Up for Success

Post by Marconius on Fri Sep 21, 2012 9:46 pm

Dennis324 wrote:You're killing me with all these gorgeousw pics of your state. Wish I could visit. Smile

So what are people saying about Fresno State's game with Colorado? I saw where you beat Weber State. And Oregon is probably one of the best teams in football right now. I dont know that Bama could handle them actually.

Also you guys play Colorado State, which is coached by one of your former offensive coordinators (Jim McElwain).
Dennis:
Doesn't look like y'all are missing Mr. McElwain at all over there in Tuscaloosa.

Bryant:
Fresno State looks pretty good to me this year. Once Boise leaves for the Big East, I see Fresno becoming top dog in that conference.

_________________
"If guns are supposed to kill people, then all of mine are defective..."
-The Honorable Ted Nugent

"We have four boxes used to guarantee our liberty: The soap box, the ballot box, the jury box and the cartridge box". -- Ambrose Bierce (1887)

"All right, they're on our left, they're on our right, they're in front of us, and they're behind us. They can't get away this time!" -Gen. L. "Chesty" Puller, CO, 1 MARDIV, in Korea surrounded by 22 enemy divisions

Had the Japanese got as far as India, Gandhi's theories of "passive resistance" would have floated down the Ganges River with his bayoneted, beheaded carcass. -- Mike Vanderboegh.
avatar
Marconius

Posts : 1800
Join date : 2012-01-31
Age : 48
Location : Opelousas Louisiana

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: At Humboldt State, Revved Up for Success

Post by Sponsored content


Sponsored content


Back to top Go down

Back to top


 
Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum