For Long Islanders, Jets Practice Offers Thanks

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y.- Over 10,000 people decked out in their finest green and white attire showed up at James M. Shuart Stadium at Hofstra University Wednesday night as the Jets paid tribute to the area and fans they once called home. Until last season, the Jets held their training camp and practices at the university’s campus for 40 years.

Shortly after Long Islanders caught word that the Jets were leaving Hofstra in favor of SUNY Cortland in the 2008 season, they were abruptedly informed that the island’s preeminent university, Hofstra, would be canceling their football program indefinitely. Long Island, which is a hot bed for the Jets, was dumped by their better halves in the football world, left with nothing but lacrosse and the Islanders to hold their attention.

Players reach out for adoration of fans at James M. Shuart Stadium at Hofstra University on Wednesday. The Jets used to practice there ove the past 40 years before moving up to SUNY Cortland. (Photo by JetsInsider.com).

“I think it’s awesome. I think it was important for us to come out here today to say thank you to the New York fans, to the fans who have supported us when we were at Hofstra,” said fullback Tony Richardson, who spent the final training camp at Hofstra in 2008. “We have great fans. We have passionate fans. It was great to see the support and everyone out here.”

While this may just seem like an easy day for the players, who didn’t dress in pads and could be seen posing for the rambunctious crowd, it meant a lot more to the fans who attended. “I think there’s so much support because of  the Jets and [that] there’s no high level of football here on Long Island,” said Ed Tierney, 23, of Greenlawn, N.Y., who has been a Jets fan for 17 years. “And those people who are supporters would like to come out and see some live action.”

The fans from Long Island were very much disappointed that the team that has called Hempstead home for 40 years would be moving upstate, but those same fans were enraged when hearing the new that Hofstra University would be canceling the football program, following in the footsteps of former division rival Northeastern University. The university’s president, Stewart Rabinowitz, cited major losses financially that secured the decision. The school put in an estimated $4.5 million in to the team annually and would lose $4 million in the process.

But for an area that is as passionate as Long Island, there needs to be some sort of high-level football being played. For Tierney, the youth of his summers were spent traveling out to Hofstra to watch his favorite team get ready for the upcoming season.

“We’d come out for morning practice, go the mall for a bit and come back for the afternoon sessions every day. I was disappointed when they left. But it is nice to have them around now though,” said Tierney.

Admist all the fanfare and the excitement, former Jets wide receiver and Hofstra alum, Wayne Chrebet, sat on the sidelines soaking up the action and reminiscing about his days at the Hofstra campus. He summed up the feeling of Long Islanders with a single sentence. ” They miss football around here. They should’ve never left here,” said Chrebet referring to both the football program and the Jets.

But no matter the feelings after one practice, an entertaining one at that, it is not enough to blind the Long Islanders that not only the Jets but the Hofstra Pride have left the area. And that leaves a sour taste in their mouths after playing host to the Jets for over 40 years. Longtime Jets fan Rob Luckett, 23, from Centerport, N.Y. summed up the collective feelings of his Long Island natives.

“I mean, does Cortland deserve the Jets?  No.  I think that’s just what Rex Ryan wanted, I don’t blame him. I mean, it’s produced a trip to the AFC Championship game. If that’s what he wants, then that’s what he wants. He’s a great coach.” But he ended his thoughts with Hofstra’s pulling the plug on their football team. “I was disappointed. I feel like other schools like Northeastern warned everyone that something like this would be on the horizon if something didn’t change. But this was without warning, over-night almost.  You build a facility like this, you don’t build it for lacrosse.”

Until this time next year, the Jets played the last high-level football game at James M. Shuart Stadium at Hofstra University.

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