With my SiriusXM on Auburn-Jacksonville State to provide FCS inspiration, I was primed for football, but first, before heading to campus, I went to check out Stony Brook for a little bit. This tiny hamlet on the North Shore of Long Island does not have a heart of town, but does have at least a street called “Main” worth exploring. I stopped first at the Grist Mill, which except for seeing the historic building, was a waste thanks to bumbling, unfriendly “Tour Guides” that made me change my mind. So I left there for the Village Center just down the road. Ward Melville’s idea of a bucolic shopping center back in 1941 still lives today and the white-colored buildings look much newer than their real age. I walked around for a bit, grabbed lunch at Fratelli’s and saw the historic Post Office before walking down to the marshy inlet that empties into the Long Island Sound. This area is rich in marine life and is futile ground for the university, which is a major research center. I marveled at the Fiddler Crabs all coming out at low tide before heading out for the game.
I thought going in football parking was $10 and was pleasantly surprised to not see any attendants as it was free (must have been looking at last year’s stuff). For those tailgating, the lot next to the gym is attractive, while for others like myself, I found it easier to park in the lot near the LIRR station. New this year is Seawolves Town, a fan fest section with games, food trucks and other activities. It’s just a small part of the initiative to attract more fans (and eventually money) as Stony Brook embarks on this grand plan to grow athletics. It’s already been a remarkable 20 years as the school made the move to Division I, built fine facilities and even made it to the College World Series. But they want more. “Together We Transform” is a part of AD Shawn Heilbron’s mission to become bigger and football is a significant part of that. He envisions expanding to a 25,000-seat LaValle Stadium and I’m guessing a move up to FBS. My thoughts…they certainly have the student body, the endowment and donor pool, the TV market and the population. But unless they get into the Power 5 conference, just moving up to be a part of The American or something like that is pointless and your chances of a national championship is zilch. If they can do it on their own dime, I’m fine with this transformation. But I will instantly root against them if taxpayer money is involved as it was only 15 years ago that $22 million was used to build this current stadium. In fact, they’ve already tried a sneak attack which was vetoed by Andrew Cuomo. Maybe they tried this after having to play basketball in a high school gym for 6 years while waiting for state funds to renovate their basketball arena. Still of course, no excuse for that crap and this sneaky business will turn locals against the school, becoming counter-intuitive to obtaining their ultimate goal.
As for LaValle Stadium, it’s a fine facility with an intimate design featuring a lower section of seats surrounding three sides of the stadium and an upper deck on the south sideline that makes for great game viewing. Concessions and amenities are lacking as are any Stony Brook displays, but the place is clean and there is a decent amount of red that tries to add some school color. It’s a shame that the rain began no more than 30 seconds into the game as the fans were ready to go. Pre-game fireworks filled the sky as there was a great turnout by the students, who filled most of the north stands and the rest of the fans were loud and proud. The Marching Band was huge and had terrific sound, enhancing one of the better atmospheres I’ve seen so far at the FCS level. Then the rains came and gradually, fans retreated for cover in the concourse with some trickling out as the game wore on. Keep in mind, it’s been a rough start for Stony Brook as they had their game against Toledo cancelled due to lightning last week. This one would play on and it didn’t begin well with Central Connecticut getting a fluky 51-yard touchdown reception for the early lead. Foreshadowing it was not, as Stony Brook dominated the rest of the game. Their D held the Blue Devils to just 120 yards and Stony Brook’s running game could not be stopped as it was led by Stacey Bedell (22 rushes for 133 yards and 3 TDs). The Seawolves won 38-9 and I spent much of the game at the top row of the stadium, protected somewhat by the rain. It was there that I met Brent Ziegler, who’s son Kyle is a freshman on the Seawolves. Brent himself was a running back for Syracuse in the 1980s and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to stories from his playing days. It was great talking with him about many things as he made a dull blowout in the rain quite enjoyable. I should have a LaValle Stadium review up on the site by the end of the week, then look for a Stadium Journey review a few weeks later.