By Ray Hamill — Hope. That’s what Humboldt State sports fans were handed on Monday morning.
A slight sense of hope.
Nothing more, nothing less.
The announcement that school president Lisa Rossbacher will resign at the end of the school year doesn’t change the fact that football is on the way out at Humboldt State after this season.
Nor does it suddenly erase any of the decisions that have adversely affected the program and the rest of the athletic department — not to mention the school at large and the community — over the past 18 months.
But it does offer a chance that things will begin to change for the better.
And that gives HSU fans some hope, and hope is something most HSU fans have not felt in some time.
The Real Cost of Cutting HSU Football is a season-long series published on HumboldtSports.com, with different stories throughout the fall, each breaking down a different aspect of the decision, why it was made, and what it really means to HSU and the surrounding community. See also how the 2018 team has been set up to fail.
Now let’s not beat about the bush here, the path of destruction Rossbacher leaves in her wake is nothing short of disgraceful.
She has been a terrible president, ironically getting a failing grade at a time when she claims HSU has a higher number of graduates than ever before.
Despite the endless drivel of accomplishments she bragged about in yet another faceless press release announcing the decision this week, she will leave Humboldt State in far worse shape than she found it, alienating a wide spectrum of the local community in the process.
She has overseen a consistent decline in enrollment, worsening an already disastrous budget, on a campus where many minorities feel neither safe nor welcome, while threatening the existence of two of our most cherished community traditions, one a radio station, the other a football team.
Did you get all that?
Her legacy will always be that she was the HSU president who got rid of football, and for that reason alone, local sports fans have every reason to celebrate Monday’s announcement.
But it’s also a bittersweet celebration.
The news doesn’t bring back football, nor does it solve any of the problems currently facing the athletic department.
But it offers hope.
It also offers an assortment of new uncertainties now facing the department.
Like what happens with the Athletic Director position?
Rossbacher hired Duncan Robins as an Interim AD in June of 2017, and he has been anything but a popular appointment.
Like the president, Robins’ decision making has alienated the boosters who cite his lack of experience for the position (zero experience as an AD before he was hired) as the fundamental problem.
Rossbacher is reportedly in the process of hiring an outside firm to fill the position on a full-time basis, but exactly how that affects things remains uncertain, and the president and interim AD have maintained a close relationship through the controversy.
It would hardly be a surprise to see Rossbacher hire Robins full-time before she leaves, and let’s not forget that as a lame duck president for the next nine months, her decisions — or apathetic inactivity — could yet set the school back even further.
But the big question for local sports fans is how this all might affect the future of the football team, and whether there’s any chance the decision could now be reversed?
It remains unlikely, but it’s also something that depends entirely on who is brought in as the new president.
And that, unfortunately, is a decision that is completely out of the local community’s hands, yet one that will have massive implications on the future of the school, the community, and Lumberjacks sports.
Simple as that.
And let’s also not forget that bringing back football might not be high on the agenda of a new president taking over a campus with numerous fires to put out.
If the new president sees the benefits of football, however, and what it means to the community and the school, there is surely a chance it would be brought back.
There are at least two things working in the fans’ favor.
One, this a community that has shown its support for sports in ways that other communities don’t, both financially and in attendance, and a group of enthusiastic boosters will impress upon whoever the new president is just how important the Jacks are to this area.
Humboldt State football has always meant more to the school and community than the Sonoma State or Chico State programs meant to theirs.
It’s something Rossbacher and Robins have continually failed to grasp.
They have never understood the depth of the connection between HSU football and the local community, nor the importance of having the later in your corner when trying to run a university.
If they had, they would never have made the decision to cut the team. (Or multiple other decisions.)
Rollin Richmond and Alistair McCrone both understood that connection.
The second thing working in the boosters’ favor is the timing.
If it had been a few years since football was cut, it would be a lot more difficult to bring it back than it stands right now.
It also wouldn’t be the first time a school has almost immediately re-instated a team.
Alabama-Birmingham brought back football after two years in 2017, and according to a report published this past summer by FootballFoundation.org, there are now 778 colleges playing football this season, more than ever before, which goes against public perception.
Is it likely we’ll see HSU football return to the field anytime soon after this season? Probably not.
But a new president offers hope.
And hope is something HSU fans haven’t felt in a while.