By Ray Hamill — The National Letter of Intent Day doesn’t come with the same excitement here on the North Coast as it once did.
Rather, it merely serves as a sad reminder to us of what we lost, of what was way-too casually taken away from us by an administration that didn’t seem to care, and one that even appeared spiteful in its actions.
Make no mistake about it, losing Humboldt State football still hurts for many sports fans here on the North Coast, and it is still having an affect on the local community, the local economy, enrollment and diversity at the school, and the wellbeing of a proud university.
We were reminded of that once again on Wednesday when NLI Day passed for the second straight year without any HSU participation.
Rather, we saw the last remaining Lumberjack move on, when running back Jonathan Branch announced he has signed on to play for the Presentation Saints.
The final goodbye to a century of tradition. A sad conclusion to what was once a thriving program and a team the entire North Coast sports community loved to get behind, financially and emotionally.
For the second straight year in 2019, there were a record number of programs playing college football, yet HSU chose instead to take a step back.
This week we should be talking excitedly about the incoming class, about H-DNL stars getting the opportunity to play at a high level locally like so many have in the past, and about seeing local heroes carry on a century-old sporting tradition in the magnificent setting of the Redwood Bowl, a sporting tradition like no other here on the North Coast.
Instead, we’re saying goodbye to the last football player, and now collectively paying attention to HSU sports with the nonchalance of a fan base that simply doesn’t care any more.
Arcata senior Maximus Rice summed it up best on Wednesday when he unveiled which college team he will be joining, before signing his letter of intent in front of large crowd of friends and family.
Choosing from the seven school baseball caps lined up in front of him, Rice picked up the HSU cap to a loud cheer, only to set it back down again as he informed us “they don’t have a football team any more.”
He choose Azusa Pacific University, and with his talents he should be a big success there, playing alongside his older brother Jack, a quarterback.
But the occasion was a reminder that players like Rice no longer have the option to stay, if that’s what they want to do.
A case of another potential Lumberjack that got away, and another reminder of what we collectively lost when an incompetent administration took away Humboldt State football.
For all the good things new university president Tom Jackson Jr. appears to be doing, I hope he understands that.