Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Good Riddance Lockhart Stadium

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

It takes six games to become bowl eligible and in a few weeks we'll know if the FAU Owls make it to a sanctioned one this Holiday Season with the benefits being more exposure to enhance the recruiting of this 10-year old football program.

But no matter what, FAU will have played in two Unofficial Bowls.

FAU won it's rivalry game titled "The Shula Bowl" defeating Florida International University (FIU) 21-9 at Fort Lauderdale's Lockhart Stadium on Oct 30.

The next Unofficial Bowl Game will be held on Dec 4 at 2 PM when the Troy Trojans face the Owls in "The Good Riddance Bowl."

This will be the Final Game played at Lockhart Stadium, a facility which has been the home of high school football and professional soccer back in the 1970's and 1980's primarily for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. At full capacity, Lockhart Stadium holds close to 20,000 fans.

I doubt if there will be even 10,000 for the Troy contest which could determine if FAU even has a chance to become bowl eligible.

"The Good Riddance Bowl" is an event that everyone is looking forward to.

The players will no longer have to take showers and change at Fort Lauderdale Stadium. There will be no more post-game interviews by the batting cages.

The press box never had a consistent wireless connection and was too small to accommodate all members of the media and coaching staffs.

There were no TV Monitors for replays in the press box. The outside scoreboards never showed replays and were adequate for high school and soccer games but not major college football.

Access to the press box was limited to old steel stairs.

I won't miss the paltry crowds of 7-10,000 and watching Football Bowl Subdivision games in a half empty stadium.

FAU's on-campus stadium is due to open up in October of 2011 and it couldn't come soon enough!

According to Athletic Director Craig Angelos, the school will have to pay a $1 Million per-year mortgage payment to Regions Bank. That's a payment that Angelos knows he'll gladly make because the future guarantee games to bigger schools should pay out that amount and reach seven figures. If a team is going to get blown out by a BCS Conference School while developing it's own tradition, at least that institution should profit greatly.

Good exposure is priceless but now the Owls have a 30,000 seat on-campus stadium to look forward to. It will bolster recruiting and Angelos is shrewd enough that knowing him, he'll take advantage of Boca Raton's Central Location in Palm Beach County, that he'll be able to schedule concerts along with other events. Boca Raton is 20-25 minutes each way from West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale and about 45-60 from Miami Dade County depending on traffic.

More importantly, future schedules will be able to accommodate 6-7 home games instead of 4-5. The fifth game was usually played at an NFL size stadium either Joe Robbie Stadium or this year, Detroit's Ford Field against the Michigan State Spartans.

The on-campus stadium will eliminate neutral site games excluding bowl games.

In FAU's 30-17 loss to the Spartans on Sept 11 at Ford Field, the Owls cleared $500,000 and that went towards financing the stadium. Angelos was hoping that he would earn much more since there is a large alumni base in Detroit. During a Fall Game in East Lansing a couple years ago, 70,321 fans showed up on a rainy day on September 13, 2008 at Spartan Stadium to watch MSU shutout FAU 17-0.

But now there is relief that Boca Raton will finally and officially be considered a college town. The city does have a Hooters in the area and many of their road football games are shown in the restaurant, in addition to Coach Howard Schnellenberger's weekly radio show which does draw a good crowd.

In the meantime, there will be no emotional farewells when FAU faces Troy in "The Good Riddance Bowl."

I've enjoyed many good times at Lockhart Stadium dating back to the 1980's when the Fort Lauderdale Strikers played there in front of nice crowds in the old North American Soccer League. Back then, South Florida's only major sports teams were Schnellenberger's Miami Hurricanes, the Miami Dolphins and the Strikers.

There have been some exciting FAU Games at Lockhart Stadium including one against my Alma-mater USF when the Bulls brought a No. 6 National Ranking to Fort Lauderdale and escaped with a 35-23 win on October 6, 2007.

Saturday's 24-23 win over Louisiana-Lafayette saw the visitors fail on a two-point conversion which could have tied the contest late. Schnellenberger would joke around with the media afterwards that it reminded him of his Miami Hurricanes National Championship win over Nebraska in the 1984, 50th Orange Bowl Game.

Cornhuskers Coach Tom Osborne elected to go for the win but lost the 1983 National title dropping a 31-30 decision by not converting the two-point attempt.

But as "The Good Riddance Bowl" draws closer, if the wrecking ball hits Lockhart Stadium, there will be no tears, just cheers.

It will be nice to work in a First Class Facility on campus the way it's suppose to be.

Nobody will be more grateful to the change than Owls Sports Information Director Katrina McCormack, who has done a nice job under the circumstances with what she's had to work with.

Good Bye and Good Riddance Lockhart Stadium!

You won't be missed!

May the wrecking ball hit you ASAP!

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.

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