'Island Of Misfit Toys': East Coast Conference Curiosity & The Big Dance

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J.J.
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'Island Of Misfit Toys': East Coast Conference Curiosity & The Big Dance

Post by J.J. »

Very cool article referring some of CCSU's early D-I days without a Automatic Qualifier conference bid. Memories of the old East Coast Conference.

https://www.flohoops.com/articles/69305 ... -big-dance
But no league had as unusual and winding a path to this odd purgatory than the East Coast Conference, whose roots stretched back to 1958 and featured at its height national powers such as La Salle, Rutgers, Saint Joseph’s and Temple and also eventually welcomed future CAA mainstays Delaware, Drexel, Hofstra and Towson.

The latter three schools combined to win five ECC titles, with Towson winning back-to-back crowns in 1990 and 1991 — the last two seasons in which the ECC had an automatic bid. Towson, then known as Towson State, also won the title in 1992, when the ECC was down to seven schools, including four fledgling Division I programs.

Four schools exited after the 1991-92 season, leaving the holdovers — Buffalo, Central Connecticut State and Hofstra — to play an independent schedule before things got really weird when the ECC returned for one final go-around in 1993-94 with a six-school alignment made up of members based on Long Island and Connecticut, as well as in upstate New York, Illinois and Alabama.

“Yeah, it was an odd group of schools,” said Dave Van de Walle, who was the sports information director at Chicago State. “We were able to bond mostly around the fact we didn’t know why we were thrown together. So it was almost sort of a reality show before the reality shows were a thing.”

Indeed, today there’d be a pretty good Last Chance U-esque show produced out of the 1993-94 season. Hofstra was coached by Butch van Breda Kolff, in the last season of a brilliant and nomadic career that included directing Princeton — and Bill Bradley — to the Final Four in 1965 and keeping Wilt Chamberlain for the final minutes of Game 7 of the 1969 NBA Finals, which the Lakers lost to the Boston Celtics by two points.

The remaining five schools were all in their nascent stages at Division I — or, in the case of Buffalo, a return to Division I. Central Connecticut State, Chicago State and Northeastern Illinois were trying to establish themselves in the shadows of powerhouse programs. Troy State, based in Alabama, was in its first year in Division I after advancing to the Division II national championship game the previous season, when the Trojans generated headlines by beating DeVry Institute 253-141.

“The island of misfit toys — not the players, but the schools in that conference were nothing more than a collection of misfits,” former Hofstra assistant coach Joe Dunleavy said. “They had nowhere else to go.”

With the schools all forced to operate in a frugal manner, the conference schedule, such as it was, consisted of one game against each opponent, which left plenty of opportunities to schedule profitable “buy” games — or, in the case of Chicago State, a profitable home-and-home with an unusually high-profiled school, Utah.

“Chicago State was supposed to play at Marquette and Marquette had to back out for one reason or another,” Van de Walle said. “Somehow they brokered a deal where they did a home-and-home with Utah.”

On Dec. 11, 1993, Utah cruised to an 84-65 win in front of 259 fans and in a building silent except for the action on the court.

“The person who had the keys to the room that had the PA system was off that day,” Van de Walle said. “So it was a game played without the benefit of a public address system.”

With Hofstra as the league’s most-established program and the NIT still run as a New York City-centric operation, there was some chatter the ECC champ would at least get a bid to the NIT. But it didn’t take long to realize that wasn’t going to happen.

Hofstra opened 1-14, with the victory by a point over Yale. Chicago State was 1-19 through 20 games. Central Connecticut beat one Division I team all season. Troy State scored 119 points in its first Division I game on Nov. 27, 1993 — and lost to George Mason by 10. It was the first of eight losses in which the Trojans fell despite scoring at least 90 points. Buffalo had two six-game losing streaks. The only team to finish with a winning record was Northeastern Illinois, which won three games against non-Division I foes.

By the time everyone gathered in Buffalo for the conference tournament the first weekend of March 1994, the six teams were a combined 53-103 and everyone knew there’d be no Selection Sunday parties for the champion.

And everyone knew it was really the final hurrah for the ECC. All the schools except Hofstra agreed earlier in the school year to join another geographically far-flung league — the Mid-Continent Conference — for the start of the 1994-95 season.
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Re: 'Island Of Misfit Toys': East Coast Conference Curiosity & The Big Dance

Post by J.J. »

A reminder of what could have been ... and some CCSU D-I history.

Central Connecticut played its first D-I season in 1986-87. Led by Bill Detrick, the Blue Devils were trying to parlay great success at the D-II level into major college basketball.

At the time, UConn wasn't the national program we know now. The Huskies had just one NCAA appearance (1979) and had only been ranked once (#20 in 1980-81) since leaving the Yankee Conference after the 1976 season. UConn had joined the Big East as an inaugural member for the 1979-80 season, but was in the bottom half of that league under Dom Perno.

Hartford got a 2-year head start on Central and joined D-I for the 1984-85 season and the following year was a member of the ECAC-North alongside Boston U., Canisius, Colgate, Maine New Hampshire, Niagara, Northeastern, Siena, Vermont. This lead to CCSU playing its first 4 seasons (1987-1990) as an Independent without any any access to the NCAA Tourney.

At the conclusion of the 1989-90 season, Bucknell, Lafayette, and Lehigh left the East Coast Conference (ECC) to become founding members of the Patriot League. CCSU, Hofstra, and UMBC joined the ECC as replacement members. This was the first time CCSU had AQ access to the NCAA D-I Championship Tournament. That's where the article pick ups. Towson was the ECC representative for the 1991 NCAA Tourney. Central finished that season in last place (4-24, 2-10 ECC) and lost to Delaware in our first-ever D-I conference tournament game.

The following season Delaware and Drexel left the the ECC to join the North Atlantic Conference (renamed ECAC-North, including Hartford) and were replaced by Buffalo and Brooklyn College. Although the league still had 7 members, they had not played together for 3 seasons, and as such, the the ECC was ineligible for a NCAA AQ bid. That was the death knell for the league as 3 more teams left (Towson, Rider, and UMBC) leaving Brooklyn, Buffalo, CCSU and Hofstra to play as an Independents for the 1992-93 season.

The "final season" of the ECC in 1993-94 was really just a scheduling agreement between 6 schools (Buffalo, CCSU, Chicago St., Hofstra, Northeastern Ill, and Troy St.) as each school played each other just once. While there was a "conference tourney" the champion (Hofstra) did not earn a bid to the NCAAs.

CCSU joined the Mid-Continent Conference (now know as the Summit League) for the 1994-95 season along with fellow Independents/ECC members Buffalo, Chicago St., Northeastern Illinois, and Troy State. Hofstra found its was to the North Atlantic Conference. Central would play 3 seasons in the Mid-Con before joining the Northeast Conference for the 1997-98 season.
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Re: 'Island Of Misfit Toys': East Coast Conference Curiosity & The Big Dance

Post by Skyhawkct »

It was messy JJ. Now look at some of those teams. UB plays FBS football (CCSU once played UB at the old Arute Field, and whipped UB in basketball), Troy as a university has expanded dramatically and also plays football at the FBS level. Brooklyn College dropped down to D-3. NE Ill dropped sports altogether and Chicago State must spend a ton of $$ traveling to Texas and the west coast playing in the Western Athletic Conference.

We came very close to creating a new conference called “The Great Northern Conference” with NE Ill, UB, Brooklyn, Chi State and a couple others I can’t recall but that obviously fell through.

While the NEC is not where I think we belong, I guess we should be satisfied where we are all things considered. The traveling budget is manageable and given the competitiveness of the league, it’s the best shot CCSU M&W BB has on getting an NCAA bid.
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Re: 'Island Of Misfit Toys': East Coast Conference Curiosity & The Big Dance

Post by J.J. »

The following is what I have dug up on CCSU's brief tenure in the East Coast Conference:

Coaching Summary
1993-94: 4-22; 0-5 (Mark Adams)
1991-92: 7-21; 3-9 (Mark Adams)
1990-91: 4-24; 2-10 (Mike Brown)

Conference Tourney Results
1994 QF: #5 CCSU vs. #3 Buffalo - L, 100-62 (Buffalo, N.Y.) *ECC tournament winner was awarded a Tournament bid
1992 QF: #6 CCSU vs. #3 UMBC - L, 115-107 (Baltimore, Md.) * No NCAA bid available
1991 QF: #7 CCSU vs. #2 Delaware - L, 99-85 (Towson, Md.) *No NCAA bid available

Player Awards
1991: Defensive POY - Patrick Sellers
1991: Rookie of the Year - Bryon Smith (ECC All-Rookie Team)

1991 - CCSU guard Kevin Swann was 2nd in the ECC in PPG (19.7) behind the league POY; he was also 4th in the ECC in 3-FG made (50). Patrick Sellers was named DPOY and was 2nd in the ECC for rebounds and blocked shots. Neither player made 1st or 2nd team honors

1992 - CCSU guard Damian Johnson was 3rd in FGs Made (222); 4nd in Steals (68); and 6th in Points (554). Marc Rybczyk led the ECC in 3FG Made (79). David Corbitt led the ECC is Assits (191) and Steals (88) and was 8th in FT made (93). I can not confirm any all-league selections.

1994 - Leading scorers for CCSU were junior guard Scott Hasenjaeger, and frosh guards Garrett Petteway and Michael Donnelly. Not sure any CCSU players were honored.
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