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.