Allen Lessels' UNH Notebook: Shining moments for football program
DURHAM -- HOME, Sweet Dungeon.
The University of New Hampshire’s decisive 53-23 win over Colgate on Saturday afternoon at Cowell Stadium capped a nice 24-hour stretch at the school.
Word came out of the athletics department late on Friday afternoon that Cowell Stadium is about to get a not-too-extreme makeover with one major addition that will change the way the football team and school go about their business: Lights are being installed in the facility and are due to be in place for the 2014 season.
Lights will allow UNH to move off its traditional start time of noon for football games and open up a host of other opportunities as well, including other UNH teams playing night games in the facility and the likelihood of the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association playing its football state championships at Cowell Stadium as soon as next season.
Any improvements also will add to the appeal of UNH bids for NCAA football tournament games.
“We’re going to utilize these lights to their fullest capability,” said director of athletics Marty Scarano outside UNH’s winning locker room on Saturday. “I would assume we’ll have a number of 7 o’clock starts as well as some 3:30 games. We will always reserve the ability to play at noon maybe later in the year when it’s cold. I would think the 3:30 is a very popular time and 7 p.m. is going to be great early in the fall.”
State Sen. Lou D’Alessandro of Manchester helped get $1.5 million appropriated for the lighting project in the state budget and is excited about what the lights and some other upgrading at Cowell mean as far as night games as well as the high school championships, the Special Olympics and other events.
“I’m thrilled about it,” D’Allesandro said.Patrick Corbin, executive director of the NHIAA, likes the prospect of playing the three football title games on the same neutral field on the same day.
D’Allesandro, Corbin and UNH officials have discussed the possibilities and now can get serious about putting something together for 2014.
“We’d talked about playing at UNH, but it never got any real traction until lights became available,” Corbin said.
Scarano stressed that the work, which includes renovations and repairs to some of the seating in the present home grandstand that will be done with institutional funds, is just the start of things to come at Cowell.
His overall goal is a major overhaul on the stadium and to make the area that is now the visiting stands the focal point of the facility.
“We’re going to make this as efficient and functional as we can and then our greater aspirations are on the other side of the field, to build that out,” Scarano said. “We’re in the silent phase of a campaign and identifying people who can help us and start to engage them and rally support. The announcement on Friday was important because it captured people’s attention. But we want to make it clear this isn’t the end of our aspirations. This is step one.”
In the meantime, the football team has a Colonial Athletic Association championship and a 10th straight appearance in the playoffs to chase.
Head coach Sean McDonnell said after Saturday’s win that he hadn’t thought about the fact that Colgate was his team’s only game at Cowell — the no-frills facility the players have embraced as “The Dungeon” — until Oct. 12 and gave a shout-out to a crowd of 8,020, including a boisterous group of students in one end zone.
“This is our place,” he said. “We told the kids last night we’re excited about getting lights and all these kinds of things, but I’m just more excited about playing here in The Dungeon. It’s a pretty good place.”
UNH has won 11 of its last 12 games at Cowell and is 23-2 in its last 25 games there.
The Wildcats are 1-1 and are off next week. They play at Lehigh, 2-0, on Sept. 28, and open CAA play at Towson, 3-0, on Oct. 5.
THE MEN’S BASKETBALL TEAM took a hit just over a week ago when junior guard Matt Miller went down with a knee injury during a drill. It’s expected that he will miss the season.
Miller sat out last year as a transfer from Division II Seton Hill University. He scored more than 1,000 points in his two years at Seton Hill. He averaged 20 points a game as a sophomore when he made 44.9 percent of his three-point shots, averaging 3.1 treys a game.
“He definitely was going to be in the rotation,” said UNH coach Bill Herrion. “He can really, really shoot the ball. It’s very unfortunate and you feel real bad for him. Sitting out the whole year as a transfer is tough enough and then you start to see the end of the tunnel and this happens.”
THE VOLLEYBALL TEAM went 0-3 with losses to Maryland, Villanova and George Mason at the Maryland tournament over the weekend to drop to 5-6. The Wildcats face Connecticut, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Dartmouth at the Dartmouth tournament next weekend.. . . . The women’s soccer team, which is 2-4-1, is at Bryant on Friday. . . . The cross country teams compete at Maine on Friday.
On Twitter: @AllenLessels