UAlbany Head Coach Greg Gattuso Addresses Empire Fans
A few weeks ago we found out that the Arena Football League was ceasing their operations, ending a league that had put its stamp here on the Capital Region. Less than a year removed from the Empire winning a championship, the city of Albany lost out on a product that brought us all together and unified us under one roof.
The Empire games were drawing close to 10,000 fans on average down at the Times Union Center. The news that the league was folding blindsided the city and shocked us all. Just when we thought we had a good thing going our beloved team was taken just as fast as they came.
It felt like the Firebirds all over again. I can't tell you how bad it hurt when I saw Touchdown Eddie Brown and company pack up and leave forever. Now, a whole new batch of adolescents can get their first taste on what its like to be a sports fan in the smaller market of Albany.
I know it hurts to lose a team like that, but there's still football to be played in Albany. Traditions are being built and it seems like they're being overlooked by the Capital Region sports fan.
Something amazing happened this past Saturday over on the campus of the University at Albany. The UAlbany football team hosted and won their first ever FCS playoff game in school history. They didn't just win the game, they rewrote the record books on their way to a 42-14 rout of the Central Connecticut Blue Devils. The Danes' opponent was 11-1 coming into the contest and were the champions of the Northeast Conference.
Redshirt freshmen quarterback Jeff Undercuffler already set a school record for most touchdown passes in a season earlier this year, but he added six more on Saturday as he made his case for the Jerry Rice Award, an honor given to the most outstanding freshman player in the NCAA Division I FCS. In his first full season as a starter Undercuffler has brought these Danes to heights that were never before seen.
The only problem is that there were only 1,662 fans on hand to see the Danes blowout the Blue Devils. That's a far cry to what the Empire were bringing in down at the TU. Some people might say it's apples and oranges, but I say it is still football. I understand that we all have a bad taste in our mouth from what happened with the AFL, but we still have football here in the Capital Region that we can rally around. Division I football at that.
This Saturday the team will play in the second round of the FCS at Montana State and try to keep their dream season alive. They may be done playing in Albany for the year, but the team's future has never been brighter.
What UAlbany does at Casey Stadium on Saturdays shouldn't be just a University at Albany thing. It should be all of us in the Capital Region rallying behind this team like we did for the Empire. They have tailgating, pregame festivities and an environment that you can bring your family without breaking the bank. Earlier this year I shot a video of the tailgating experience.
Here it is: