Archive for Sunday, September 4, 2005

Commentary: It’s not about money for Owls

September 4, 2005


Never mind the money.

The paycheck is for bean-counters, anyway.

The cash -- $400,000 large -- will fund Florida Atlantic's future as a Division I-A football entity. There's a lot more of it coming to the Owls in the next few years, too, in exchange for a willingness to absorb road beatings.

Except ... about that willingness part.

It shouldn't be so easy to forget these are Owls of the moment.

Oh, sure, they'll someday take a mature pride about perhaps having set some kind of foundation for what they hope becomes a worthwhile FAU endeavor.

But they're still kids in the present, and that makes it impossible for the scoreboard not to matter.

It mattered Saturday night in Memorial Stadium on the University of Kansas campus in the Midwest heartland.

What mattered, in an instant, was the competition.

What mattered, in an instant, was the fun.

And the Owls were having a red, white and blue blast in the same colors of their sparkly new uniforms.

They caught Kansas' attention with a Danny Embick-to-Thomas Parker pass covering 66 yards for a touchdown late in the first quarter. A game giving early signs of dissolving into a rout suddenly was close.

And it stayed that way into the fourth quarter. Kansas' final margin of victory at 30-19, however modest, still was misleading. The benefit for FAU was rewarding beyond stipend of any amount.

"It's just football. You throw it and if a guy's open he catches it," said Embick, a high school star at William T. Dwyer who went away to West Virginia before coming home to join the Owls in building a program. "It doesn't matter who you're playing."

It's just football.

That the Jayhawks aren't very good is of little or no consequence. They long have been Big 12 Conference dregs and are expected to be again this year.

The Owls, nevertheless, were assumed to be convenient opposition against whom Kansas could build confidence. Instead, it was Florida Atlantic finding a self-respect neither money nor coach Howard Schnellenbeger's unyielding faith can buy.

"It looked like we belonged here," Schnellenberger said.

The Owls, of course, might yet lose by yawning gaps to the likes of Oklahoma State (Thursday night in Dolphins Stadium) and Minnesota and Louisville. Here's guessing, though, that those assignments look a little less frightening now than they did a day or a week or a month ago. Here's guessing that Florida Atlantic thinks better of its chances in the Sun Belt Conference than it did a day or a week or a month ago, too.

Which was supposed to be precisely the point of these exercises beyond the business of doing business.

"The money is a by-product," said FAU Athletic Director Craig Angelos. "I think they like playing this level of competition. Now, they'll think, 'We've been through this before and we know how to deal with it.' I'd never say it was all about the money."

For one night, at least, he had proof.

It was important the game didn't melt into an immediate insult for FAU after Kansas took an early 9-0 lead on an ugly safety and a pounding touchdown drive. Embick's pass to Parker rescued the Owls from quick embarrassment. It allowed them to think they could win, and they never acted as though such a thing wasn't possible until deep into the assignment.

Florida Atlantic even grabbed a brief 13-12 lead late in the third quarter when Embick and DiIvory Edgecomb connected on a 66-yard score of their own.

The Jayhawks did recover before the end of the third quarter to take a lead they didn't relinquish, but the Owls already had proved a point to themselves.

And it had nothing to do with economics. They had fun and made the game -- in and of itself -- matter.

Can't count those beans.

Can't beat 'em, either.


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