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Stony Brook Athletics

Stony Brook University baseball player Nick Grande slides into third. Photo from SBU Athletics

Stony Brook Athletics launched its latest fundraising campaign asking people to “Believe in the Seawolves” as the university sports program faces an uncertain future.

SBU Athletic Director Shawn Heilbron accepts the 2019 Commissioner’s Cup from America East Commisioner Amy Huchthausen. Photo from SBU

On Thursday, Oct. 8, the university’s Giving Day, Director of Athletics Shawn Heilbron held a virtual town hall through Facebook Live to answer questions surrounding the status of Stony Brook Athletics for this school year and for the future. 

“Let’s have the Stony Brook Athletics story of 2020-2021 be the greatest story in our history,” Heilbron said during the town hall. “I think we’re going to do that.”

One of the major concerns, he said, was the financial standing of the university since revenue dropped throughout the COVID-19 crisis, calling it a “dramatic financial impact.”

He mentioned that the program lost nearly $700,000 from basketball, alone, and when the school closed in March, students were reimbursed their student fees which neared a $2 million loss. 

“Ticket sales, donations, corporate partnerships … you could imagine the impact there,” he said. “The trickle down comes from the state to the school to us, and many universities across the country are dealing with it.”

He said it was close to $5 million in revenues lost. 

“We’ve made some tough decisions, many staff positions are being left unfilled,” he said. “We’re very concerned about our future … schools across the country are cutting sports, these are difficult decisions that are hard to come back.”

The new fundraising campaign coined “Believe In the Seawolves” comes from asking people to do just that. “Believe in our value and commitment to this university,” Heilbron said. “If we can get people to get behind that we can come out of this stronger … It’s more than a campaign, I want it to be a movement.”

But just because COVID-19 guidelines aren’t allowing sports to be played as of right now, Heilbron they are not cancelled, just postponed. He added that fall sports were moved to the spring, which will make for a very active season. 

“It’s going to be quite an active period for us,” he said. “We’re just starting to look at what those schedules will look like and will be announced very soon.”

He said that utilizing this time now will be a springboard for next fall, and are keeping safe in doing so.

The athletes who are participating in practices now, like basketball, have a regimented screening process before hitting the court. 

“Student athletes come through one entrance, have their temperature checked and then they get a wrist band,” Heilbron said. “They can’t come in if they don’t have the wristband.”

Although it is an uncertain time for the student athletes who worked to play at Stony Brook University, Heilbron said the first day of fall semester was a good one. 

“It literally was an energetic lift in our department that they needed,” he said. “It was good to have the family back together.”

The university announced after Thursday’s Giving Day campaign, more than 240 donors combined to contribute gifts exceeding $200,000 to go towards athletics. The campaign will continue to fundraise throughout the remainder of the year. 

SBU Athletic Director Shawn Heilbron accepts the 2019 Commissioner’s Cup from America East Commisioner Amy Huchthausen. Photo from SBU

SARATOGA SPRINGS: Following a historic 2018-19 season, Stony Brook University has claimed the Stuart P. Haskell, Jr. Commissioner’s Cup for the first time in school history, the league announce at its annual awards dinner at the Saratoga Hilton on June 6. University at Albany came in second place followed by UMass Lowell in third.

The trophy was accepted by SBU Athletic Director Shawn Heilbron.

“The Cup is coming home to Long Island,” announced  Heilbron shortly after the event. “This belongs to our Stony Brook Athletics coaches, staff and — most importantly — student-athletes,” he said. Stony Brook is just the fourth America East school to win the Commissioner’s Cup. Past recipients have been the University of Albany, Boston University and the University of Delaware.

Michael Watts accepts his award for 2018-19 America East Man of the Year from Amy Hutchhausen. Photo from SBU

The Commissioner’s Cup annually recognizes the strongest athletic program in America East as determined by a scoring system that rewards a school for success both during the regular season and championship competition in the conference’s 18 sports.

At the same event, Stony Brook men’s track and field and cross-country member Michael Watts of Islip was named the 2018-19 America East Man of the Year.

Watts had a decorated career on the track and cross-country course as a Seawolf, winning two individual conference track and field titles while helping the cross-country team to two consecutive America East Championships in 2016 and 2017. The team captain also holds the program record in the 3,000 meters and garnered several All-Conference, All-IC4A and MVP honors throughout his career.

Most importantly, Watts was a leader in the community as well. On campus, he volunteered and was involved with a myriad of organizations including the Stony Brook PACK program, the Student Athlete Advisory Committee and PAWS. The Islip native also helped raise and allocate funds for numerous events and charities such as 9/11 Vets, the EJ Autism Foundation and the annual Midnight Run to help clothe the homeless.

Watts is pursuing his MBA in health care management, holding a 3.8 GPA. He received his undergraduate degree in 2018 with a 3.4 GPA in health science with a concentration in health care policy and management.

During his time at Stony Brook, Watts was put on the America East All-Academic Team, America East Commissioner’s Honor Roll, Dean’s List and America East Honor Roll. He was also a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, the Stony Brook Society of Distinguished Scholar Athletes and a recipient of the Joel Mitofsky Memorial Scholarship.