The football team will be playing in the Big South Conference in 2014 and the players are excited about it.
“It’s better competition,” sophomore defensive back Pat Gray said. “We get to travel more and face different opponents. It’s almost like we don’t know what to expect.”
“I’m ready to move on,” sophomore running back Julian Hayes said. “I’m ready to get as good of competition as we can put on the schedule. I’m excited about it and I just think it’s a great opportunity.”
The new conference makes the University even more desirable for recruits coming out of high school, according to the players.
“Bigger opportunities are going to be able to come from this,” junior defensive lineman Pat O’Hara said. “It would have been an even bigger plus if I was coming out of high school and knowing that then too.”
“I feel this is even more incentive (to come to the University),” Hayes said. “You get to travel around the country, you get to play some of the top teams in the country. I think this is even more incentive and would have been even more reason to come to Monmouth, other than already having a good program and being a fantastic school.”
The players have different feelings on the longer road trips they will be taking as members of the Big South. O’Hara and Hayes look forward to seeing more of the country and flying to games, while Gray sees difficulty in trying to play in front of his parents.
“My parents are a little upset about the whole traveling thing,” Gray said. “But they are going to try and make as many games as possible. Half of our games will probably be home, so that’ll be good. But the traveling aspect will be a little difficult.”
The players will miss some of the rivalries and friendships in the Northeast Conference (NEC), but want to move along nonetheless.
“I’m going to miss being able to go back to Connecticut and play Central and Sacred Heart,” Hayes, a Connecticut native, said. “Personally I feel that being able to travel any place in the country is an opportunity I’ve been dreaming about since I was a little kid.”
MU will play 2013 as an independent team, which means they have no conference championship to compete for. The players realize that they have to win every game possible to try and earn an at-large bid to make the playoffs this year.
“You might not be playing for a conference,” O’Hara said. “But you’re still playing for the school and you’re still playing for that at-large bid to get to the playoffs. You have to play harder every game.”