Mets’ Jay Horwitz is enjoying FDU’s historic upset over Purdue
HE left Fairleigh Dickinson 43 years ago on April 1st to become the Mets’ legendary director of public relations, but FDU never really left him.
“When I was in school, this was Fairleigh Ridiculous, Fairleigh Ridiculous…Where’s Fairleigh Dickinson? Where’s Rutherford? Where’s Teaneck?” Jay Horowitz told the paper on Saturday. “In the eight years I’ve been there, we’ve lost in 34 different states. Alobalboe, who was the coach when I was there, was trying to popularize the name FDU basketball. So we’ll be the first game on everybody’s schedule — like Texas and Florida State, we’ve played at Brigham Young and Utah.”
“We lose most of the time, and after a while, you get tired of all the name calls and sarcasm stuff.
“It felt so good to see what they did last night. Hopefully, the jokes will stop for at least a day now.”
Horowitz was filled with pride as he watched FDU became the second 16th seed to shock the top seed (Purdue) on Friday night The nation’s imagination captures the way UMBC I did five years ago against Virginia.
“God bless him, I’m sure Al is looking up to heaven,” Horowitz said, “I’m sure he’s very proud of what the FDU team did last night.”
LoBalbo was a defensive genius who left FDU to be Lou Carnesecca’s longtime assistant at St. Louis Cardinals. John’s in 1980. LoBalbo (128-142 from 1969-79) played 62 percent of its games on the road. He is in the FDU Hall of Fame. He passed away in 2002.
“What happened [Friday] “It really started moving a long time ago,” Horowitz said. Because it was his dream for Fairleigh to be a player on the national scene. So we scheduled all these unwinnable games to try and raise money for a field home. We played in a little gym in Rutherford. Al’s dream was to sacrifice wins and losses to get recruits, and go To Georgia, go to Utah, go to Florida to play.
“We were always kind of like sacrificial lambs. And Al knew that entry. But he did it with a purpose.”
“What happened last night really had in mind what Al had been trying to do for nearly 40 years, 45 years ago. He wanted to have the house and the house.
“It was his dream, to come home from these big schools to come to Jersey to play Fairleigh in a new arena, which Fairleigh would have, which we have now. Unfortunately during his time there it never came to fruition.”
Horowitz came to FDU from New York University and befriended LoBalbo. Not just at the beginning of December 14th. 1, 1972.
“We played at the University of Maine in Orono, Maine,” Horowitz said. And the names were written wrong in the scorebook, we started the game with a two-step technical, and we ended up losing the game, 68-67 in overtime. On that day, the SIDs keep the scorebook. The players on the court didn’t have the correct numbers.
Walking by the scorers’ table, he said, ‘Now I know why NYU dropped ‘Basketball’ because of idiots like you. Our relationship got better after that first game.”
The high point was in Georgia’s 59-55 win in Athens early in the 1975-76 season, which left the home crowd stunned in disbelief.
“We just hit a big team,” Horowitz said.
Horowitz was wooed by new Mets owners Fred Wilpon and Nelson Doubleday because of the countless human interest stories he crafted at FDU in an effort to get attention at the school.
“We had an Arab and an Israeli goalkeeper on the same soccer team,” Horowitz said. We had a 43-year-old footballer [Mal Dixon]. We had a priest [John Piece] that played hockey. we had [5-foot-5] baseball player [Steve Dembowski] who was hit by a pitch 128 times in four years. We had a wrestler with six kids. We had a footballer who beat Hodgkin lymphoma.
“We had a duelist, and I was writing these articles for the local newspaper, and the headline was—I don’t want to give you the man’s name—”Tom Smith single-handedly beats Rutgers.” And the man had one arm. The fencer had one arm. So I was called into the chief’s office.”
Franklin Jacobs was a world-class FDU high jumper who won the Millrose Games and jumped two feet over his head and set an indoor world record in 1978.
“I had an All-American at Fairleigh Dickinson when I was there,” Horowitz said. A guy named Redonia Duck Jr. made the All-America Name Team first. He won the Red Duck. He was like a 6-6 center, he was a very good player.
“At Teaneck Campus, they had a duck pond in front of campus, so I sat there with Red and I would throw the ducks in the water to make the ducks migrate towards him. The cover of the press guide was Red Duck Jr. Feeding the Ducks.”
ESPN analyst Seth Greenberg played FDU. Horowitz mentioned a road game in Texas.
“We had two Jewish guys on the starting team,” he said. So I’d put Bob and Ray when they were introduced. So ‘starting at guard Fairleigh Dickinson, Seth Ray Greenberg.’ and ‘starting with small forward, Bob Lee Smith.’ So I tried to make it Southern.”
Except for the public address announcer it was not sold.
“Do you make up these names?”
“No, we’re not, we have a very Southern team in New Jersey,” Horowitz assures him.
Then there was his radio interview before a game against Georgia South.
“Tell me a little bit about Fairleigh Dickinson.”
Do you know actress Angie Dickinson? Horowitz said. “Fairlie was her husband. Fairlie Dickinson was actually owned by Angie Dickinson and her husband, Fairlie.”
“That just wasn’t true,” Horowitz adds.
At one point he got tired of answering, “Where’s Fairleigh Dickinson?”
“It’s halfway between Whippany Park and Ho-Ho-Kos,” Horowitz said.
Horowitz helped put the FDU on the map. Hopefully it will now be glued to the map.
“I feel really honored, I’m really happy for the school, glad they got national recognition,” Horowitz said. “I hope he doesn’t laugh at Fairleigh Dickinson anymore.”