McCaw mixed on return(s) to NU

BROOKLINE – Although the football game this last weekend wasn’t the official homecoming game, it was indeed a return of sorts. For the first time since resigning as NU’s Athletic Director and taking over the same position at UMass-Amherst, Ian McCaw returned to NU.

While standing in the press box, absent was his characteristic fist pump that he did so often while watching a half-decade worth of Huskies highlights. Replacing it was the pained look of a man beaten by his own devices.

“I have great memories with Northeastern and I have great relationships with some of the coaches, Don Brown in particular,” McCaw said. “It’s certainly an awkward feeling though. For me it feels like a clash between a past and present. For five years I did everything I could here to advance this athletic program, and I’m really proud of what our coaches and student athletes were able to accomplish. But beginning August 1st I turned all my attention to UMASS and the task I have at hand there.”

McCaw’s almost eerie stoicism was most evident during three of the games biggest plays. All occurred in the second half with the first going down at the 7:43 mark in the third quarter. On that play, Northeastern’s Anthony Nolen stepped in front of a UMASS receiver and raced 60 yards for the NU score. As the play unfolded, McCaw showed no surprise or change of emotion, something uncommon for him. He intensely watched the play, but the expression on his face remained the same.

The next big play, which happened about two minutes later, proved to be more revealing. UMass quarterback Jeff Krohn lofted a pass over the NU secondary that landed softly in the hands of Adrian Zullo, connecting for a 35 yard touchdown. The wry smile that crept from McCaw’s mouth was nothing if not uneasy.

As the third quarter drew to a close, what turned out to be perhaps the biggest play of the game was also the most telling as far as the former AD’s emotions were concerned. With UMASS driving late in the third quarter and threatening to cut into the NU lead, Kurt Abrams grabbed a ball off a deflection from Neil Anderson and hustled the remaining 98 yards for the score and a 25-point Northeastern lead. It was then that McCaw showed his heart isn’t completely Husky-free just yet. As Abrams blew by Minuteman after Minuteman, a smile blew past McCaw’s ability to hold in his emotion. If just for a second, he cheered.

“We knew when we got Don Brown that we had a winner. He’s an outstanding football coach and an outstanding person,” McCaw said. “I’m really proud of what he’s done. I don’t think anyone could have done anymore than he did. I couldn’t have been happier when they beat Ohio the other night, and I think this program is in the best shape it’s ever been.”

McCaw certainly didn’t lie when he told the News in the July 24th issue that he’d “root for Northeastern in any game not against the Minutemen.” And who would blame him for bleeding Husky red once again on Saturday?