NU club football team remembered
We've all heard the saying, You can do anything if you put your mind to it, this is exactly what the club football team at Niagara University did.
Club Football? We have that?
We did in the '70s and '80s, due to the persistence and determination of Niagrans who loved the sport. Starting with an editorial in the Index, Tony Caccomo class of 1969 drummed up enough support to form a committee, which led to a touch football game between rivals Niagara and Canisius College in 1967. Niagara won that first game 27-0, which was an indicator of their future success.
In a rematch, Niagara again beat Canisius 16-13, but that did not stop Canisius from teaming up with Niagara to convince St. Bonaventure to form a club team and join their league.
Because it was a club sport, club football could only receive a certain amount of funding from student government, and after that, they were on their own to find the funds. Running a sport like football had higher than normal expenses, as the football team would travel to and from games, some out of state.
Armando Castellani donated the first uniforms, helping to defray costs, and Roy Chrysler was recruited to help coach the team. Former 1974 season President Mike Hogan '76 said, We tried to pay Chrysler whatever we could, usually $1,000, but sometimes we didn't have enough to pay him at all.
For all his hard work and dedication, Chrysler was inducted into the Niagara University Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003.
Primarily the job of the president, the team had to have their games scheduled, uniforms repaired, tickets sold, and buses booked. Keep in mind that this whole team was student-run and on a shoe-string budget, and you'll see why this team was such an accomplishment. Everyone in the club pitched in with the responsibilities, even if it technically was not their job.
Since the club was not eligible to be a university-funded sport or part of the NCAA, though the team did wish to become a Division III sport, athletes were not recruited the traditional way. Instead, the athletes joined because they loved the sport and were not enticed in any way by scholarships or other monetary awards.
Lasting for around 19 years, the football club ended in 1986 with a record of 60-50-4 and reached a ranking of number four in the National Football Club Association.
It was a club sport, therefore they were not eligible for induction or nomination into the Athletic Hall of Fame.
Through the cooperation of Caccomo, current Athletic Director Ed McLaughlin, and director of communications Kevin Carver, five players were inducted this October: Mark Johnson '79, Jeff Pagels '82, Wildy Jed Pounds '77, Ed Renica '73, and John Weis '78. In this induction ceremony, two touchscreen kiosks relating to the history of the Niagara Athletics Hall of Fame were presented, costing around $20,000. The cost was raised solely by the club.
The kiosks are on display in the Upper Level of the Gallagher Center and in Dwyer Arena.
This brotherhood of sorts still is very close knit. After the loss of former 1971 season president of the club in a car accident, the team decided to start the Edward P. Hogan Award. The annual scholarship that was funded by the fundraising efforts of the team, which would pay $500 to a player and present a plaque to a person who was dedicated in service to the football team.
At the reunion, many of the club members affirmed how the sport affected their lives.
Being president of the club convinced me that I didn't want to be a ˜subject matter expert.' I wanted to be the head, the president, the CEO, recalled 1972 season President Kevin Clarke '73. And become a president he did, group president for publishing services of World Color, a digital and print media company with global outreaching.
Clarke offered suggestions to students wishing to start their own clubs. He suggested researching universities with programs similar to ones they want to start, finding out what works and what does not, and setting up a business plan for the club. Students should reach out to alumni and experts for support and advertise the club on campus. For students who want to start something but do not know how, Clarke suggested looking for voids in the university to fill.