Nick Imagine RIT Speech, Part I of II

Uploaded by RITPublicSpeaking on 01.04.2010

Football is more than America's pastime, it's our obsession. From movies, to the Super Bowl,
to Fantasy Football, to the Pro Bowl, to the Rose Bowl, to commercials for the Super Bowl,
the list goes on and on and on. It's no surprise that football fans love their sport and really
love their teams. My name is Nick Quaranto. I grew up a Bills fan from Buffalo, and hearing
the heartbreaking stories from the field and how they managed to lose the Super Bowl a
bunch of times means I'll never be able to give that up. When I came to RIT, I felt like
that part of my life was sort of missing here. If football is this national phenomenon, why
isn't it here at RIT? So I did a bit of research into why that's the case, and it turns up
that it actually did exist at one point although more than thirty years ago now. So today we're
going to remember the Tigers and look at the history of RIT football, and I split it up
into three eras that I feel are the different parts of the RIT football lifetime. The first
one is we're going to go over the early history from the days of the Mechanics Institute,
um, then we're going to look into the glory days from the 1970s, which really anyone alive
remembers as RIT football. And recently there's been a revival of interest in the game here
at RIT although it hasn't been played. So the early days of football at RIT were started
in 1902. The earliest report of a sporting event at RIT was a football game against Canandaigua
High School, and we lost ten to nothing, which was a bit of foreshadowing I feel for the
future of the program. At this point we weren't RIT at all, we were the Rochester Athenaeum
and Mechanics Institute, which eventually evolved into RIT. We don't really have a lot
of records or rankings about this era of RIT football. The program shut down as far as
we know it in 1922 so it was around for at least for two decades. It didn't start up
again mostly because of poor funding and the two world wars that happened. However, we
do have plenty of photos. There's a lot of stoic looking photos from the era, from that
era, lot of guys looking off-camera, very serious, there's no smiles at all. The pictures
of the guys, they have very little gear if at all, maybe some some like leather shoulder
pads and little flimsy leather helmet that could be crushed in an instant. You can see
them on the ground, they're like, there's nothing to them. The uniforms are very plain,
they're like sweaters, there's actually like a big M and an I through it. So, you can tell
that there they weren't as professional as now but they definitely had fun. The coaches
were also dressed very formally, it looks they actually had tuxedos on, with big top
hats and big long coats even though they were on like really muddy fields. There's also
part of stadium and like a crappy wooden bench shown, so they clearly had somewhere to play
in the city, because they wouldn't have played out here in the suburbs because it was simply
farms and pioneer areas out here. That's pretty much all we know from RIT football back then.
The second era is what I consider the glory days of RIT football. In 1968 football resumed
on a club basis at RIT after an absence of 46 years. According to Bill Cary who was the
former athletic directory at RIT, he described the movement as being driven by the students.
So the students really wanted to play football, so they started a club for it. That went on
for a few years, and then in 1971 the Board of Trustees decided to promote it to varsity
status, and they brought in Tom Coughlin, who's now the head of, the head coach of the
New York Giants. So he had a very illustrious career that we're gonna talk about. At the
time RIT football played teams such as Ithaca, St. Lawrence, Renssellaer Polytechnic, Hobart,
a lot of schools that still have college teams even to today. Um, the atmosphere at the time
for RIT football I'd say is really comparable to big sporting events here on campus today.
There's plenty of pictures from this era as well. Uh, some funny ones of cheerleaders
from the 70s. Um, they have very uh stylized sweaters, they have a big R on them with a
bullhorn. Uh, hilarious hairdos, really thick glasses. They're not the Dallas Cowgirls but
we get what we get here. Uh, the uniforms for the football, for the football players
are clearly brown and orange. The helmets are different, I never saw the Tigers logo
on it before. It was orange, sort of like the Cleveland Browns orange, and um the logo
on the side just said Tigers with a paw-print in the I. I've never seen that kind of logo
here. So, you didn't see Ritchie at all at these games. Um, they played on what seems
to be the soccer and lacrosse field today. Supposedly there was a goalpost for uh field
goal kicks, however I didn't see it, but I heard that some of the players there's interview
with the players and you definitely heard about that existing. You can see the dorms
in the background but not all of them because they all simply weren't built yet. And same
thing like back in the 20s, very muddy field, very rough looking guys running around. Um,
Coach Coughlin was a really great coach for the team during this time. A lot of the players
had a really special connection with him. According to ex-linebacker and co-captain
Mark McCabe, he said he wasn't just interested in working with you as a team and the sport,
he was interested in your life. There's a lot of interviews with players about how he
helped them get tutors, he helped them with their lives off the field just as much as
on the field. However Coach Coughlin left RIT in 1974 to go coach at Syracuse, his alma
mater, and then from there he went on to coach for many NFL teams. After Coughlin left uh
we had a bit of coaching crisis, we brought in a new coach but he left immediately, stating
some loneliness for his former workplace. And then we ended up finding a guy named Louis
Spiotti, who was at the time a 27 year old defensive backfield coach and Navy veteran.
Now he's the RIT athletic director so he's been around RIT for quite a while. Uh, the
team leaders at the time in 1974 decided uh met with the institute higher-ups and decided
that after three years if the program hadn't been competitive enough, they're going to
cancel it. Sadly, that's what happened. Three years went by, RIT Tigers football had a harsh
last season of zero wins, eight losses, and a tie. Uh, they were really close to winning
some games but they didn't make it. According to an article I found uh the Tigers had been
over-scheduled and played teams that were obviously beyond their playing level. Um,
there's a statement issued after the very last game which was a 16 to nine loss to Canisius
that the program was being discontinued due to longterm financial commitments. Uh, as
many would expect there was a very harsh shock and reaction from the RIT students. They were
not aware at all that this was going to happen. In fact the leaders of the Student Association,
which was the equivalent of Student Government at the time, were not aware. And um, a few
petitions started up, this may sound familiar to those uh who dealt with a schedule switch
on campus this year. Uh, there were a few petitions started up, a few town hall meetings
held, and it ended up that a lot of students cared about the football team. It ended up
that despite the students caring about it even and their very close attachment to it
the administration decided not to continue the football program. It was also pointed
out that the football program that discontinuing the football program would not put any more
money back into the school even though they said that they were going to cancel it to
save money, because they said they were going to cancel it and then put that money straight
back into the programs. So they weren't really saving any money. But it was canceled. So
that there ends the second era of RIT football. The third era which I feel is a recent revival
has just started kind of recently. In 2000, Emily Olney who was an Industrial Engineering
major at the time started a campaign with the student group called the Institute of
Industrial Engineers to sell t-shirts that read RIT football, undefeated since 1978.
I found a fact in the University News from 2001 that more people purchased those t-shirts
than on average attended Tiger football games. That's kind of depressing but they interviewed
some of the former players when that happened and they were real excited that football was
getting any kind of attention at RIT. Also recently uh the New York Giants had a lot
of success at the Super Bowl and Couch Coughlin was at the head of it. Um, he went from Syracuse
and had a great coaching career. And then in 2008, when they went to the Super Bowl
over 40 former RIT football players decided to get together at the Radission just outside
of campus to watch the game. Mark McCabe the same former linebacker and defensive end I
mentioned said we were the team he started with we were the team he started with, and
ahem, and we were the team he started with and we were there to celebrate it together.
It was very clear these guys had a strong emotional attachment to Coach Coughlin and
they wanted to come back to celebrate his victory as well...