Each year, the University at
Albany offers hundreds of programs and activities that are open to the
Capital Region community.
And each July and August, the University activity
that draws the most attention is the pre-season training camp of the National
Football League’s New York Giants.
Since the Giants chose the University and
Capital Region as their “summer home” in 1996, tens of thousands of football
fans have come to campus to watch and meet the team they have cheered for
all their lives. The agreement between the Giants and the University calls
for the Giants to train here through at least 2000.
This devotion is not lost on Giants Head Coach
Jim Fassel. In his first year as Head Coach, Fassel led the Giants to a
10-5-1 record, the NFC East Division championship, and a home playoff game.
The previous two seasons, under Dan Reeves, the Giants had gone 5-11 and
The University at Albany and its staff deserve some credit for the
Giants’ improvement, Fassel said last May, while seated under a photo of
Giants linebacking legend Sam Huff at Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant in New
York City. He was there as the featured guest at a University at Albany
Athletics Alumni reception that drew more than 100 people.
“What’s important to the success of the training
camp is that things run smoothly at the school,” Fassel said. “The fields
are in good shape, we get the meeting rooms we need, when we need something,
“That’s the thing that’s most impressive to
me at Albany—you are responsive to what we need. All my impressions of
the University at Albany—all my dealings —have been first class. It shows
in your desire to go Division I, and in the way you handle us. Your association
with the Giants, and our association with you, is a good marriage.”
Indeed, agrees Vice President for Student
Affairs James Doellefeld, whose division oversees the Giants’ summer residency,
“The relationship between the University and the Giants is mutually beneficial.
The University remains very enthusiastic about its role in contributing
to the Giants’ success.”
Though this is his first NFL head coaching
job, Fassel has been a college and pro coach for 25 years, specializing
in developing quarterbacks. He spent 1991 and 1992 as a Giants assistant,
and 1993 and 1994 as assistant head coach and offensive coordinator for
the Denver Broncos.
But it wasn’t until well after he got the head coaching job in January
of 1997 that Fassel realized the significance of being in charge of one
of the NFL’s most storied franchises.
“When I took the job, obviously I was excited
about it. That was where I wanted to be,” he said. But a few weeks later,
“I was talking with (Giants co-owner) Wellington Mara, and he gave me a
book on the history of the New York Giants. I took the book home, and didn’t
get to read it for a week.
“Then, I was sitting home one evening, and
I picked up the book and started to look through it. And I looked at all
the pictures of the past—Sam Huff, Charlie Conerly, Frank Gifford, Tom
Landry, who played and coached here; Vince Lombardi, who coached here.”
All of a sudden, Fassel says, “I started to get this feeling of a pretty
good obligation to get this franchise back to where people’s perception
of it is. That was the first time it really hit me, and I said to myself,
‘You’d better get it done here.’”
Which is exactly what he did, taking a team
that he said “needed some pizzazz, some personality, some life and fight,”
and helping them “learn what it takes to win.” He expects the Giants to
be even better this year.
At the same time, Fassel also was careful
to note that it will be nearly impossible to make the same improvement
in the team’s won-lost record, since the NFL schedules teams against non-divisional
rivals with records that matched theirs the previous season.
The Giants’ 1998 non-divisional schedule includes five teams that made
the playoffs in 1997—tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the league’s
toughest. At home, the Giants will play both Super Bowl XXXII teams, the
champion Denver Broncos and the runner-up Green Bay Packers, and the Kansas
City Chiefs. On the road, they face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and perennial
Super Bowl contenders, the San Francisco 49ers.
Fassel urged Albany alumni to “have a tremendous
amount of pride in your school. People there work hard to get better, they
want everything to be the best.”
Character in the Academy
Secret Lives of the Aztecs
News and Notes
Making a Difference
University at Albany Home Page
Albany Magazine Home Page