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 6-10, respectively. 
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, you’re responsive. 
     “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.” 

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