2014 ADVANCE SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR:
WALT HAMELINE DID IT BY THE BOOK AT WAGNER COLLEGE
by JIM WAGGONER
Sunday, December 14, 2014
“I wasn’t on the dean’s list,” said the 63-year-old Hameline, an outstanding defensive back who earned a degree in physical education in 1975 and then a master’s degree in education from SUNY-Albany in 1977, “but I was OK.”
Judging by the consistently high graduation rate of student-athletes at Wagner College, Hameline seemed to have learned his lessons well while evolving into a coach and administrator who places a high value on college education.
From the day he arrived at Grymes Hill as a raw, young assistant coach in 1978, Hameline hasn’t wavered in emphasizing the importance of education to thousands of young men and women during his long tenure as athletic director and head football coach.
“I think that’s been the bottom line forever. I’ve always said that kids need to graduate and hopefully they will look back and be able to say that football or whatever sport they participated in was a great part of their education,” said Hameline. “That’s one thing we’ve done a real good job of at Wagner — having our kids set high goals and standards and then achieving them.”
RETIRED AS FOOTBALL COACH
Hameline recently stepped down after 34 seasons as head coach and will concentrate full-time on the athletic director job he has held for 33 years. He had a 223-139-2 career record that included winning the 1987 NCAA Division III national championship and two of the last three Northeast Conference regular-season titles.
Hameline has been named the Staten Island Advance’s 2014 Sportsman of the Year after rallying the Seahawks to a 7-4 season that was capped with a 23-20 road win against nationally-ranked Bryant. Wagner shared the NEC title with Sacred Heart, which earned the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs by virtue of a win at Wagner.
“It’s a great honor and something that I’ll obviously cherish,” said Hameline of being named Sportsman of the Year. “I’ve been very fortunate to be at one place for so long and Wagner College and Staten Island are really home to me.”
Wagner has claimed the NEC’s Institutional Academic Award three times in the eight-year existence of the honor, which goes to the league member attaining the highest overall grade-point-average combining all sports. The Seahawks took top honors in 2012-13 and 237 student-athletes earned spots on the 2013-14 NEC Academic Honor Roll.
Wagner has also emphasized community service, with football players Steve Ciocci and Phil Faccone being named to the prestigious American Football Coaches Association’s Good Works Team in the past three seasons. The Seahawks were active in Hurricane Sandy relief work during and after their 2012 football championship season.
MAKING THE GRADES
Hameline pointed to the football program’s cumulative GPA above 3.0 for an unprecedented second straight season as a source of personal pride. He has long been known for keeping track of individual players and their academic progress.
“He’ll come into the meetings with his legal pad and want academic updates,” said Jason Houghtaling, the Seahawks’ new head coach and former assistant. “He’ll say, ‘What about this kid or that kid? How are they doing?’ So the whole staff has to know what’s going on and be prepared at the next meeting with answers. If you don’t have those answers, it won’t be good.”
Hameline said he feels a responsibility to keep pushing his football players toward graduation.
“The longer you coach, the more you appreciate when they come back and you realize how they’ve been successful and done the right things in life,” said Hameline. “One of the most gratifying things you hear is, ‘Hey, coach, part of that was the discipline and what I took away from the football field from a standpoint of my learning experience.’ They’ve told me how they carried those principles over to the real world.”