Pontius nevertheless did his homework. The board convened a committee to study football's feasibility, and Pontius supplied it with reams of material to study. His 19-page financial analysis entitled "Football at Hartwick?" asserted that if the school enrolled 91 additional students (i.e., football players) in the program's first four years, Hartwick would profit by nearly $800,000.
For more than a year the board of trustees considered the arguments against the proposal: Football is too expensive; football players, who are unruly and dumb, will tarnish the school's reputation; and, finally, Hartwick has soccer, it doesn't need football. The board listened, and the board held discussions. Then, on July 12, 1991, when faculty and students were on summer break, the board reconvened and voted to reinstate football.
Stetson was a disgruntled health-insurance salesman in July 1991 when he announced to his family and friends that it was time for him to return to coaching football. His last job, as head coach at Boston University, had ended in 1987 on a sour note. He was fired after the Terriers went 3-8 for the season.
A week after his declaration, Stetson found a newspaper clipping that had been passed through the mail slot of his front door. The headline read HARTWICK TO REINSTATE COLLEGE FOOTBALL. Seven weeks later Stetson was selling high school seniors on Hartwick football.
"You never know what tomorrow will bring," says Stetson. One of his tomorrows brought 22-year-old freshman Sasha Anisimov, who last wore a uniform for the Red Army. He had not played a down of football in the United States, but Anisimov, a native of Fryzino, Russia, is 6'3" and 240 pounds. He bench-presses 400 pounds, and on this late August afternoon while Stetson is wondering who will put the foot into his football program, he announces that he has a knack for kicking field goals. Stetson chuckles and says, "All right, Russian, let's see what you can do."
Stetson's good humor and let's-see-what-we-can-do attitude has served him well since he was hired a year ago to build a team from scratch. How, for example, did he sell recruits on a football program that did not yet exist? "That's a good question," he admits. Or deal with the animosity of faculty and students? Stetson's face expands in a grin. "One faculty member stood up in a meeting and confided his fear that Hartwick was going to turn into a football factory."
What Stetson did in the 12 months leading up to the opener was assemble the most charmingly eclectic cast of characters since Spock and company manned the USS Enterprise. Take, for example, Billy Mottl, a wide receiver. When he heard that football was coming back to Hartwick, Mottl quit his job at the Camp Georgetown Correctional Facility in upstate New York and enrolled as a sociology major. Mottl, 36, is seven months older than Joe Montana, and Stetson says he's the first recruit with whom he has ever had a beer.
Shon Dellinger claims that he was among the five fastest players on the 1991 Buckeye football team. Yes, Ohio State. Dellinger, a walk-on, transferred to Hartwick after meeting an Oneonta lass in an Orlando bar following last year's Hall of Fame Bowl. "We're getting married on the 19th of June," says Dellinger, the starting H-back.
Not even Dellinger looks as good in football pads as Anisimov, who has lived in the United States for only 15 months. Anisimov has the body and the speed, if not the experience, of a Division I player. "I play leetle for factory team in Russia," he says, "but I learn things new every day here."
That may surprise his classmates. Mention Stetson's recruits to a Hartwick student, and you're likely to get a mime of a gorilla. That's not fair, nor is it accurate. Anisimov is fluent in English after only one year and is now tackling French as well as defensive tackle. Dellinger, a premed student, plans on sticking with football only so long as he can maintain his 3.8 GPA. Right guard Jim Cancellari was a national finalist in High School Challenge, a sort of prep Jeopardy. These three, like all Hartwick football players, attend not one but two mandatory study halls daily.