Football

Wagner coach, athletic director Hameline guides Seahawks for 33rd straight year

Courtesy of Wagner Athletics

Walt Hameline has been at Wagner for 33 years with more than 200 wins as the Seahawks head coach. He has also been revolutionary as the WC athletic director.

Walt Hameline is the same person Tom Masella knew he was 33 years ago.

The difference now is that Hameline has a much more impressive list of accomplishments to his name.

“He believes in certain philosophies, playing physically tough football, and over the years it hasn’t changed. His beliefs are still his beliefs,” said Masella, Wagner’s associate head coach and offensive coordinator. “He’s still as competitive as he was when he was an assistant here, and still wants to keep building and raising the bar here for all athletic programs.”

Thirty-three years of service to Wagner athletics as the athletic director and head coach of the football team hasn’t made Hameline any less humble. He coached Wagner to the school’s only national title when his football team brought the 1987 Division-III title home to Staten Island, N.Y. Today, he governs an athletic program of nearly 20 Division-I teams.

Even after 214 career victories — he’s one of just eight active Football Championship Subdivision coaches with more than 200 — and enough influence on a school to have the football field renamed in his honor, Hameline takes little credit for Wagner’s progress.

“You’re only as good as the people you wrap around you,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate to have good people around me.”

This weekend serves as a bit of a homecoming for the 61-year-old, who grew up an hour away from Syracuse in New Hartford, N.Y., just outside of Utica. Hameline’s Seahawks square off with the Orange, his daughter’s alma mater, in the Carrier Dome on Saturday.

After a standout playing career at Brockport State, Wagner athletic director P.J. Carlesimo hired Hameline as the head football coach in 1981 and later on added the responsibility of assistant athletic director.

When Carlesimo left to coach basketball at Seton Hall in 1982, Hameline stepped into the athletic director position while maintaining his job as head football coach.

Today, very few dare to manage an entire athletic program and a football team simultaneously. But Hameline hasn’t relinquished either title.

“He’s a great manager of his time,” said Masella, who played on the first Seahawks team that Hameline coached. “He’s very organized and he delegates. Everybody, in all sports, has a job to do and he expects everybody to do it and he holds you accountable.”

Just six years after taking over as head coach, Hameline led the Seahawks to a 13-1 record, winning more games than any other college football team despite one of the most difficult D-III schedules in the nation, and upset heavily-favored Dayton to capture the 1987 national championship.

In the late ‘90s, Hameline oversaw several improvements to Wagner’s athletics. A new softball field was opened. Both Wagner College Stadium and the track and field facility underwent renovations, and the Spiro Sports Center – a $13 million project for students and student-athletes – was constructed.

All in a span of four years.

“We took a lot of little steps along the way,” Hameline said. “We’re on track and we’re working hard to keep improving and we’re happy where our program is. We’re happy where we are academically. We’re awful proud of what we’re getting done.”

On Sept. 15, 2012, the 1987 championship team returned to Wagner College Stadium to commemorate the 25th anniversary of its victorious season at halftime of the Seahawks’ season opener against Monmouth, and also to recognize its head coach before the start of the game.

Hameline now coaches his home games at Hameline Field.

“I’ve always said that when you get into a hall of fame or get something named after you, there’s so many other people that made that happen,” he said. “It’s a great honor and at the same time it happened because I was so fortunate to have those good players, good coaches and administrators that were so supportive to our program.”

His success didn’t stop there.

Despite opening the 2012 campaign with three straight losses, last season was one of Wagner’s most successful of all time. The Seahawks captured their first Northeast Conference championship and triumphed to the league’s first-ever NCAA FCS win with a win over Colgate in the first round of the playoffs.

Hameline is a player’s coach, fifth-year running back Dominique Williams said, and is like a father figure to some of his players in the way he teaches them. Although Hameline’s admittedly less involved with the Xs and Os than he once was, he said there is nothing like getting on the practice field and watching players develop.

He still enjoys his job as much as he did 33 years ago.

“I really love what I’m doing and you get excited about going in, trying to get things accomplished,” Hameline said. “Whether it’s the AD side or the football side, you want to try and get better each and every day.”

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