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Football team finds success at last

Twenty-five years ago, George Van Tassel was crouched under center, reading the defense and barking out plays as an RIT Tigers' quarterback during the squad's final seasons of play.

Pacing the sidelines a few years earlier was Tom Coughlin, who was at the cusp of a distinguished head-coaching career.

Fast-forward to 2001. Following successful coaching jobs at collegiate and professional levels, Coughlin guides the National Football League Jacksonville Jaguars. And Van Tassel (BS graphic arts and photography/printing management '80), is out of his quarterback crouch (and out of football entirely notwithstanding an occasional pigskin toss to his daughters in his suburban Maryland backyard) and standing tall as a vice president of commercial sales for Quebecor World in Bethesda, Md.

Van Tassel and countless others commonly share fond memories of the days, a quarter century ago, when field-goal posts adorned RIT's nascent campus.

Members of the RIT Tigers' varsity football team in the 1970s.

And lately those fond football memories have come on like a quarterback rush.

In tribute to the gridiron Tigers of days gone by, current members of RIT's student chapter of the Institute of Industrial Engineers - most not even born the last time RIT converted a first-down - are remembering the squad through a fund-raiser benefiting travel to student conferences. They're selling T-shirts proclaiming "RIT Football-Undefeated Since 1978."

Sales have been brisk, leaders of the student group say, with hundreds sold at $10 a shirt. In fact, more people have purchased T-shirts than, on average, attended Tiger football games.

"I thought it would be a fun way to raise money, and it's been successful," says Jennie Grigonis, fifth-year industrial engineering major, who had the idea for the T-shirts. Students say they'll keep printing more T-shirts to keep up with demand, and they may add sweatshirts to their clothing line.

Like a quarterback running a two-minute drill, Van Tassel got to work to find out more about the fund-raiser the moment he heard about it. "I think the shirts are a fun idea," says Van Tassel, adding that he thinks football didn't enjoy widespread popularity at RIT because students were more focused on their studies and future careers. "Not many of my friends from home had six job offers like I did before I graduated!" he boasts.

Joe Comfort of Webster (MBA '81, BS graphics arts and photography '79), a former Tigers' defensive-end, alerted his ex-teammate to the T-shirts after reading about them in the newspaper.

RIT's football Tigers began as a club in 1970 and became a varsity squad a year later. After going 0-8-1 in the 1977-78 campaign, the team was sacked following eight inauspicious seasons.

Coach Coughlin, a native of nearby Waterloo, compiled a 16-15-2 record, coaching from 1971 to 1974.

The T-shirts can be purchased at www.rit.edu/~iiewww/football_shirts/. They're available in gray with either orange or black lettering and in a variety of sizes. Best of all, they'll never be outdated!