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2015 Wagner game page

NEW YORK, NY  (Aug. 29) -- Nestled in the low hills of Staten Island and overlooking the distant towers of Manhattan, Wagner College lies on a former 38-acre former country estate of 19th century shipping magnate Sir Edward Cunard, who used to watch his giant ocean liners enter New York Harbor from that vantage point.

The small liberal arts school first saw the light of day in 1883 as a Lutheran seminary in Rochester, NY, some 200 miles distant. No, the school isn't named after the renowned but controversial German composer, but rather attained its present name in 1918 when when John G. Wagner gave $12,000 to the school so that it could purchase a new campus -- which school fathers did, located on Grymes Hill in the Fifth Borough.

The campus icon is Bellevue, the Cunard mansion which dates from 1851, now serving as Cunard Hall, the college administration building. Next to it is Reynolds House, formerly a hotel for visitors which also dates from the 19th century. The college expanded to 57 acres after it acquired 19 acres out of the neighboring Vanderbilt estate in 1922.

The curriculum initially was based on the Germanic gymnasium form. In the 1920s, the curriculum began to move toward an American-style curriculum which was solidified when the state of New York granted the college degree-granting status in 1928. The college admitted women in 1933 and introduced graduate programs in 1951.

In the fall of 1998, Wagner instituted a new curriculum, called the Wagner Plan for the Practical Liberal Arts, combining classroom learning with the wealth of work-study available throughout the New York City area.. The curriculum has brought Wagner much attention and has been cited by the American Association of Colleges and Universities as a national case study. Today, over 2,000 students in more than 30 academic programs and four graduate departments make up the Wagner College curricula, which is ranked by U.S. News and World Report among the Top 25 regional colleges and universities in the northeast.

The Wagner College Seahawks first took to the gridiron in 1928, where today they compete in the NCAA Division 1 (FCS) Northeast Conference. The on-campus home of the Seahawks is Hameline Field at Wagner College Stadium, a small but attractively-situated facility. The site has undergone several renovations since opening in 1967; the field was named in honor of Walter Hameline, the current athletic director who just resigned his long-time position as head football coach after the 2014 season.

Under his tutelage the program won the 1987 NCAA Division III National Football Championship and made the move to Division I in 1993. In 1996 the team joined the Northeast Football Conference where it still competes today against the likes of conference-mates Duquesne, St. Francis (PA) and Central Connecticut State.

The footballl stadium seats 3,300 in a single grandstand on the west side of the Field Turf-covered field, which is surrounded by a running track. Last year, in four home games, the Seahawks' attendance was just above 2,200 per game, on average. Support comes primarily from the local Staten Island community in addition to student support. Attendance by residents of the other boroughs requires a two-way trip across the Verrazano Narrows toll bridge, which perhaps holds down community support, not to mention the bazillion other things that one may find to do in the New York City environs. (There are no FBS football schools within the Five Boroughs, although Ivy League Columbia and former power Fordham both also participate in the bowl championship series alng with Wagner. The Seahawks do not regularly schedule their cross-town football-playing brethren, however.

During the 2014 campaign, the Seahawks posted a 7-4-1 season record, 4-1-1 in league play, which was good enough for a tie for first, but did not earn them a trip to the FCS playoffs. Among their four losses was a 34-3 road defeat at the hands of C-USA first-year member Florida International.

Last season marked the second time in three years that Wagner won at least a piece of the NEC championship. In 2012, Wagner defeated Colgate, 31-20, in round one of the FCS playoffs, before falling to Eastern Washington, 29-19, the following week.

Now, in 2015, the Seahawks have a new head man at the helm for the first time since 1981, as Jason Houghtaling takes over for Hameline, who announced last November that he would be stepping down as head coach after 34 years and 223 victories, while remaining as athletic director.

Wagner's associate head coach/offensive coordinator last season, Houghtaling has spent seven seasons on the Wagner sidelines, serving as offensive coordinator during Wagner's 2012 and 2014 Northeast Conference title runs, while in between spending the 2013 season as offensive coordinator at Cornell.

Houghtaling has assembled a 132-man roster with but a single Texan on board, Grant Ludgar, a freshman linebacker from Dallas Bishop Lynch. As one might expect, the squad is laden with players from New York and New Jersey, but includes members from 21 states and two foreign countries (Denmark and Canada), total.

--P.T.H.

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