This is the fifth in a series of Saturday stories profiling the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013.
By Rodney McKissic
NEWS SPORTS REPORTER
When Fred Hartrick took over the men’s soccer program at Buffalo State College in 1960, it was his first paying job. They patted him on the back, told him to do the best that he could and gave him an annual salary of $4,000.
“It wasn’t too bad for a guy fresh out of graduate school,” Hartrick said. “That’s what people were making. Of course, you could get a 10 cent beer back then, too.”
Buffalo State got its money’s worth from Hartrick. In 36 years at the school he coached soccer, baseball, bowling and golf, served as the sports information director, and eventually became the athletics director. It was Hartrick who guided the drive to construct Sports Arena and Ice Arena, and around the Elmwood Avenue campus, he’s known as the “Father of the Modern Era of Buffalo State Athletics.”
“I never had any thoughts whatsoever about leaving,” Hartrick said. “I enjoyed it so much and there aren’t a lot of people who’ve had the opportunity to stay 36 years in a place anymore. There are more opportunities to maybe make more money elsewhere or college programs are constantly changing, and I like the way the Buffalo State programs expanded properly.”
Hartrick and 13 others are part of the Class of 2013 of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.
For all his work at Buffalo State, Hartrick had his greatest success in soccer. He attended Oberlin College in Ohio in large part because the soccer program went 42 consecutive games without a loss. The first game Hartrick played in as a freshman, the Yeomen lost.
“I don’t know if I had any impact on that,” Hartrick said, laughing. “It’s hard to say.”
He fell in love with the game while at Oberlin. When he left for Penn State as a graduate assistant, part of Hartrick’s assignment was being the assistant soccer coach.
“They had a great program but unfortunately the varsity coach had a breakdown of some kind and could not take care of the team that spring,” he said. “I was the guy who was there and I had to take over, but these were great learning experiences as a young guy.”
A year later, Hartrick went to Purdue to pursue a doctorate degree and his grad work including being the Boilermakers varsity coach. His team had 11 different countries represented — the U.S. wasn’t one of them.
“They were from every country in the world imaginable and the issues there were something I wasn’t ready for although they weren’t as big as one might think,” Hartrick said. “The German didn’t like the guy from Spain and the Spaniard didn’t particularly like the guy from wherever. It was a great learning experience.”
Tired of attending college, Hartrick accepted the job at Buffalo State. There wasn’t much high school soccer played in the area at the time, so Hartrick molded his early teams with former football players.
But as the program expanded, Hartrick realized the need for more pure soccer players. He was born and raised in Rochester, and played for Charlotte High in the city. The area was awash with soccer talent and mama didn’t like her boys straying too far from home so most attended Monroe Community College.
Hartrick saw an opportunity to add an influx of Western New York talent and recruited MCC heavily while becoming one of the first coaches in the country to actively recruit junior college players.
“I thought, ‘Well, nobody is recruiting these kids,’ and it was pretty much unheard of to go after junior college players,” Hartrick said. “I don’t see why we can’t. I went in there and started loading up on them and that’s when we had our heyday. It was an instant shot in the arm.”
The Bengals were SUNYAC champions in 1967 and 1970 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament both times.
“Coming in from Rochester to Buffalo wasn’t too bad because they could still go home for a meal on Sundays and come back to college,” Hartrick said. “It was a cute thing to see.”
From 1966-70, Buffalo State was 50-11-4, including a 13-0-2 mark during the 1970 season. One of the key members on that team was future NBA All-Star Randy Smith. Soon, others were following the junior college trend.
“When they saw the success that we were having, pretty soon it was tough to get those junior college kids anymore because everybody was after them,” Hartrick said. “That became the thing to do, go after junior college kids.”
Hartrick retired from coaching in 1981 with a 160-108-24 mark and a .589 winning percentage, the highest in the school’s history - while coaching 14 All-Americans.
By the time Hartrick retired from Buffalo State, he was making about $70,000 a year.
The Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame’s 23rd induction dinner will be held Oct. 30 at the Hyatt Regency Ballroom. The cost is $85 per person or $750 for table of 10. For tickets, visit http://buffalosportshallfame.com/awards-dinner-tickets.