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Hartwick College's Student Newspaper

The View From Oyaron Hill

Football Season Ends with Controversy, Suspensions


Tiffany Metty - Student Submission

The Saturday, November 7 football game ended in a scuffle between Hartwick and St. John Fisher. In response, Hartwick suspended five players and head coach Mark Carr.

According to eyewitness accounts, and corroborated by videos of the incident, the altercation began after Hartwick’s (4-6, 2-6) Matthew Ali ’16 tackled a kneeling Cardinals (7-3, 6-2) quarterback Matt Naton. Naton took a knee in the last minute of the fourth quarter in order to preserve St. John Fisher’s seven-point lead. Ali’s tackle incited the Cardinals to clear their bench.

“The visiting team decided to charge our field to confront the problem,” senior offensive lineman Jesse Navarrete said.  

In response, the Hartwick bench cleared.

“Once St. John Fisher had charged our field, our coaching staff had gone out to the field, as well as other players, to withdraw our teammates away from the other teammates that were charging at us,” explained senior offensive linebacker C.J. Stone.  

A video of the scuffle shows a mass of players, from both benches, all grabbing and pulling, which makes it difficult to decipher exactly who did what.

One thing is certain, five players (Ali, Chris Mercieca ’16, Sal Levanti ’16, Joe Boccia ’16 and Ron Richards ’17) and Carr were issued suspensions for unsportsmanlike behavior.

"The suspensions were a result of inquiries completed by the Empire 8 Conference, Hartwick College, and the Athletics Department. The letters of sanction came from me, as the Director of Athletics, as part of the College's decision," explained Hartwick Athletic Director Dr. Kim Fierke,

No one from St. John Fisher was disciplined.

The Hartwick players involved in the fight think Coach Carr responded appropriately to the incident.

“We feel it’s an injustice for them to penalize our leader and head coach, who did exactly what he was supposed to do,” Stone said.

Saturday’s bench-clearing set off a chain of events that lasted into the following week and interrupted the daily operations of administration, staff, and students.

Last Wednesday, a group of more than 30 football players, student athletes from other sports, and student supporters with no athletic affiliation gathered in the Yager Lobby for a demonstration. Some held signs that said, “Let ‘em play!” “What about Fisher?” and “Free Carr!”

The timeline of events are as follows:

  • 11/7 Saturday: Fight breaks out in the last minute of Hartwick’s match against St. John Fisher, around 4 p.m.

  • Hartwick Athletic Director Kim Fierke delivers the sanctions via email to individual players.

  • 11/11 Wednesday

    • 10:47 a.m. Hartwick issues a public statement on its Facebook page

    • 1 p.m. Supporters begin sit-in outside the President’s Office in Yager Lobby.

    • 1:15 p.m. Campus Safety arrives.

    • 1:33 p.m. President Drugovich arrives to Yager from the north end of campus.

    • SAAC President Korey Jubie, Jesse Navarrete, and C.J. Stone have a scheduled meeting with President Drugovich, Vice President of Student Affairs Meg Nowak, and AD Fierke.

    • 2:50 p.m. Meeting ends and no sanctions are changed or lifted.

  • 11/12 Thursday: After another meeting, there are no changes to the sanctions.

  • 11/15 Saturday: Hartwick wins final game of season against host Utica. Hartwick players remove Hartwick insignia from their uniforms.

Many Hartwick athletes said they are concerned that the sanctions misrepresent Hartwick athletics and the Hartwick community as a whole. Critics of the suspensions argue that videos of the scuffle show Hartwick demonstrating sportsmanship.

This contrasts with the image projected by Gene Battaglia, the ESPN play-by-play announcer for St. John Fisher football. After the game ended, Battaglia tweeted E8 Commissioner Chuck Mitrano about “Hartwick’s dirty unsportsmanlike play.”

“The issue at hand is bigger than just the game,” said Korey Jubie, senior kicker and Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) president. SAAC represents the concerns of student athletes to the administration.

Athletic Director Kim Fierke declined to comment about whether Battaglia’s tweets or spectator videos influenced the conditions of the suspensions.

Critics of the sanctions believe there is a conflict of interest. Mitrano, who has won awards for his emphasis on sportsmanship as E8 commissioner, is a St. John Fisher alumnus and the former employee Sports Information Director for the St. John Fisher Athletics Department.

President Drugovich serves as the E8 Conference Office President. AD Fierke is the board’s First Vice-President. Drugovich and Fierke declined to comment further than Wednesday’s public statements. Vice President of Student Affairs Meg Nowak oversees student athlete concerns at Hartwick.

“Our goal is to have all suspensions lifted, and if that doesn’t happen we are willing to take further action,” said Jubie.

The football team insists that all but Ali’s sanction are unjust. Three senior players were unable to play in the team’s final game Saturday, against Utica, where all Hartwick players covered up anything representing Hartwick on their uniforms and even removed the Hartwick stickers from their helmets.

“We didn’t play for Hartwick tonight,” Jubie said.