This is the sixth in a series of Saturday stories profiling the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame's Class of 2012.
By Nick Veronica
NEWS Sports REPORTER
Talk to any athlete from St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute over the last 50 years or so, and most can tell you a little bit about Joe Wolf.
He didn't score any goals for the Marauders or run for any touchdowns. But few would argue against Wolf's place in the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.
He'll be inducted Oct. 17 for his service and commitment as St. Joe's athletic director, a position he held from 1966-2008.
"He just let you coach and supported you all the way," said Rick Mariano, who played for Wolf as a student and later coached the St. Joe's baseball team for many years. "He was a legend there as far as I was concerned."
Wolf doesn't see things exactly the same way, comparing his induction to winning the lottery.
"I thought to myself, I'm flattered that you'd think that much of me, but I never thought ." Wolf trailed off. "I'm in some pretty good company here. When I got the call, it was something like winning the lottery. Am I dreaming? It's a very humbling experience. I was excited, thrilled."
Wolf's greatest contribution to the school was simply getting more students into sports.
Learning from his own experience as a teen - he was once told to "eat more mashed potatoes" and try again next year - Wolf added teams St. Joe's had never fielded before and added additional levels to existing sports.
"Out of maybe 800 students, we'd have 500 participating in sports," Wolf said. "We've suited up as many as 150 kids between the varsity, JV and freshman [football] teams. And that was my objective. When I started, I think we had six sports and 12 coaches. When I left, we had 16 sports and I had 72 coaches on staff."
The first addition Wolf made was starting a freshman football team, which helped some of the 90 or so kids on JV see some playing time at a more age- and skill-appropriate level. The process has continued through the present, with St. Joe's now fielding five hockey teams at various levels.
When Wolf started the job, the Marauders already had a baseball Hall of Famer in Jimmy Collins, who retired in 1908 with a .298 career batting average.
Since then, St. Joe's has produced both professional athletes and Olympians.
NFL tight end Sean Ryan (Boston College) and wide receiver Naaman Roosevelt (UB) graduated from St. Joe's in 1999 and 2006, respectively. Tom Terhaar, Class of 1987, is the most recent Olympian, coaching the U.S. women's rowers to gold in London.
Wolf is still hopeful St. Joe's will one day put players into the NHL and NBA, and his wish may be granted soon if 2008 grad Cole Schneider gets called up from the AHL's Binghamton Senators.
"He was a great athletic director. Handled any situation perfectly," Mariano said. "He never had a situation that got out of control with anybody or anything. Just did a great job handling parents. . There's probably a lot of times I never even knew there was a situation that he just handled or smoothed out. Very rarely did he ever come to me with any kind of situation."
Developing a winning program takes time and effort, and Wolf's hours were long. Most days he was in the building by 8 a.m. and was the last one locking up at night after all the games had finished. But whether it was coordinating schedules, doing paperwork or breaking up a pickup game in the gym he walked in on once near midnight, Wolf was the man for the job.
"You really had to love what you were doing to put that much time into it," he said.
The Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame's 22nd annual induction dinner will be held Oct. 17 at the Hyatt Regency Ballroom. For seating information, call Tina Pastwick at 693-3807 or visit www.gbshof.com.