By Paul Vecchio
(Editor's note: We asked Paul Vecchio, who will succeed Jim Moretti '72 as director of athletics for Alfred University in July, to reflect on Moretti, whom he has known for more than 20 years. Vecchio is a past sports information director for AU.)
How to best sum up the accomplishments of Jim Moretti at Alfred University?
Perhaps it might be easier to find out what hasn’t been accomplished at Alfred before the affable, loyal and modest, “ultimate Saxon,” came down the road from his hometown of Hornell to leave an indelible imprint on the AU athletic program.
No one, not even his mentor Alex Yunevich, the venerable and irascible winningest football coach in AU’s history – think Knute Rockne in small-town Americana – can claim to have made such an impact on AU as his prized pupil Jim Moretti.
Because while Moretti went from gridiron star, to hand-picked coaching successor in his Alfred preamble, he has spent the past 14 years enriching all of AU athletics, from the women’s lacrosse team to the men’s tennis team and everyone in between.
In those 42 remarkable years since Moretti went from Southern Tier prep whiz kid to Saxon legend, Alfred’s athletic teams have seen tremendous growth in which it’s nearly impossible not to intertwine the man and the program.
Over those more than four decades, from undefeated Lambert Cup champions with Moretti at quarterback in 1971 to the recent success of the Saxon softball team – a program that wouldn’t have even been dreamt of in Moretti’s playing days – he has become the very embodiment of Purple and Gold, the unofficial “Mayor of Alfred,” and the epicenter of all great Saxon sports stories past and present.
And yet to spend anytime at all with Jim Moretti is to wonder if he’s even conscious of the legacy that he has created next to the babbling Kanakadea Creek.
To spend time with Jim Moretti is to hear tales of countless dozens of other former Saxon coaches, administrators, alumni and athletes. Hilarious and roundabout stories, usually told with great zeal, and perhaps an embellishment or two.
What you will never hear from the man his friends call “Mert,” are tales of his own triumphs, neither as a coach or player. I’ve known him for over 20 years and I’ve yet to hear of a last-second drive en route to a huge win in the Lambert Cup season of 1971 – though I know them to have occurred. I’ve never heard him wax poetic about a coaching decision that led to a last-minute victory, or a brilliant strategy that helped the Saxons overcome long odds during any of his 70 football coaching wins.
Heck, he won’t even take credit for the many outstanding coaches he’s tutored and hired during his time as Athletic Director. No, Jim’s pleasure has been in being along for the ride, the relationships gained, the stories shared and the good life led. He is a grounded man who learned long ago the value of friends and family, and that there’s nothing better than the time shared with those two.
So this is what I have to follow: a man beloved in his adopted hometown of Alfred, who has become as much a part of the scenery on campus as King Alfred…rather big shoes indeed. In a sporting sense, I feel a bit like the shortstop that replaced Cal Ripken in Baltimore (and, no, I can’t remember who that was either!)
And while there will never be another Jim Moretti in the annals of Alfred University athletic history, fortunate am I to know the man and the legacy and to witness those characteristics which lead one to respect and admiration.
Because beyond the man and the myth is simply “Mert,” the friend who I know I can always count on for support and guidance – and always a good story or three. The one who will blush when he reads this and the man to which all who have worn and supported the Purple and Gold should say, “job well done, Coach Moretti, you will never be forgotten.”