When Ithaca College Athletics announced its 2019 Hall of Fame class, and Gary Bucci’s name was on the list, I was among those who said “It’s about time.” After graduating in 1976 as a standout two-sport athlete, Bucci has served as an assistant football coach and a broadcaster, and has now, in his mid-60s, returned once again to be a part of head coach Dan Swanstrom’s football staff.
I have known Bucci for 40 plus years, and we played against one another in a summer baseball league for several years. It was a “town team” league, and while most teams got by with home-grown players, the team from Candor took a look at the rule book and saw that they could stay within the rules while bringing in players from Ithaca College (20 minutes up Route 96B) and soon, players like Bucci and the Ciccetti brothers were tearing it up.
Bucci was a very tough out as a baseball player, and he had a really high on-field IQ. I have seen him many times over the years, and I recall asking him how painful it was when his sons, Joe and Massimo, traded in their baseball bats for lacrosse sticks. He laughed and said, “I was all about baseball. I built a field in our yard, but they felt that baseball was a little slow for them. I could never complain when I saw how much they loved lacrosse, so I learned the game and became one of their coaches.” (Joe and Massimo were both stellar players at Ithaca High, both played Division 1 lacrosse at Georgetown, and Joe has moved into the collegiate coaching ranks.)
When I called Gary to congratulate him on his HOF induction, he told me, “I got a call from [Athletic Director] Susan Basset a few months ago informing me that I would be inducted.”
Bucci said that when he learned that it would be the 50th Hall of Fame class, and that the college would be inviting all Hall of Famers to come back, he was thrilled.
“It will be a great weekend: the induction ceremony, Coach [George] Valesente’s retirement celebration—plus, we’ll be playing Buffalo State, which is [former teammate] Jerry Boyes’s team, for our homecoming game,” Bucci said. (Boyes coached the Bengals for many years, and is now the college’s athletic director).
Throughout our conversation, Gary kept stating how grateful he is to be recognized.
“I played a long time ago, Steve,” he said, “and while many things have changed since 1976, the Ithaca College athlete hasn’t. There is a great legacy here, the teams have done a lot of winning, they have a lot of staying power, and I can’t wait to see who comes back for the ceremony.”
He added, “I’ll be bringing [my wife] Teresa, my boys, some friends from home, and I am really looking forward to seeing not just the guys I played with, but some of the ones I coached as well. I am honored, and I am humbled.”
As for his current stint as an assistant football coach, Gary said, “It’s a real honor to be able to come back and be a part of Dan’s staff. I’m the only Ithaca College guy on the staff, and I hope to bring some history and legacy to the program.”
The Hall of Fame ceremony will be held on Friday, Oct. 11.
λ λ λ
A decade and a half ago, the murmurings around town were that Kyle Dake, the kid from up the road in Lansing, might have a shot at being the best wrestler in his weight class in all of New York State. He proved to be just that.
A few years later, it appeared that Dake might be the cream of the crop in the entire NCAA at 141 pounds. He was, and then, at 149, 158, and 165 in the ensuing three years.
Last year, Dake represented the USA at the World Wrestling Championships, and after he rolled through the tournament, outscoring opponents 37-0, we were able to say it: Kyle Dake is the best in the world in his weight class.
We might get a chance to say it again, as Dake just took care of business against former Oklahoma State wrestler Alex Dieringer to earn a trip to his second consecutive UWW World Championships after the 79-kilogram weight class was announced in 2017.
The 2019 UWW World Championships in Nur-Sultan (Kazakhstan) will begin on Saturday, Sept. 21st.