POLL: This is part of the Oral History Project,
it’s an interview of Coach Marvin Rippy. It’s being done on November 23, 1994 in
the AX 13. I’m Carol Poll and I teach sociology at FIT. OK, what I’d like to do is just for you
to give us your name, what position you have now, and just trace the jobs you’ve had
at FIT and, first your name and how many years you’ve worked at FIT.
RIPPY: OK, my name is Marvin Rippy. I’ve been at FIT for approximately 23 years. I’m
currently classroom technologist, basketball coach, recreation supervisor. [00:01:00] I’ve
taught some classes here. I’ve — I’ve done a lot of things here at FIT over the
years. POLL: OK, and I think you were a student — were
you a student here? RIPPY: Yes, I’m a former student. I graduated
in 1969 with an Associate’s degree in Textile Administration and Sales.
POLL: OK, if you could talk a little about the early days. What you remember, both as
a student, I guess, and as, as a… RIPPY: Well, 1967 I entered FIT as a student.
I remember FIT being a lot smaller than it is today. As a matter of fact, FIT consisted
of the C building and I think it was one dorm at the time. And, everything was in the C
building. All the classrooms, the activities and everything. And, it just seemed like you
knew everybody [00:02:00] at FIT years ago and everyone knew you. Today, being FIT — being
what it is and seeing how it’s grown over the years, sometimes you’re a little out
of touch with certain departments or people. It’s — it’s changed drastically over
the years but I guess like any good institution or any good organization, with time you must
grow, you know. POLL: And what was your major here at FIT?
RIPPY: Textile Administration and Sales. POLL: And you expected to go into that and
then — RIPPY: Well, at — at the time I came in,
I thought that perhaps that’s what I wanted to be involved with but once I got in, I saw
some other opportunities and I changed my mind. My — my first love was always physical
education, I think deep down inside (laughs) but I think someone convinced me to try Textile
Administration and Sales, but [00:03:00] I’m — I’m sort of glad the way things went,
ultimately. POLL: Was there a basketball team then?
RIPPY: Yes, there was a team. As a matter of fact, the team was, I think Raoul Nacinovich
had formed a team a few years before I got there and I recall my first year playing basketball
here at FIT, we were the first team to win 20-plus games and conference championship
and that type of thing and it was a lot of fun. Raoul was the coach at the time, and
it was a good — great experience. It was really a lot of fun.
POLL: Did you come here because there was a basketball team?
RIPPY: Not per se. I mean, it was one of the reasons I enjoyed sports and I’m — I’m
glad they had a basketball team and sports but no, that wasn’t the main reason.
POLL: Could you talk a little about your work with the basketball team, when you started
working with the basketball team? [00:04:00] RIPPY: Well, I — 1971 I, Raoul offered me
a position as assistant coach and for a couple of years I was assistant coach and ’73-’74
season I came on as head coach and ever since then I’ve been trying to take the program
in a certain direction. You know, it’s funny how you see the progress of something, how
you see it develop and materialize. I remember my first year as head coach going to games
and everybody was sort of, feasting on us, you know, beating us up and you would hear
things like, “Send the basket-weavers home” and “They must be tailor-making their offense”
(laughs) “Knit one, purl two,” and I mean it was just — it was very humiliating, you
know, to go and get beat by 60 points and that type of thing. So, the end of the season
I had some hard choices to make, I said, “If I’m going to stay involved with the [00:05:00]
— with the basketball I’m never going to be this non-competitive.” So, we went out
and did some recruiting and the following year, we turned the program around. We were
24 — we were 4 and 22 the first year, that year that everybody humiliated us, and then
the following year we were 22 and 5. And we gained some instant respect. And ever since
then the program has been constantly growing and the kids have been moving on to various
programs, from our program. POLL: When you say 22 and 5, you won 22 games?
RIPPY: We won 22 games and lost 5. POLL: And how did you turn the program around?
RIPPY: Well, it was a lot of hard work just getting out, talking to people, trying to
convince them that coming to FIT might be a good opportunity for them to get an education
and also to create other opportunities to go on through athletics for — for more education
and more athletics and a lot of the young people [00:06:00] were looking at the time
for opportunities and a lot of them listened to what I had to say, so it was just a matter
of just presenting an opportunity for them. POLL: Where do you go to recruit?
RIPPY: Local high schools. POLL: New York City?
RIPPY: Basically, New York City area. I mean, on occasion we do get young men from the tristate
area but it’s predominantly inner-city kids. POLL: And you have connections, I guess, with
the phys ed, you hear about who a good player is, how do you —
RIPPY: Well, you know, it’s like anything, if you stay in something long enough you,
sort of, get it down to a science and you do network and develop relationships with
people who call you and give you leads and it’s still a lot of phone work, a lot of
actual going out and contacting and shaking hands. It’s a lot of — lot of footwork.
But we have — over the years we’ve developed a very good staff here, with the program and
— and the staff [00:07:00] gets out and does a lot of the leg work and makes life a lot
easier in terms of recruiting. POLL: What — who are the staff, what do you
mean staff? RIPPY: Well, assistant coaches, [Fred Neil?],
[Paul Johnson?], [Bob Beir?], [Shannon Poland?], are currently working with us, helping me
at the games, prepare for the games, talking to individuals. It just — the program has
grown from a local program to a national program. We’re nationally recognized. We’ve been
in the top 20 junior colleges the last, oh, 10 out of 15 years, out of 2,000 junior colleges
in — in the United States. We’ve been fortunate enough to be in the top 20 quite a few years
and we’re recognized nationally, at this point. And when the program go — grows like
that, obviously, you need some good people helping you to maintain that. So, I’ve been
blessed [00:08:00] in that I have a good AD in Raoul, who believes in what we’re doing
and have some really good people in our program that give us the energy and the time and help
me get things done. I — my first year coaching that I referred to earlier, I wore all of
those hats. I was the — I didn’t have an assistant coach, and I was the coach, the
scout, the interviewer, the — I did everything. But, it’s just gotten to a point now where
I can’t do it by myself, I have to rely on some good people.
POLL: And most of the students that come for the program are going to continue for the
BA here or what — RIPPY: Well, on occasion I get young men who
go up a division but the majority of them come in looking to create scholarship opportunities.
For example, I had one young man who got drafted by the Knicks. His name was [Richie Pass?],
he graduated from here, went to Monmouth College, which is a Division I college in Jersey, led
the state of Jersey [00:09:00] in scoring and the Knicks drafted him. He wound up in
law school, but it was a great opportunity. And another young man who played for me two
years here, and San Diego State came in, gave him a full scholarship and over the years
I’ve had many individuals come in and go to various senior colleges and universities
and get all expenses paid for three years, you know, room, board, scholarship, and that
type of thing. So a lot of them come through looking for opportunity to develop their skills,
to get an education on this level and to move to another level. And a lot of them are successful
at doing that. POLL: Do we give them scholarships here, if
— RIPPY: No, here, you know, we don’t give
out a scholarship. We’re basically financial aid, based on need, and most of the kids being
inner-city kids, qualify for EOP or financial aid and being we’re a state school and they’re
New York state residents, it really isn’t a tremendous sum of money, but a lot of their
financial needs are met through financial aid. [00:10:00]
POLL: And, what kind of majors do they tend to go into?
RIPPY: Most of the business majors. The communications, occasionally management, merchandising, marketing.
I do get some art majors, illustration, that type of thing. But the majority of them are
business majors. Some come in and want to just take liberal arts, you know, just so
they can apply it to other things when they move on to other schools.
POLL: And how do you keep up with their grades, check on their grades and…
RIPPY: Well, we have a, we’ve developed a system here where once a month we send out
evaluation forms. I’m pretty sure you may have received some of them, (laughs) and we
ask the instructors basic things about the individual, you know, whether or not they’re
showing up and are they participating, what they’re grade sco– scores are. And it sort
of helps us track the individual and it keeps a line of communication open between myself,
the instructor, and the parent. [00:11:00] I do speak with the parents about their progress.
So that’s really helped us keep the kids motivated because they know that we’re — we’re
somewhat checking on them. POLL: And when you say they’re mostly inner-city
kids, what do you mean? Mostly African American —
RIPPY: Well — POLL: — They’re from mostly Latino? Mostly
working class backgrounds? Or — RIPPY: Well the community college — sports
on the community college level in New York City and — and places like New York City
are predominantly quote-unquote “minority kids,” you know, and a large number of them
happen to be African American although it’s a whole mixed bag of kids. Every ethnic background
I’ve had. But I think, due to the cost of an education today, and the availability of
certain things, you find that you do get a lot of African American young men coming in.
And I — mean, people [00:12:00] that can’t afford to go to some of the private or larger
institutions, so we do get a large number and that’s not just FIT, that’s basically
all the community college — colleges, if you look today.
POLL: Has that changed since the ’70s? Have you noticed any change in that?
RIPPY: Yes, I — in general the student population, in general, when I was in school there was,
to a lesser degree, the number of — of African American or minority students. I see greater
numbers today, I think obviously because of the economics and the availability. But it’s
— it’s changed over the years. It has. I think America has changed over the years,
in general, you know, and I think the colleges, especially on this level, are reflecting a
lot of that change. POLL: Do — do you do work, besides the basketball
team, do — did you say you teach courses at all?
RIPPY: Well when I first came in, [00:13:00] basketball, bowling, and a few other activities,
now I’m basically involved in recreation. The basketball and I’m also the classroom
technologist for the department, you know, and I also teach weight training, that’s
part of my job as being classroom technologist. POLL: What does that mean? What’s…
RIPPY: Well, we have a lot of [slimnastics?] and aerobics classes and that type of thing
and we do the team teaching. We segment certain parts and they’ll send their group to me
for weight training and — and I’ll basically take them in and do circuit training and individual
training and that type of thing with the classes. POLL: Both — male and females do weight training?
RIPPY: Yes, yes. We’re a co-ed weight room. (laughs)
POLL: And that’s true of all the other subjects? I guess not the basketball team but —
RIPPY: Well, not the basketball team but all the other phys ed courses are co-ed courses.
We just haven’t had enough interest over the years in a girls team. I think [00:14:00]
the young ladies here are more into the fashion than the perhaps — making themselves up and
doing nails and that type of thing and making fashions as opposed to the sports. I think
it’s one of the reasons we — we never had a serious effort to get a girls team here.
POLL: All right, when you think about changes, can you think of some other changes you’ve
noticed at FIT? RIPPY: Well, yes. I’ve seen people come
and go. I’ve — I — I, going, just back to when I had mentioned the college was a
lot smaller and everything was basically in the C building. It just seemed as though the
relationships between people were a lot closer, a lot more personal. Now, for some reason,
I don’t know, it just seems very, very impersonal at this point [00:15:00] in a lot of different
areas. Maybe because we’ve grown so large it’s hard to have that — that personal
situation. But, yes, there have been changes. I — I think, in terms of support, just how
the college would sort of support the activities has — has tremendously changed. Everyone
seems to be — they’re coming in, doing their job and going back home and not putting
in maybe, a couple extra hours to give back to the students. And I don’t know — I can’t
put my finger on it exactly but — that support from the general community doesn’t seem
to be there. POLL: How is the basketball team funded?
RIPPY: Well, it’s funded through student activities. There’s a budget allotted for
all the teams and the basketball team just is — is one of the entities and shares the
general [00:16:00] funding for athletics. You know, there’s no special fund or anything
for the basketball team. It’s the same way the tennis or the bowling or team would be
funded through the general athletic fund. POLL: Is that true in most colleges?
RIPPY: Well, you know, if you have most major universities that have large teams and give
out scholarships and that type of thing, a lot of them generate a lot of revenue through
their teams. As a matter of fact there are schools through athletics that — athletics
actually runs the school. You know, you get major schools like Indiana, Georgetown, where
— where these schools generate tremendous revenues from their football and basketball
programs and that type of thing. POLL: How do they generate the money?
RIPPY: Well, they charge for their home games. They have big arenas and there are all kinds
of monies that, I guess donated and that type of thing. [00:17:00] There are a lot of different
ways that they get their money — TV time, when you see them play on television. There’s
con — contracts that someone has to pay them for and that type of thing. But they generate
a tremendous amount of revenue and basically run a lot of the things in those colleges
that you see through the athletics. POLL: Do we charge for the — the —
RIPPY: No. This is a state school, part of SUNY, a whole different concept, you know.
This is a community college, a smaller setting. It’s not a major situation where you have
millions of dollars each year coming through. No, it’s — it’s — it’s totally different,
you know. POLL: Do — have you kept in contact with
the basketball players at your team? RIPPY: Yes, we have an annual alumni game
each year. Beginning of the season, and we extend an invitation to all of our alumni
to come back and participate in one form or another. [00:18:00] Some of them at this point
obviously, don’t play anymore, but when they come back and talk to the young men that
are in the program about what it was like when they were students and athletes and what
the real world is about. And also, networking, because a lot of the alumni are in business
and doing things now, and — and they offer advice and also job opportunities for us — a
lot of the young men. So it’s — it’s sort of a fun event, each year, it’s well
attended, and it’s a way that we sort of keep in touch — keep in touch with the alumni.
POLL: OK. Can you think of some things that you would like to make sure go into the history
of FIT with archives in terms of your experiences here or?
RIPPY: Hmm. That’s a tough one. Something that —
POLL: Basketball team things that, you know, events?
RIPPY: Well, we’ve had some [00:19:00] great situations here. I — the first regional championship
that the college ever won was back in the early 80s and that team had an opportunity
to go to Hutchinson, Kansas, for the national tournament, was — it will be something I’ll
always remember, you know, the school really coming together and support — supporting
the team, and it was just a — a great feeling. I see a lot of those young men during alumni
game. They come back and they reflect on it and it — it just brings really good feelings
back, you know. And I think that that particular season set the tempo for what we have today.
We’ve won numerous championships, conference and regional championships, since then. And,
there’s — I would like to think of that as being the turning point in FIT athletics,
in particular the basketball program, for us [00:20:00] setting that cornerstone for
becoming a national program. POLL: And that was when? The ’80s?
RIPPY: That was the se– ’80-’81 season. POLL: How much do you — where do the teams
go to? You mentioned Kansas? RIPPY: Yes, Hutchinson, Kansas. We wind up
with the best 16 teams in the country, out there. And it’s a great honor.
POLL: Do — [does the team?] often go there? RIPPY: Well, we’ve been in the first round
of the national tournament quite a few times since then, but, actually, out in the national
tournament, we’ve been there one time, and that’s one of our goals this year. This
current team has the potential to go out. Last year we won a regional championship and
went to the national tournament, lost a very close game and didn’t make it out, with
one game away. We’ve been in that situation quite a few times since the early 80s when
we went. But, I — I think this year the team has the potential to get there.
POLL: Where are some of the places you travel with the team to? [00:21:00]
RIPPY: All Arizona, California, Georgia, Calif– Florida, Baltimore area. We’ve been around
the country pretty good, you know. POLL: Probably often the first time that the
students have been to those places. RIPPY: Yes, we’ve had situations where it’s
been first time a young man has boarded a plane. We were, last year we were in Idaho,
and we flew into Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which was an experience. And I mean, it was just,
you should see some of the kid’s faces when they — when they’re boarding the plane,
or actually in flight. It’s a great experience for a lot of these kids. You know, to get
away from home and see how other folks are living in other parts of the country, you
know, they come back with — with, I think, a very positive attitude about, “I can achieve
and there’s — there’s something else out there other than my immediate neighborhood,”
you know. POLL: And you go there to play — do you have
a chance to — to tour at all when you’re there?
RIPPY: Yes [00:22:00] on occasion we get some time where we can — for example, we were
in Georgia, we were down at the Martin Luther King shrine. California, they were out in
Disney World. In Arizona we got a chance to go out to the desert and see what the desert
— you know, you always hear about the desert and what — you know, so we do get an opportunity
when it’s — it’s educational as well as the athletics. And then, for me, also,
it’s a great experience meeting people and getting to see new things.
POLL: We’ve covered a lot of area. Do you want to mention anything about linkages to
government, other government agencies, or? RIPPY: In terms of?
POLL: Like the other SUNY schools, do we have any special relationships with them? I guess,
you know, through the basketball — well, you have a lot of linkages through this intercollegiate
— RIPPY: Right, right. Yeah, that would basically
be [00:23:00] my — my experience with the linkages. It’s — it’s basically through
the athletics and that type of thing, you know.
POLL: Politicians, have they come to see any of the games? Any political figures?
RIPPY: Well, I, Mayor Dinkins was in the area at one point when he was in office. When we
won that championship that I referred to earlier, in the 80s, there was a proclamation by New
York State Legislature to proclaim the FIT day and so forth, and it was a — it was a
thrill, it really was nice. But, no, we try to keep the athletics, as much as we can,
non-political, you know, we just enjoy watching a young man come in and after two years leave
with his degree and leave with a couple of opportunities to go on to further athletics
and then academics. That — that’s the gratification that — that we get down here.
POLL: What kind of a retention rate do you have in terms of students? Do they tend to
stay through the two years? RIPPY: Yes, yes. [00:24:00] They do. These
kids are highly motivated to participate in sports and I think we offer them an opportunity
for them to develop their skills and at the same time we structure it, try to get them
to be better students. And we — the majority of our young men stay for the two years. Very
few leave prior to the few years. POLL: All right. Any comments you want to
make about the role of the union, has the union affected this, or any unions — outside
unions? RIPPY: No, I just, I — I would like to say,
I — these young men, I respect them a lot as people. I can understand what they’re
going through as student athletes. Many of them hold jobs, come to school full time,
try to participate in basketball full time, and then [00:25:00] try to have a social life,
and manage to succeed in all of these areas and it’s not an easy thing to do. Some of
them come through, they have children, and they have to provide for their families and
manage to make it through and go on and get an education and do something with theirselves.
And I have a tremendous amount of respect for their — for that. It takes discipline,
a lot of hard work, and it’s not easy. I would like to see the college go back to the
days when there was more support, more support by the administration, by the students. I
— I think the young men representing FIT and working very hard and being successful
at it, at least deserve that. There were games and events where we would get tremendous faculty
participation. I just don’t see that anymore. I guess maybe the 90s [00:26:00] lifestyles
have changed and everybody sort of does their job and goes off into their own experience.
But, I think these young men are working very hard and doing some positive things. When
you read about all the negative things that are occurring out here and you get an opportunity
to see young men doing positive things, I think that should be applauded, and I think
it should be supported. And I — I don’t see enough of that. That would be the one
comment that I would make that I would like to see. I would like to see more support in
that area. POLL: You mentioned something about them working.
Years ago, did you find them working also and being, you know, having jobs as well as
going to school — both the team — the athletes? RIPPY: Well, I — I — young men throughout
the years I’ve been here have worked, you know, there’s always a need to work. But
I — I find, you know, young men now, today — today in particular, in need of [00:27:00]
financing or funding, even more so than in the past. I guess it’s just a sign of the
times where everything is being cut and there are limited resources and that type of thing.
It’s tough when a young man comes in and he hasn’t eaten all day long and he just
has enough money for car fare, and you’re asking him to come and perform at his maximum
level. Both in a classroom and on the playing field. It’s very tough when you don’t
have anything in your stomach and some of these young men we manage to work things out
with them in terms of getting jobs here at — in maybe food services or the bookstore
or in the surrounding area just so they’ll have a little pocket change. I — I would
just love to see the college create a couple scholarships that we could give to deserving
young men who — we could screen and we think that have the potential [00:28:00] to do something
with themselves. I’d love to see the college do something like that.
POLL: All right. We’re winding down on the interview, is there anything else you’d
like to say about your experiences at FIT or the history of FIT?
RIPPY: Well, I — I guess I pretty much summed up my experience. I met a lot of great people
in the experience, both here at FIT and away. If I could change some things, obviously I’ve
— I’ve touched on a few things I’d like to see, but I’m just happy to have had an
opportunity to work with some of the young people that I’ve worked with and meet some
of the people that I’ve met and I just hope that God just gives me a little more time
because I enjoy what I’m doing. POLL: OK. [00:29:00] Thank you very much.
RIPPY: OK. POLL: That was great.
RIPPY: Great? POLL: Great, yes, I’m telling you, I think
it was great. I learned a lot, I’ll tell you, about — I have all these kids in my
classes all the time. I have to tell you — who’s talking, is that Marcos I think?
RIPPY: Marcos, yeah. POLL: Yeah, I think he gave me his paper.
It’s interesting, I should ask him if I can share it with you. Because it’s a sociology
paper and what he said is, you know, “I used to hang out with the wrong kids,” until
he came into the basketball team, working in sports, and now he doesn’t hang out with
these guys that are into drinking and trouble. I’m telling you, it was something. That’s,
that’s — RIPPY: Well, you know, this is — this is
the — the gratification that I get — POLL: Yeah.
RIPPY: — because a lot of the kids that we have are like Marcos, you know, I get them
from different experiences but a lot of the kids in the neighborhoods — the neighborhoods
have changed tremendously, you know, you don’t have to look for trouble, trouble will find
you. And a lot of these — POLL: (inaudible)
RIPPY: — kids, this is sort of a safe haven, they’ll come here [00:30:00] in the morning
and leave at ten, eleven o’clock in the evening, and during that time they’re here
in an environment where they’re structured in terms of going to class, study hall, we
have a study hall from 2-4 that they have to come to —
POLL: Yeah, you should put that on the table, well, all right.
RIPPY: — You know, and — and we have basketball practice and so forth and — and they’re
here learning something in an environment where they’re going to — going to get something
and it’ll equip them to move on into — into other areas. So, I mean, I get a lot of Marcoses.
You know, coming through, and a lot of people don’t realize, what these young men have
to go through over a two year period to try to make it through. You know, I get calls,
“Coach, I can’t come in today because I don’t have car fare.” You know, so we
desperately try to get that individual some type of job where he can at least get lunch
money and car fare. You know, it’s a — it’s a reality. [00:31:00] I have one young man
right now who lives with the grandmother, their mother has some problems, and the grandmother
is about to put him out because she’s — has a rough enough time trying to support herself,
she’s not working. And, he needs — he has certain needs and she has certain needs and
he’s sort of caught up, and he’s a pretty good student, pretty good athlete, but we
have to try to sit down and work something out to help him get here each day. These are
the little things that we deal with, magnified 15 times, sometimes, you know. But it’s
gratifying to see that after two years the individual finds a way, with our help, maybe,
make it through and come back as an alumni, bring his family down, and say this is — these
are my kids and this is my wife and I’m working for such and such or I’m a policeman
now, and it’s just a great feeling. And to have him turn around and address the other
young men coming [00:32:00] through the program, to say, “You can make it, you know, if you
just stay positive and you work at it.” I mean, it’s worth your weight in gold,
it really is. POLL: Yeah, well, it’s interesting, you
know, I — are you [taping?] — oh, OK. Well —
M1: Want me to stop? POLL: Yeah, well, I just thought, I have three
guys in my class, so I’m, you know, I always have students but it’s interesting and it
just came out in his writing and it wasn’t because I was — you know, the great influence
of the team, it’s changed his life. He could be — it’s a — it’s an article about
the [raceents?] and the roughnecks. Kids that can become the roughnecks and the — the thugs.
And he turns him around. RIPPY: Yeah, I mean, I — I share their experience
because I used to have to run home from school. In the morning, I had to run to school. And
after-school I had to run from school, you know, because of the gang situation in a tough
neighborhood. I know what a lot of these kids are going through, you know. But, [00:33:00]
someone took the time — I mean, I was very fortunate I had a — a very loving mother
and father that kind of kept the lid on things and my father had certain rules and regulations
that he didn’t want broken and I adhered to that. And I was lucky in the community
there’s the positive and negative element and a lot of the kids don’t have money and
they look for something quick and move toward the negative element and I was just one of
the lucky ones that had that — my father was the voice of reason for me and that sort
of pushed me into the positive element in the community. And it was sports, that was
my outlet, you know, so, a lot of these kids today don’t have that outlet, you know.
But the ones that come here, we at least try to create something that — show them a little
bit of — of — of hope at the — at the end, you know.
POLL: OK, thank you very much. RIPPY: OK, thank you. Thank you, Mr. Gainor.