November 4, 2004

Football Feasts for Victory

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Remember when mom used to gripe at you about eating your breakfast? “Don’t you walk out that door without something in your stomach,” she always said. “I’m warning you, you’ll be hungry all day long.”

While no matron, head coach Jim Knowles ’87 and his football team still know the value of a hearty pre-game meal designed to energize the body and invigorate the mind. But whereas most pre-game ritual feasts usually just feed the body’s calorie craving, the Red’s Saturday morning brunches accomplish far more.

“Both times we’ve cooked breakfast for them, they’ve won,” said senior Evan Pohaski. “I can’t claim responsibility for their success, but I do try to talk to players, hype them up a bit at breakfast.”

Pohaski, a hotelie by trade and former member of Cornell’s varsity wrestling team, knows first-hand how important the football team’s gameday meals are. After all, he cooks them. “They have cereal, oatmeal, eggs, and hashbrowns — all that stuff — already set out,” he said of the Saturday morning buffet upon which the team has gorged thrice this season. “But Chef Hartman and I cook the omellettes to order.”

Part of Knowles’ attempt to revamp his fledgling program, the team’s breakfasts at the Terrace restaurant in Statler Hall serve not only to satiate the enormous gastronomic needs of the players and staff, they bring the squad together for some last-minute pep talk before the kickoff.

“They’ve been great. We just first try to provide the team with a first-class environment. They didn’t have that last year” Knowles said. “I put a place mat down at each players’ seat with an inspirational quote on it, and all of the position coaches, the offensive and defensive coordinators, have a ‘final word,’ which is just a four- or five-minute speech about what’s most important in the game.”

Knowles himself also takes advantage of the captive audience to address his men. “I do something called ‘last call,'” he said. “I don’t like to talk too much right before the game, just say a one or two words, so this is when I hit them with what’s most important for the game.”

To date, the concept has worked and — coincidence or not — two out of the three times Cornell has dined at the Terrace, the team has won its game later in the day.

“We haven’t dined there since my freshman year, but the guys love it, and Evan’s a great chef,” said senior defensive back Sean Nassoiy. “It gets all of us on the same page and ready to go.”

For players and staff, the brunch provides time to collect thoughts and prepare mentally for the afternoon contest. It also ensures no one arrives at Schoellkopf on an empty stomach. “My favorite customers are [junior] Andre Hardaway, [senior] Zach Beadle, and [senior co-captain] Nate Archer. I try to make the omelettes extra big for them,” Pohaski said. “I also love making the coaches’ theirs. Their favorite is ham and cheese.”

This Saturday, as Cornell readies for Dartmouth, the team hopes that its winning tradition will continue.

“We’re going to do everything the same as usual,” Knowles said. “Anything we can do in the first year to establish ourselves will have a great impact.”

Archived article by Everett Hullverson
Sun Assistant Sports Editor