HERBERT J. MOLS
Olympic, AAU & Empire State Games Administrator
In 1964, the voice of Buffalo sports, Ralph Hubbell, said the J. in Herbert J. Mols stood for Jewel, and a 1979 Buffalo Evening News sports headline dubbed him the “Nerve Center of Amateur Sports.” Herb J. Mols embodied character, dedication and commitment.
Born in Buffalo, Herb was an accomplished student and competed in several sports during his years at Fosdick-Masten High School. He excelled running track and cross country, swimming and became a standout basketball player. While at Cornell University, he continued to utilize his strong athletic ability, participating in basketball, football and baseball.
However, his vision while head of the Park School science department was to offer a comprehensive sports program at the school. With the inception of sports and athletics at Park School, a mandatory program required all students to participate daily in a variety of sports. The focus was on providing exercise and competition for all Park Students, boys and girls alike.
Again it was vision that led him to lobby and win funding for the Amherst Recreation Center and create the Conference of Upstate Private Schools league. He soon joined the local chapter of the Amateur Athletic Union, where he officiated track and swim meets. His leadership qualities earned him election as vice chairman of the AAU’s National Basketball Committee, and appointment on the Olympic Basketball Committee. In the summer of 1963 he led a six week goodwill tour of cagers to South America that was sponsored by the State Department. The trip, during the Cold War, influenced his idea of interrelating sports with exposure to other cultures.
U.S. Olympic officials turned to Herb to organize, select and manage the first U.S. Olympic Basketball training camp prior to the 1972 Munich Olympics. He took the newly formed team on a goodwill tour of Russia, and to the Pan Am Games in Cali, Colombia. The U.S. team, 10 of whom would go on to be first-round draft picks in the NBA, lost the gold medal game to Russia amidst confusion over international rules, language barriers, and a controversial ruling that allowed three seconds to be put back on the clock leading to the Russian win. Undaunted by the experience, Herb continued to serve as an unofficial ambassador, inviting Russian teams and organizing games versus local teams at venues throughout Buffalo.
His Olympic experience and international exchanges, led Herb to create New York State’s own “Olympics” the beginnings of what was to become the Empire State Games. The “Father of the Empire State Games” dream was realized when the first Empire State Games took place in Syracuse in 1977. Herb Mols brought the games home to Buffalo for the first time in 1985. The following year, as the 1986 Empire State Games concluded, Herb Mols sadly passed away.