It was during Hetzel's presidency that Penn State's football program shifted to the oversight of the University, rather than the Board of Athletic Control, run by alumni at the time. Hugo Bezdek, coach of the football team at the time, was unpopular among influential alumni in the Pittsburgh area. Dissatisfied that Bezdek had been unable to defeat long-time rival University of Pittsburgh, the alumni accepted an agreement that would remove him from the head coaching position in exchange for a transfer of control to the Department of Physical Education, which would be elevated to the status of a school (the present-day College of Health and Human Development).
The Hetzel Union Building (HUB) at Penn State University and Hetzel St. in State College are named for Hetzel. Hetzel Hall, a dormitory at the University of New Hampshire, is named after him as well.