When coaches fail to speak up for social injustice, we look to the players with nothing to lose or gain in this week’s Friday Sports Dump.
The four coaches remaining in the NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament has a chance. An opportunity to stand with conviction and lead a rallying cry to end discrimination. In the end, Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Izzo, John Calipari and Bo Ryan decided to stand together and say nothing.
“We are aware of the recent actions in Indiana and have made a point to talk about this sensitive and important issue among ourselves and with our teams. Each of us strongly supports the positions of the NCAA and our respective institutions on this matter — that discrimination of any kind should not be tolerated. As a part of America’s higher education system, college basketball plays an important role in diversity, equality, fairness and inclusion, and will continue to do so in the future.”
If you read between the lines, what the four coaches, who hold the most power in all sports at the current moment said is we’re against this, but don’t ask us to do anything about it.
I know I’m living a pipe dream. I know in this 24/7 information age, no coach wants to step up on a pedestal and fight for anything besides a championship and more money for themselves and their university. But what if?
What if one of those coaches were Dean Smith? A coach who early in his stint with North Carolina stood up to racism in the deeply segregated south? Would the others follow? Or plead with Smith to join them in silence to not rock the boat before the money load came in to port.
Luckily for us, college athletes are not silenced by greed. Probably the only positive attribute to come out of the NCAA’s refusal to pay “student-athletes” for helping fund a billion dollar industry is college athletes have nothing to lose.
On college basketball’s grandest stage, several teams made statements both for individuals and causes well beyond them.
Maryland’s season came to an abrupt end at the hands of West Virginia in the round of 32. Hopefully, for Terrapins guard Richaud Pack, it was enough time to honor his recently passed aunt. Pack died his hair blonde for the tournament as a memorial to the woman who he called “the glue to the family.”
The University of Alabama-Birmingham made news in the fall when the institution decided to shutter the football program. The Blazers made news of a different kind in their game against Iowa State. Not only did the 14-seeded underdogs take down the Big 12 Tournament Champions, they also raised awareness for the Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s of Alabama.
The team did this by wearing mismatching shoes. The team was unable to keep the magic going in their third round match against UCLA, but their battle against pediatric cancer continues.
The team “adopted” a pediatric cancer patient named Elijah Serritt two years ago. Serritt began his fight against medulloblastoma at only 19 months old. Serritt is almost four years old now, and continues to fight. He has had 17 surgeries in the last two years, in addition to chemotherapy.
“I think if you’re a basketball program and your sole purpose is just to win games, you’re running a poor program. I think our guys are really bought in,” said UAB head coach, Jerrod Haase.
If only the four coaches whose teams are still playing in The Tournament invested in the same way.
Photo Credit: UAB Media Relations