Honoring our architects
As a student of history, I am always fascinated by how we arrived where we are. It is both a discovery and a lesson to study the events, the circumstances, and the external and internal factors that created wherever it is we find ourselves today. It is also important to recall – and indeed to celebrate – those individuals who helped bring the forces and elements together that shape our lives today.
We had a chance in June to do that – twice.
As part of the 40th anniversary of Title IX, NCAA corporate partner Northwestern Mutual premiered a documentary of the 1972 legislation that ensured the opportunity for women to participate in sports in America on an equal footing with men. The premiere was held in New York City on June 18 and was sponsored by NCAA corporate champion Coca-Cola. It was a grand evening, but more importantly, it was a grand chance to celebrate the lives and accomplishments of individuals who brought one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation in America to life.
The next day in Indianapolis, as part of the dedication of the Myles Brand building at the national headquarters, we had another opportunity to celebrate the lives and accomplishments of 10 individuals who became the giants upon whose shoulders we stand.
Two of these individuals had buildings named for them – Ced Dempsey and Myles Brand. Two great coaches were honored with rooms named for them – Pat Summitt and John Wooden. Four additional women who led and lived the fight for equality for women were similarly honored – Christine Grant, Charlotte West, Judy Sweet and Althea Gibson. James Frank was honored as the first African-American, the first college president and the first representative of Division II to serve at the top of the membership structure.
Two other men were honored whose contributions to sports in America helped make possible the role of athletics in higher education – Jesse Owens, who fought for his own kind of equality at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, and Theodore Roosevelt, whose commitment to a life of activity helped give birth to the NCAA.
Already honored with rooms named for them in the national office are Palmer Pierce, the first and longest-serving membership leader of the NCAA, and Walter Byers, the Association’s first and longest-serving executive director.
These 13 individuals devoted a significant portion of their lives and even more of their reputation to intercollegiate athletics. They understood before all of us that athletics can be, and frankly must be, embedded in the educational mission of colleges and universities.
The history of events is important because it gives us context for understanding the present. But the history of people tells us about the passion for excellence we inherit from their efforts. Events tell us what. People tell us why.
Roosevelt and Owens; Pierce and Byers; Summitt and Wooden; Frank; Grant, West, Sweet and Gibson; and Dempsey and Brand all now have a place of their own in the NCAA national office.
More importantly, they are the answers to why.
This originally appeared in the Summer 2012 issue of NCAA Champion magazine.
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On the Mark
Quotes from President Emmert on various NCAA topics.
Where the money goes: “The money we generate buys services that support those students. If we can keep the athletic programs financially healthy, they can create more opportunities for students to participate in athletics.”
Pay for Play: “As long as I'm president of the NCAA, we will not pay student-athletes to play sports. Compensation for students is just something I'm adamantly opposed to. We're providing athletes with world class educations and world class opportunities. If they are one of the few that are going to move on to become a pro athlete, there's no better place in the world to refine their skills as a student-athlete.”
In the News
A sampling of what other media around the country have written about President Emmert.