Tragedies unify college communities
The Duke Cameron Crazies set aside their bitter rivalry with neighbor North Carolina last weekend, donning Carolina-blue ribbons in remembrance of Eve Carson, the UNC student-body president who recently was murdered. Just before tip-off, Cameron Stadium fell silent to acknowledge the loss.
“Duke was gracious in the moment of silence, the wearing of ribbons,” Coach Roy Williams said in an interview with local television station WRAL. “To me, it showed what a great conference we have, what a great relationship we have.”
In the New York Times blog The Quad, Mike Ogle reflected on his experience watching the game at an ACC-dominated sports bar. Fans for both teams jawed back and forth, but when the Duke announcers called for the moment of silence, everyone in the bar—including the wait staff—went quiet.
“The events that caused this scene were tragic and sad,” wrote Ogle, “but the display as these two bitter rivals were about to play was a solemn reminder of what makes college athletics so extraordinarily special — the overwhelming sense of community, spirit and pride they embody.”
Ogle acknowledges a fact that anyone involved with intercollegiate athletics understands—sports is much bigger than the games played or the colors worn. In many ways, it’s about celebrating a common passion and sharing pride in our institutions.
After the shootings at Northern Illinois, the Virginia Tech athletics department encouraged fans to wear Northern Illinois red and black—not the home-team orange and maroon—to the men’s basketball game against Georgia. Virginia Tech fans, student-athletes, coaches and administrators also signed a “Hokies for Huskies” banner that was sent to NIU.
In an article from the Roanoke Times, NIU Athletics Director Jim Phillips expressed his gratitude to the Virginia Tech community. “You don't know where to turn when something as horrific happens as what transpired February 14, but when you're able to reach out to someone and to an institution that has experienced just what you have, you can't put the value on what that's meant,” he said.
Athletics programs are often the most visible public face of an institution. When games resume, sports can provide a powerful symbol of perseverance. Few schools understand this power better than Bluffton College.
Bluffton opened this year’s season against Eastern Mennonite, the team they would have played had their bus arrived safely in Sarasota last March. “It will never leave my mind totally, the day that we heard that news,” said Eastern Mennonite senior and third baseman, Jameson Jarvis in an article from the Lima News.
The tragedy forged a special bond between the two schools that Eastern Mennonite Athletics Director Dave King reflected on in the Lima article. “I hope it is a healing process for Bluffton kids, and I think it is extremely important for our kids, too,” he said.
© 2010 The National Collegiate Athletic Association