Elson S. Floyd, Ph.D. - 4/2/08
An Inspiring Season
Last week, I had the opportunity to talk with John Furlong, the CEO of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics who was invited to our Pullman campus by our global studies and sports management programs. Mr. Furlong spoke eloquently about the power of sports to uplift and inspire us, to unify a diverse group of people behind a common cause.
Of course, at Washington State University, we were experiencing a first-hand example of that, as we cheered our men’s basketball team into the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Basketball Tournament.
The team’s 26-9 record was clearly a source of pride. But this was about more than wins and losses. The members of this team, led by Coach Tony Bennett, were truly outstanding representatives of our university.
There is a lively debate in academic circles about the impact that sports has on prospective students or donors to a university. Some say that sports success can have a dramatic positive impact; others say it has far less influence. I don’t think there can be much debate, however, that this group of student-athletes and their coaches raised our collective spirits and made us all proud to be Cougars. They became the personification of something I talk about often, pursuing excellence in everything we do.
Last Thursday, at Beasley Coliseum, I joined many Cougar fans in trying to cheer our team past the University of North Carolina. I was immediately struck by the high spirits of the crowd, of course. What was even more impressive was how many people stayed on to cheer even after it became clear that this just wasn’t our night. They didn’t want to see a great season end. They truly felt they were part of this common cause. And they were.
Shortly before that game, the Pac-10 announced its All-Academic team. Ten players from around the conference were first- or second-team selections. Five of them – Robbie Cowgill, Daven Harmeling, Taylor Rochestie, Aron Baynes and Nikola Koprivica – were Cougars. Robbie had earlier been named Pac-10 Men’s Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
In the classroom, on the court and in the media spotlight of the NCAA Tournament, this group of young men gave us plenty of reasons to applaud. I join the rest of the Cougar community in congratulating them on a job so very well done.