I just returned from two days in Ann Arbor, Michigan with our football team. While there are significant issues and challenges with college football, our time in Michigan illustrates just how much is right with college football today.
While much of the pre-game media attention was focused on whether or not we could beat a “big time” program, I saw a very different perspective in Ann Arbor. Our hosts were gracious and welcoming. They even played our fight song – a tradition we should adopt for visiting teams. I met alumni who had traveled from all over the country to support our football team and have a deep appreciation for the education they received at San Diego State. I spoke with parents of our players who, rather than emphasizing a future in the NFL, are focused on their children’s academic and professional development. I heard former NFL player and Aztec alumnus Kyle Turley play a pretty mean guitar at our pre-game event.
Most importantly, I saw a game in which, despite extraordinary adversity, our players fought on every play and comported themselves with sportsmanship and dignity. Likewise our 1,000 fans cheered relentlessly in a stadium filled with 109,000 Michigan fans. (I can’t say I would mind if I never heard their fight song, “The Victors” again.)
Afterwards, behind the stadium and away from the cheers of the crowd, a ritual occurred that takes place at countless stadiums across the country every Saturday. Families waited for their sons to exit the locker room and board the team bus. In that brief space and time, hugs were exchanged, consolation was given and effort was recognized – a moment of comfort on a very challenging day.
Some days it is not your day and, for a host of reasons, Saturday was not our team’s day. Nonetheless, a full and complete effort was given by all of our players, coaches and staff and that, to me, is big-time college football.