While I may be the type of person to tear up at a poignant television commercial, there has been no need for fictitious storylines this past week when it comes to college sports giving us all the feels. Five stories, in particular, just make you want to hug everyone within arms reach and cheer.
I’m sure I’ve missed some other stories, and these all are men’s college sports stories, but they are each worth celebrating.
#WearPinkForWendy: Georgia vs Arkansas State
Georgia fans … goodness, you showed class this past weekend. The stands were filled with pink shirts, pink wigs and big hearts in the “pink out” to support their opponent’s head coach. Arkansas State’s Blake Anderson recently lost his wife, Wendy, after a two-year battle against breast cancer. He surprised everyone the week before when he showed up at the Arkansas State vs UNLV game. Knowing he would be at Georgia’s game, Georgia fans dressed in pink in honor of Wendy.
3 Fingers in the Air: South Carolina
Ryan Hilinski, South Carolina’s quarterback, wears the number 3. It’s also the number that his older brother, Tyler, wore when playing for Washington State University. Eighteen months ago, Tyler took his own life. To show support for Ryan’s loss, at the beginning of the third quarter, nearly everyone in the South Carolina stadium (Alabama fans as well) held up three fingers while the jumbotron showed the words “You Are Not Alone.” South Carolina recently lost a student to suicide, making the message “You Are Not Alone” an even more poignant one.
This act also brought awareness to an organization the Hilinski family started, called Hilinski’s Hope, which provides resources for mental wellness to student-athletes.
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Tennessee and That T-Shirt
If you missed it, a sweet story made the rounds last week of a boy in Florida who wore a handmade t-shirt to school on “spirit” day in support of his favorite team, the Tennessee Vols. His orange shirt had a pencil drawing that said “UT” pinned to it. Some girls bullied him over his t-shirt, and his teacher went to social media with the events of the day. This story may have disappeared into nothing, but Tennessee responded in a way that shocked everyone: They took the boy’s artwork and made an orange t-shirt out of it, with proceeds going to Stomp Out Bullying, an anti-bullying nonprofit. Plus the university gave the fourth-grader a future scholarship!
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This coming weekend, Vanderbilt will pay tribute to their former teammate, Turner Cockrell (#82), who died from melanoma last fall. All players will have #82 on their helmets, just as they did last year for the Texas Bowl. And, the start of this weekend’s Vanderbilt vs LSU game will kick off 82 hours of fundraising with the goal of raising $50,000 for Turner’s Heroes Foundation. This foundation, started by Cockrell’s parents and his teammate Cody Markel, holds superhero-themed events (Cockrell was a huge superhero fan) for pediatric patients and funds research to help find a cure for childhood cancers. If $25,000 is raised, head coach Derek Mason says he will match that amount, adding an additional $25,000 to get to the $50,000 goal. We have a feeling this goal will be far exceeded. To donate, click here.
UVA’s Coach Turns Down a Salary Increase
Lastly, in a day and age when anyone can plea for why they are worth more money, no matter how much they are being paid, it’s unheard of for someone to say, “You know what? I have enough. Give it to someone else.” This is basically what UVA’s men’s basketball coach Tony Bennett said after being offered a new package after his team won the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. To be exact, this past week he turned down the offer saying, “President Ryan and Carla were very gracious in what they offered to me as a potential contract, but I have a very good contract. I have more than enough, and if there are ways that this can help out the athletic department, the other programs and coaches, by not tying up so much [in men’s basketball], that’s my desire … I have more than I need. I’m blessed beyond what I deserve.” — quote from an article published on UVA’s website.
We’re not sure what next week will bring, but that’s one heck of a week for college sports in the “need more tissues” department.
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