I was only able to take in one day of the conference, which included a Vespers service and a group dinner at the recently completed O’Dea Lounge overlooking Villanova Stadium, but the earnestness to drill deep into important, yet at times theoretical, issues was encouraging. Much like in Rome, small groups discussed specific issues, with the key suggestions presented back to the full group. Topics included what can be done to provide greater balance, development and even joy to the student-athlete experience, with so much pressure on them academically, athletically and in the community. Another topic focused around greater inclusion, removing the isolation of today’s top athletes from the rich experiences of college life. Some campus officials expressed dismay that athletes weren’t part of the full fabric of a university or interacting with other students.
Administrators cautioned against the “football-ization” of today’s coaches and athletic programs specific to practice schedules, training and other full-time demands. Discussions explored the potential value in easing up on the time demands and training for athletes, which could potentially stimulate performance. The Catholic institutions questioned the need and value of playing games on holidays such as Christmas or Christmas Eve, while officials from BYU extolled the benefit for their students by their institution’s refusal to play on Sundays. While many praised NCAA guidelines allowing for student athletes to take part in internships or study abroad programs, some felt that benefit would be impeded by coaches looking to get the maximum time and energy out of their athletes. Finally, there was discussion on better amplification and PR around the work done by athletic programs in the community, and even a national day of service by student athletes was broached.
|The Big East’s Val Ackerman is carrying the torch forward.
Abraham D. Madkour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org