Friday, April 06, 2007

Spring Practice, and the Passing of a Legend

It's been quiet as I'm working on my "New Realities of the Patriot League" piece for College Sporting News. Similarly, it's been quiet about spring practice in the media so far. The inside word I have is that spring practice is going OK, and everyone is "working hard and competing well." The trenches are getting particular attention as coach Coen is looking for kids who will be step up and handle the large scholarship line of Villanova this September 8th (our opening day at Goodman this year). Only two weeks until the Brown/White game, where we'll be able to see the progress of both lines!

That's it for this week, though in case you hadn't heard, a FCS coaching legend passed earlier this week, former Grambling State coach Eddie Robinson. The winningest head coach in Division I history, he built tiny Grambling State into a college powerhouse, giving the historically black university a formidable national presence. Starting as coach in 1941, he started coaching in a time when the Army wasn't even integrated, let alone the South. He also coached at a university that many white people would have never heard of in 1941. By the '50s and '60s, white America would be following Grambling State as well, especially in the south.

In 1949, the NFL's Rams took a chance on an undrafted All-American free agent from Grambling State called Paul "Tank" Younger who would become the first black football player to play in the NFL. Their "color-blindness" would pay off with Younger becoming an integral part of their rushing attack in three appearances in the NFC championship in five years. That opened the gateways for not only Grambling State athletes to make the NFL, but many other HBCU athletes as well. Coach Robinson shredded the color barrier by proving that black players were as good as white players - a point that hasn't been brought up enough in the columns eulogizing him.

Despite his deserved place in the pantheon of civil rights pioneers, it's coach Robinson the person - by all accounts a humble and deeply respected man - that stays with people the most. Not only was he successful by many measures (number of athletes going pro, winning seasons, Black College National Championships), he was most successful in getting kids ready for life. Generations of Grambling graduates thank him for preparing them for lives outside of college that had nothing to do with the NFL.

We will miss you Coach Rob.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

ALS Documentary tonight on PBS

Not much news so far from Lehigh football's spring practice (maybe there will be more news next week), but I'd like to take this time to alert you about a Frontline Documentary (airing tonight on PBS, and also available soon for viewing over the internet) concerning Lou Gehrig's disease, or ALS for short.

I haven't pre-screened it, but judging from the press release it looks like something that deserves the attention of anyone who has been affected by the disease one way or another. It talks about new gene therapies, ways of delivering new FDA-approved drugs to patients, and talks about the ALS Therapy Development Foundation that Jamie Heywood, whose brother has ALS, founded in 2000.

Why mention this documentary, or ALS in general? Because the cause of ALS research and finding a cure has been a cause near and dear to the Lehigh football family's heart ever since Brett Snyder ('00) was diagnosed with the disease several years ago. Together with ALSA and the Greater Philadelphia chapter of the ALS foundation, Lehigh football has been raising money to help ALS victims through walks and fundraising efforts at Lehigh football games the past couple of years.

Please consider donating to ALSA, the Greater Philadelphia chapter, or the ALS Therapy Development foundation, and take some time to watch the documentary.
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