Friday, April 13, 2007

Gast's Inauguration, NCAA Approval, and Spirit Week

You'd think I'd have more football news when there's only eight days until the Brown/White game (which is free admission). But there you have it; I don't really have much in the way of football news, except that sophomore OL Chris Aaron is off the spring roster and is supposedly transferring to Vanderbilt as a walk-on. Nothing earth-shattering here, though it does mean that it will be interesting to see about the depth on the "O" line eight days from now.

Remember tomorrow is the Youth Coaches' Clinic for youth football coaches who are interested in learning more about coaching: techniques, drills and other information. The price is $20 and includes lunch. It's 8AM-1PM tomorrow at the varisty house close to the Whitehead practice fields. Plus, you get to sit in on Lehigh's afternoon practice!

Dr. Gast's inauguration is currently in progress at Stabler Arena, where she is being inaugurated as Lehigh's 13th president. (Interesting. Our 13th president, being inducted on Friday the 13th? Hope that's not some sort of sign.) An interesting Brown & White article details her presidency so far and has some interesting things to say about Lehigh:

El-Aasser agreed about the importance of a higher level of national and international recognition under Gast’s leadership. Visibility is so important, he said, because it will generate a greater network for students and faculty to participate in.


Beyond recognition, Gast said she would like to increase intellectual dialogue on campus – something with which Dean of Athletics Joe Sterrett agrees.

Sterrett said students should take advantage of Lehigh’s “softer” learning experiences – lectures, plays, musical performances and athletic events. Students, faculty and staff should learn to fully appreciate their own talents and the talents of others on campus, Sterrett said.

“The seeds of some important changes are in the works,” Gast said, referencing the South Mountain College proposal and the emphasis on Global Citizenship.

You may wonder what this might have to do about athletics, especially the part about national and international recognition. Having our athletes compete on a national stage - especially our high-profile sports, such as men's and women's basketball, football, and wrestling - puts Lehigh squarely in a national spotlight. In football, it even puts us in a national tournament (the FCS playoffs) in which the Ivy league chooses not to participate, giving us an opportunity that the Ivy League does not have. Furthermore, the Lehigh/Lafayette football game is becoming more of a national phenomenon - which is something that helps define and differentiate Lehigh from other schools, and gives us national recognition.

Patriot League athletics are an important part of the Lehigh experience for student-athletes and students alike, and keeping athletic traditions alive and vibrant should be an important part of
this initiative. As part of this, Lehigh students came up with the idea of "Spirit Week", which is a great start.

Horn discusses how the idea for Spirit Week came about. “The reason why we started the entire initiative was because many of our athletes have complained that not enough people attend their games. In talking with other organizations on campus, we found that they have also experienced the same lack of involvement. We decided that if we were going to try to create a Lehigh culture in which more students attended our games, then we had to give back to those students in some way.”

Lepko echoes the thoughts of Horn. “After talking with other campus leaders we realized that so many groups are feeling the same way as us. We all wish to be connected and for support from each other, so the Student Athlete Executive Board came up with a three-step plan.” She continues, “First, we wrote a 'Pledge of Commitment.’ Next, we engaged younger student athlete leaders, and finally we had to plan and host a Pilot Event to test our ‘Lehigh Spirit’ concept. Spirit Week is our test event and we are hoping for tons of support from groups and individuals across campus.”

Low turnout at sporting events seems to be a problem around many campuses, and not just Lehigh. (At Lafayette, the Leopards only averaged 6,700 per game if you subtract Lehigh/Lafayette.) That's why it's encouraging that there's a student-led effort to change things. It does take time to get to the games - I remember well when I was an undergrad, car-less, taking the Brown & White bus over to Stabler for football and basketball games. Here's hoping that this is the start of something special that gets participation up!

I also like the fact that it tails into "Greek Week" and includes block parties and Greek activities. If fraternities could organize tailgates at some of these sporting events, that could be even better. Tailgates make the Lehigh games something that everyone, even semi-sports fans, interested in attending.

(Of course, the best thing is that it concludes with the Brown/White game - a perfect capper to a week of, um, 'activities'!)

Finally, in the "not really news" department, Lehigh got re-certified as a D-I Athletics program according Chris Marshall ('88) on the Lehigh Athletics website:

Marshall says the self-study confirmed that Lehigh athletics is on the right track.

“What we found was nothing short of a model program. Led by Joe Sterrett, the Athletics Department is built firmly on the foundation of intercollegiate athletics as integral to and in complete support of the educational mission of Lehigh University. This is true college athletics—with real student-athletes and educators working together to enhance the undergraduate educational experience. In other words, it is the way college athletics is supposed to be.”

You don't really have to go through the compliance report looking for any news or information... but then again, that's my job, isn't it? I go through things like this... so you don't have to! Seriously, it goes into some serious statistics, like academic indexes, graduation rates... which I'm currently going through. Next week, I'll talk a little bit about what I found.

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