Here's to never graduating

Feb. 01, 2013 @ 07:07 AM

The slogan for ESPN’s all-college network, ESPNU, is “Never Graduate”. There are many commercials that comically illustrate this slogan from a couple dancing to the Notre Dame fight song at their wedding to Michigan and Ohio State fans fighting over a checkers game in a rest home.

These commercials show that the pride and passion  a person has for a certain team or university doesn’t have to end with the commencement ceremony.

That is exactly how I felt when I attended the press conference announcing Carroll McCray as the new Gardner-Webb football coach earlier this week. As soon as I came on campus, I was home and it felt like I never left.

With my school spirit already running high, coach McCray’s opening statement made me even more proud to be a Runnin’ Bulldog. “Gardner- Webb has a lot of great looking brick and mortar, but that’s not what makes this university great. It’s the people.”

True to my Baptist roots, I nearly answered with an amen from the front row, but was content with a simple nod of agreement instead. Coach McCray’s words reminded me of the old saying, “Always leave something better off than you found it.”

That’s what GWU did for me. During my six years in Boiling Springs, I grew in my faith, forged lasting relationships, and I hopefully, in some small way, made GWU a better place during my time there. But students don’t have to wear the scarlet and black of the Bulldogs or even be an athlete to have an impact on their campus.

This fact stuck me even more forcibly because I recently had the chance to interview a pair of athletes from Rutherford County who are now playing on the college level. While both these young men are incredibly talented, Carlos Watkins and DeVince Boykins will also help build up there universities as a whole, not just the athletic department.

Why? Because both Watkins and Boykins spoke of hard work in the classroom and their chosen field of play. That is the true definition of a college athlete and it needs to be applauded.

All too often today, college athletes, especially the one-and-done basketball players, are not looking to build into their respective institutions. They want to shatter record books on their way to NBA stardom. College and the diploma that comes with it is supposed to be a building block for the future, not a mere stepping stone to stardom.

I’m not saying those athletes who leave college early are wrong, but I do believe they are missing the point of going to college in the first place. Maybe that’s why I connected with coach McCray’s sentiments so well. During his entire press conference, the main points he kept going back to, were building relationships and earning a diploma. That’s what college is. Not simply tackles and textbooks, layups and lectures.

Therefore, I want to encourage everyone who is currently filling out seemingly endless college and scholarship applications to look beyond average SAT scores or athletic programs.

Choose a place where you feel comfortable and at home and that doesn’t always mean the college with the most luxurious apartments. It needs to be somewhere that you can build relationships while preparing for your future. Remember, to paraphrase coach McCray, you are what makes colleges and universities. You will be a part of them even after walking across that stage.

I know I’m still part of Gardner-Webb and I always will be. I wish the same for you and your college of choice. Here’s to hoping we never graduate.