Friday, January 21, 2011

The Opportunity Of A Lifetime

I can remember where I was when I heard about it.

The Bowling Green men's basketball team was hosting Manhattan earlier this year and, as always, I was sitting in front of a laptop keeping stats. At one of the media timeouts, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and our Athletics Director Greg Christopher was standing there. Once in awhile, Greg will come over at a timeout to look at a boxscore. I figured that's why he tapped me on the shoulder. As he hunched over to whisper to me, I realized that wasn't his objective.

"Jason, I just want to give you a heads-up on an e-mail you may get tomorrow about a $10 million donation for the men's basketball program."

I'm guessing the sound of my jaw hitting the floor wasn't audible to anyone else, but it was one of those moments that make you speechless. I didn't know what to say or what to ask. Pretty soon the horn sounded for the end of the media timeout, Greg scurried off to watch the rest of the game, and I went back to work statting the rest of the game.

That was the last I heard about the donation until the next day when, surely enough, I received the infamous e-mail. It explained a lot more such as who the donor was, what it would be used for, etc. And from there, we went to work getting ready for this past Wednesday's announcement.

Along the way, I got the opportunity to oversee most of the media relations efforts of the announcement, working hand-in-hand with University spokesman Dave Kielmeyer and getting a lot of help from a small handful of people from around campus. But the thing that will stand out the most to me will be the 45 minutes I got to spend with Bill Frack before last Sunday's game with Miami.

When I heard about the donation, one of the first ideas that popped into my mind was putting together a video of Bill's memories and talk about his reasons for making the donation. You can view that video here: Bill Frack Video.

I had really only talked with Bill one time prior to Sunday's game with Miami. As an introvert, I'm not the type of person to just walk up to strangers and start conversation. It's just not something that's comfortable for me. So, Bill and I had crossed paths in the past but the only time I had casually talked to him was earlier in the year on a road trip when we sat next to each other in one of the hotel lobbies waiting for the team. We exchanged pleasantries then, but nothing really deep or intense. I knew he had given $2 million for the Stroh Center and will have the court named after him, but I knew little else. I wasn't even at BGSU when that donation was announced.

So, as I sat and talked with Bill for 45 minutes for the video, it was apparent how passionate he was about BG basketball and how many great memories he has. He can remember games and events from 50 years ago like they were yesterday. And his appreciation to the players and coaches over the past 60+ years is evident. He didn't make this donation because he wants to be applauded. In my opinion, he made this donation for two reasons -- because he appreciates the friendship and kindness of those who have worked in the program, and because he wants to see BGSU men's basketball reach a level comparable to what Butler and Gonzaga are at now.

I want to thank Bill for those 45 minutes. I think our University Marketing folks, led by Pete Fairbairn, did an amazing job condensing that interview down and still showing the passion Bill has for BGSU basketball. That conversation was mezmerizing to me. Since the 2008-09 season, I've seen in person every single BGSU men's basketball game both home and road. But prior to that, I had no history with the Falcons. Bill was able to convey to me what BG basketball meant to him when he was a kid back in the 1940's and 50's and what it should mean to kids whose fathers bring them to games in the Stroh Center in the future, as his dad did with him.

So, to Bill, I say "Thank you!" for spending time with me and thank you for the gift you've given to future generations of fans who will come to the Stroh Center to watch BGSU basketball!

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