With all the negative hype surrounding college football this off-season—arrests, assaults, suspensions, expulsions, and so forth—there is finally one bright spot.
It involves a group of college coaches who will be making a visit to the American troops in the Middle East beginning on May 20 and ending on Memorial Day, May 26.
Five coaches—Mark Richt (UGA), Randy Simmons (Miami), Jack Siedlecki (Yale), Tommy Tuberville (Auburn), and Charlie Weis (Notre Dame)—will make that journey to show their appreciation for the great sacrifices that have been made so that we can continue to enjoy the sports we love, but, more importantly, so we can enjoy our freedom.
Those coaches will not only travel to various bases throughout the Mideast to show their loyalty and admiration, but they will coach flag-football games between teams of men and women who are stationed there, as well as hold question-and-answer sessions for the troops.
“The main thing is to honor our soldiers," Mark Richt said. "I just have a great appreciation for what they're doing for us. The very least I can do is help in any way."
This tour is being coordinated by Armed Forces Entertainment (AFE), an agency of the Department of Defense whose mission is to provide entertainment to U.S. soldiers stationed overseas.
Concerning this invitation offered by AFE, Richt said, “I don't know all of the details. All I know is that when they asked me, I said, ‘Yes.’ ”
Richt has several family ties with the military. His father-in-law served as a Green Beret, and his brother-in-law currently serves a colonel in the Air Force. Richt also has several uncles who have served in the military.
Shannon is also familiar with the importance with supporting the American troops, having a daughter who is currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.
In addition, Weis was extremely pleased to be invited for this trip, stating “I am honored to be selected to a group of collegiate football coaches to visit our troops in the Middle East the week leading up to Memorial Day.”
Weis went on to say “My family and I believe this to be a small way to thank and support our troops for defending our country. As a proud Notre Dame alumnus, I consider this trip to be a privilege and I'm looking forward to this with great anticipation.”
A similar tour, deemed “Operation Hardwood,” was conducted previously with some of college basketball’s elite coaches, including Tom Izzo from Michigan State. Hopefully this is a trend that will continue into the future.
I, for one, applaud this effort to uphold our troops for their courage and the sacrifices they are making.
What an awesome experience for the coaches to see first-hand the environment into which our troops are placed, and what an awesome experience for the troops to have the opportunity to “play” for some of the elite coaches of college football.