Sunday, March 7, 2010

Four National Championships......
and Counting

For most people, it is a constant dream to be a winner. Whether it be in the office or on a field of play, the chance to be recognized in any endeavor as one of the best in that field holds special meaning, and are what dreams are made of. Most people's competitive spirit and desire to succeed is as instinctive as blinking your eyes. To get noticed for an accomplishment means a great deal, but it involves a lot of hard work and dedication.

Having watched the Saints win the Super Bowl, it reminds me of the many people in New Orleans that have followed that team for years are now taking great pleasure in "their" team finally being the champion. How did it happen? What did it take for the Saints to go from the "Aints" to Super Bowl Champion? There are many ingredients that go into a winning formula. Its starts at the top with quality committed management, and this commitment flows right down to coaches, players, equipment managers and trainers. It even includes the fans. If anyone has committed fans, it's the New Orleans Saints...they have been through bad season after bad season, and over the years, have had very little reason to believe that their team would ever win their conference, much less the Super Bowl. Considering the devastation that hurricane Katrina brought to the city, this win was a huge uplifting for the Saints faithful, and I could not be happier for them.

Ferrum has been there- On a smaller scale of course, but the Ferrum Panthers have been to the top in Junior College football, and been crowned National Champions on four different occasions. In 1965, Ferrum won its first National Championship by defeating McCook Junior College (NE) 24-0. In 1966, Ferrum returned to the National Championship game but lost that year to the Kilgore Rangers (TX) 28-7. It would be two years before Ferrum would be in it's third national championship game, and this one provided their second title in four years. Ferrum defeated the Phoenix College Bears (AZ) 41-19. As time progressed, the format to select a National Champion changed, and became more based on a teams record and how they were ranked at the end of the season in the polls. In 1974, and 1977 Ferrum ended their season ranked No. 1, and were declared the National champion for the third and fourth times in 12 years. Quite an accomplishment.

Now Ferrum is on a much larger stage, and the road to a championship, even a conference championship is a more difficult climb. The dream of a national championship may seem unreachable to some, but not to me. In a word a champion must have talent. Strength, Speed, and Size, will fill out the desires of most any coach and while these are important, the academic challenges of college life must take priority before athletics.

Recruiting to find an athlete that has both academic and athletic skills is the same task that all colleges face. The recruiter must be able to sell his institution's strong academic offerings where the student will gain a valuable knowledge base. A support system that offers every chance for academic success, a modern campus with the promise of the up to date residence halls, classrooms, and recreational and social facilities, and lastly, an athletic program that affords the prospective athlete a chance to contribute and flourish in their sport.

Unfortunately in today's less than stellar economy, the cost of an education and all of the amenities that come with it is a huge consideration as a prospective student and his or her family evaluate colleges. Therefore a college must review ways to keep the costs down, while also looking at any and all programs available to offset that cost for the student. The prospective student must be sold on the value in attending a particular school. Financial, academic, and athletic value.

These are all elements that the recruiter must take into consideration, and be well versed on when trying to land an athlete, but in regard to the USA South conference, and for Ferrum in particular, recruiting has changed greatly from the days of those championship teams. In the world of NCAA Division III, Virginia is the home of 9 colleges that offer football. Geographically, virtually every section of the state has a program close by. Emory and Henry is the most southwestern program with Ferrum being a little further East, but still South of Roanoke. Averett University covers the western portion of Southside Virginia, with Christopher Newport University having a strong presence in Hampton Roads. Shenandoah University lies in the upper end of the Shenandoah Valley, with Bridgewater calling Harrisonburg home. Randolph-Macon is just north of Richmond in Ashland Va, while Hampden-Sydney offers another program in what may be considered Southside Virginia. Lastly, Washington and Lee calls the central portion of Western Virginia home in Lexington.

For Ferrum, the road to a championship, whether it be a conference championship or higher, begins with getting a high caliber athlete, and reassuring these athletes that what Ferrum can offer gives them both value and opportunity for their future. One element that will serve as a key tool for recruiting is the proposed Hank Norton Athletic Center. This center will serve all outdoor sports at Ferrum, and will bring the most modern of facilities to the campus to enhance the athlete's experience, and growth in their sport. Ferrum is still directing a fundraising campaign to make this dream a reality. While there have been generous donations for this center, the receipts have so far only totaled a little over 50 % of what is necessary to get the project off of the ground. If you would like to contribute to this project, or know someone else that would, please contact the Ferrum College office of planned giving at 1-877-FERRUM1 (1-877-337-7861). Your support of this facility is crucial, so please contact Ferrum today. It could be the next step towards Ferrum's fifth national championship.

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