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What’s Right With College Athletics

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NCAAGolfing legend Jack Nicklaus was in Atlanta this week to receive the Coach Wooden Citizens Cup at the annual dinner of the “Athletes for a Better World.”  When asked about the state of college athletics today, Nicklaus had some very interesting commentary to share with us.

“Look, I know there is a lot of bad stuff going on in college athletics.  But, I love the concept of a college athletic scholarship. Not only do you have a commitment to the university but the university has a commitment to you.  It’s a good lesson for young people to learn.”

Nicklaus should know, he and his wife Barbara have five children all of whom earned Division I Athletic scholarships.  “That’s pretty good,” said Nicklaus with a sly smile.  Their grandson, Nick O’Leary, is a junior tight end at Florida State and even though Nicklaus still stays pretty busy, he never, ever misses a Florida State home game.

With the goal of honoring extraordinary citizens in college and professional sports, the “Athletes for a Better World” was founded in 1998 and counts among its members some of the most renowned names in sports today.  The selection committee consists of guys like Archie Manning, Billy Payne, Cal Ripken, Jr., John Smoltz and Gene Stallings.

In part, this years’ award went to Nicklaus because he and his wife founded the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care foundation which so far has raised over $23,000,000 to go to children’s health care services across the country.

At 73 years old, Jack Nicklaus can still be humble, he said, “I can’t tell you how much it means to me to receive an award with Coach Wooden’s name on it. It’s not about your athletic prowess. It’s about leadership.  It’s about how you handle your life.  How you do things the proper way. It’s nice to be honored for those reasons and not necessarily my golf.”

Nicklaus said that he particularly enjoyed meeting the colligate award winners.  They were Nathanael Franks from Arkansas, Purdue basketball player Andrea “Drey” Mingo, Meghan Lyons who plays Hockey for North Carolina, Eric Soza, the quarterback at Texas-San Antonio and Brigetta Barrett from Arizona who earned an Olympic Silver Medalist in the high jump and was 5 times NCAA Champion.

At the awards, Brigetta Barrett asked Jack Nicklaus, “How do we get to be you?”

The legendary golfer answered with his usual candidness, “Just keep doing what you are doing.”

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