The recently concluded NCAA basketball tournament may have been the best three week sporting event in recent years. Upsets across the nation, underdogs like Northern Iowa and Cornell slaying giants Kansas and Wisconsin.
Perhaps the most gratifying story was that of tiny Butler University – total enrollment 4,200. Its most recognizable graduate is author Kurt Vonnegut. It boasts of having the largest telescope in the state of Indiana. Only three Butler players ever made it to pro basketball, the last one was in 1975 so we are not talking about a basketball factory here. In the tournament Butler beat Florida State, Murray State, Syracuse and Kansas State to earn the school’s first EVER trip to the Final Four, which just happened to be played in Indianapolis, 5.6 miles from the Butler campus.
The story gets better.
The day before the national semifinal game against Michigan State (enrollment 47,000), Butler players were shuttled from their downtown hotel back to campus to attend classes – that’s right they went to class – not just on Friday but all week long.
No disrespect, but do you think any of the players from the other final four teams monitored a class online?
I don’t think so. Butler beat Michigan State on Saturday night to earn a spot in the title game Monday night. Guess what was scheduled Monday – practice at 6:30 a.m. (yawn ). Most would go right back to bed after practice right?
Wrong, eight players attended morning classes back on campus. They were actually applauded when they rolled into class. They returned to Indianapolis for another light practice at 1:00 p.m. before playing Duke for the national championship at 9:00 p.m.
You know the rest of the story – a last second half court shot bounced off the rim and Butler lost to Duke by two points. But... hearing the commitment to academics AND athletics during the most important week of their lives makes Butler a winner in everybody’s scorecard.