While most of the student body was enjoying a monthlong holiday of decked halls and trimmed trees, an army of purple and white soldiers forged ahead with the same determination and grit found midsemester. The men’s basketball team competed in nine games during Christmas break, while the women’s team worked through an equally grueling eight-game schedule, including out-of-state trips to Oklahoma and Colorado.
ACU is in the midst of an unprecedented growth explosion. Large enrollment numbers are due in large part to a successful marketing campaign, and attempts by university high-brass to make this a great place to get an education.
However, not to be overlooked in a university’s success are its most heralded and scrutinized representatives: the athletes. Chances are few people can name the president of the University of Florida, but most people know who the under center for the Gators is. Duke University has perhaps the most popular college hoops program in the country, but many fans likely have no idea where Duke is located.
The heartbeat of any university is found in the faculty and staff, but their work is usually done behind the scenes. University of Texas physics professor Steven Weinberg won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1979, but the glow of the burnt orange spotlight shines brightly on quarterback Colt McCoy.
Despite their lack of airtime on ESPN, ACU athletes shoulder the same burden as athletes at “big schools.” They will be praised and then slandered, only to be praised again. Success in sports is based on only one thing: winning. When college teams win, the campus is abuzz, but when they lose they face the same scrutiny and questioning faced by the professionals.
The reason fans and students are so quick to jump on and off a team’s bandwagon is not due to a love of sports, but rather to pure human nature. Because athletes are a university’s most visible figures, they become the easiest target, just as the president of the United States becomes the focus of disdain when the economy tanks. Athletes are among the most beloved on campus, but with the privilege come pressure. Students often forget that the quarterback that throws an interception sits next to them in biology or that the shortstop who commits an error stands in line with them at the Bean.
So, here’s to you, our purple and white ambassadors. You have been thrust into the spotlight at a young age, and you are ACU’s most visible representatives. You will hit home runs, and the crowd will roar. You will miss a free throw, and the crowd will murmur. You will be the subject of boastful conversation and the topic of gossip, but you will always be front and center.