Broncos Athletics

Student-athlete good triumphed over evil

Oct. 8, 2001

By John Suarez
Long Island University - Brooklyn Campus

On a crystal clear day in New York City the morning of September 11, the face of the world changed. While entering the main doors of Long Island University in Brooklyn, I heard a loud pop from a distance toward an already smoke-filled lower Manhattan. I would sit and stare at our TV, 3.2 miles from Ground Zero, and the rest is history.

Immediately, we accounted for all of our student-athletes (some had internships at the World Trade Center) and found out all was well. Frantic parents of athletes from 23 states and 12 countries could not reach our kids. Phone lines were dead and most cell phones were out. Somehow, one outside line was working in our associate AD's office. Athletes lined up to call home.

What happened in the next hour is what I had known all along -- that we who are involved in intercollegiate athletics are proud of our profession mainly because of our student-athletes. Without any direction from an administrator or coach, our athletes organized themselves and went across the street to Brooklyn Hospital to donate blood. This occurred less than an hour after the attack, and I'm pretty confident that they were the first to donate blood in the country.

That afternoon, our entire university community greeted tens of thousands of people as they walked over the nearby Manhattan Bridge that connects the two boroughs. Our athletes were handing out water, fruit and snacks to stunned commuters. Some still had soot over them and some had walked all the way from uptown to Brooklyn.

Being 3.2 miles from Ground Zero makes you rethink a lot of things in your life. For 18- to 22-year-olds who have experienced only peace and prosperity in their lifetimes, I was curious to see how they would respond. They didn't let me down.

We have read articles of student-athletes getting arrested, of commission reports that collegiate athletics are on the brink of destruction, of university president-approved million-dollar salaries for coaches, and quite frankly, I have had enough of it.

Ninety-eight percent of presidents, administrators, coaches and student-athletes are doing the right thing. Like anything in life, there are people in large organizations who want to do the wrong thing.

That is what gets publicized and we all know it. If one of our student-athletes had been caught looting a store that evening, we would have been on CNN. Of course, our actions that day will never get noticed, nor should they, considering the magnitude of the event. But we have to do a better job as an organization to promote the "good" of collegiate athletics to balance the 2 percent that brings us down.

I'm sure all across the country, student-athletes jumped into action to help in their own way during this tragedy.

Let people know what they did. Show people that the other 98 percent does teach morals, ethics and community service, and could not care less about an "arms race" and commercialization about our programs. College sports are good. If anyone disagrees with that, tell them to stand 3.2 miles from Ground Zero and I'll be glad to show them.

John Suarez is the director of athletics at Long Island University-Brooklyn Campus.