As I sat in Ben Light Gymnasium on November 11 and watched the clock tick down, I was filled with such excitement and absolute joy. I wasn’t alone. About 100 other fans of IC volleyball were there with me, watching our team clinch the regional championship and a chance to compete for the national title.
There are so many things I love about being president of Ithaca College, and without a doubt, cheering on our Bombers teams is one of the things at the top of the list. At each wrestling meet, each football game, each gymnastics competition, and at so many more events, I continue to be incredibly impressed with the strength and the passion of our student-athletes and tremendously proud of their accomplishments inside and outside of the classroom—of which there are many.
This academic year alone, 101 of the 619 fall student-athletes who earned Liberty League All-Academic honors were Ithaca College students. Eight of our student-athletes were named to the College Sports Information Directors of America All-District team. Our women’s soccer team reached the second round of the NCAA tournament. Our men’s soccer team claimed 14 victories, matching the most ever in one season in the program’s history. Our field hockey team won 13 games, reaching the second round of the ECAC championship. And our football team won 8 games this season, including a fantastic and thrilling Cortaca Jug, where our men demonstrated incredible technique, intellect, and grit to beat Cortland.
But their achievements in the heat of competition are only part of the story. Our student-athletes are leaders within their sport and on our campus. They are scholars. Their work ethic is clear in their dedication to maintaining academic excellence, and their deep commitment to our campus and the greater Ithaca community.
Just this fall, our men’s lacrosse team organized a walk to benefit Alzheimer research, and members of our softball team represented their sport and our college at the Cancer Resource Center’s annual walkathon and 5K. Our football team hosted veterans from Bath Veterans Hospital at our game against St. Vincent, and our Student-Athlete Advisory Council is collectively supporting the Special Olympics. Underpinning this is the ongoing success of our Leadership Academy, which, since 2014, has delivered mentoring, workshops, and practical ways to apply concepts around character and leadership to hundreds of our student-athletes.
I am completely blown away and tremendously inspired by our student-athletes. And when I think more broadly about athletics within the context of our campus and our college community, the overarching contributions of our programs, coaches, staff, and student-athletes are unmistakable.
Sporting opportunities don’t just deliver moments for our student-athletes to hone skills, develop mental toughness, and learn how to balance academic and athletic pursuits. Participation creates bonds among student-athletes here on our campus, and later in life when these students become alumni. Our athletics programs energize our alumni communities around the nation—this is evident in many ways, most noticeably during the Cortaca Jug with viewing parties in many cities, and next year, with our journey to MetLife stadium, where our community will cheer on our Bombers in an NFL arena.
Sport enables all of us to learn about inclusion, to learn how to be both gracious winners and gracious losers. On a grand scale, sport teaches us about ethics, fairness, and parity. It can illuminate the impacts of globalization while celebrating both the distinctions and commonalities between different parts of the world, different cultures and communities.
But most of all, sport inspires us to dream. It opens our hearts. It puts us on the edge of our seats, and it delivers a sense of place and camaraderie that lasts a lifetime. When I think about the incredible power of sport, and the experience that our athletics programs deliver to our students and college community, I couldn’t be prouder—or more grateful.