A Flurry of Philanthropy: Coaches Take a Shot at Curing Cancer

Jeff Tufts

Jim Boeheim and Jim Calhoun, the basketball coaches at Syracuse University and the University of Connecticut, respectively, are well known for having recently won a national championship. A less well-known fact about them is that both of them have had cancer. For the seventh consecutive year, the Colgate University men’s basketball team is trying to strike back.

They are doing so by participating in the Coaches vs. Cancer Three-Point Attack. The program is put on by the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball coaches, with the help of 400 basketball coaches across the country.

People who wish to donate money to cancer research pledge a certain amount of money for each three-point shot made by the Colgate men’s basketball team over the course of the season. Making a flat donation is also an option.

According to Coach Emmett Davis the arrangement is a win-win situation.

“If we make threes it helps the team, and we’re helping fight cancer,” Davis said.

The program hits especially close to home here at Colgate, in light of former basketball coach Jack Bruen’s untimely death from pancreatic cancer in 1997.

“In the beginning, his death was a real motivation,” Davis said. “At the age of 48 he was taken away before his time. As a community we need to fight for research and a cure – if nothing else, we should do it in Jack Bruen’s honor.”

The program has seen much success in the past, both at Colgate and on the national level. Last season the Raiders made 188 three-point shots, raising over $3,300 for the fight against cancer. Since 2000, the total contribution Colgate fans have made is over $20,000. Nationally, $20 million dollars have been raised by the program over the past decade.

Campus response so far this year has been disappointing, according to Davis.

“We send a letter to basketball alums, to players’ parents, and the Hardwood Club [the basketball support group], as well as the campus distribution e-mail,” he said. “So far, the response from the campus hasn’t been very good – we’re down a little bit from previous years, which is a disappointment.

“As a basketball coach you deal with young, healthy people on a daily basis; it’s easy to lose sight of problems,” he said. “We all know somebody who either has cancer, has had cancer, or died from cancer.”

Davis wants to issue a challenge to the Colgate community to help the program make a record donation.

“This is something I feel very strongly about,” he said. “You don’t have to give a lot – every little bit helps.”