LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Simmons College of Kentucky is using its limelight of national attention to help change lives.
"Big doors swing on little hinges,” said college president Dr. Kevin Cosby. “And when we started the basketball program, I had no idea that something local would get so much national attention."
A spotlight is on the college after a NBA story highlighting the basketball team and the school’s mission aired earlier this month. Buzz Williams, the men's basketball coach at Virginia Tech, was so moved by the story he promised to donate his tithe for the month of April to the college.
A tweet from Coach Williams reads:
“Among the many basketball stories in March, this one touched my heart, and I am forever a fan.”
So Dr. Cosby started the "No S.W.E.A.T" challenge to keep the momentum going after Williams announced his donation. And the title was inspired by Williams for a couple reasons.
"He is known for perspiring as he engages in coaching on the sidelines,” Cosby said. “But when he said he was going to make a donation to Simmons, there was no sweat. I mean, he did it effortlessly. He felt no pressure. He just, from his heart, felt like it was the right thing."
Cosby explained S.W.E.A.T. is also an acronym for: Simmons Weaving Education and Athletics Together.
"What we are attempting to do is to use sports as the bait to draw kids in to a program in which they can tap into their undiscovered selves, get a great education, and be productive members of society,” Cosby said.
Simmons College, the oldest historical black college in the commonwealth of Kentucky, is in the heart of west Louisville. Cosby said the greatest testament to the success of the college is when education impacts the lives of kids from the impoverished, crime-ridden streets of the west end.
“The greatest win is not the win that takes place on the basketball court," he said. "But the greatest win is the one that will take place in the lives of kids who would never have an opportunity to go to school if it were not for a Simmons College.”
Cosby said William’s donation helps affirm what the college is doing to fulfill its mission is working. Williams responded Tuesday on Twitter about the donation:
Only want to help.— Buzz Williams (@TeamCoachBuzz) March 28, 2017
I didn't give so the story would be about me, but to help those students.
Inspired by Rev Cosby & Coach Eaves leadership. https://t.co/wlad5xw6dm
The S.W.E.A.T. challenge encourages coaches across the country to impact their own communities by donating to and supporting historically black colleges and universities.
"A lot of kids want to participate,” said Jerry Eaves, the head basketball coach at Simmons College. “But as you go up the ranks, it weeds out what we consider the lesser players. But they could be better people."
Every member of the team is a walk-on. Eaves said from the start his goal is not to win games but to help his players gain the knowledge and skills to be successful off the court. And he said others are taking notice.
"I've spoken to Reed Johnson, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley, Buzz (Williams) ... about the things they wanted to do and how they want to help and want to continue this throughout the country," Eaves said.
"Because it's not just Louisville. We have these urban areas everywhere that we need to start doing these things with and take some of the resources that we give so much to our athletic programs, that we need to pull back. And we need to start giving it to areas that kids are in need. And they need to have good leadership and sponsorship."
Eaves said one way they hope to provide more options to more students is by adding five or six sports to the program. He said Simmons College will start by adding a women’s basketball program next year.
"Without finances, we can't do this,” Eaves said. “You have to have finances. We need finances at Simmons, without a doubt. The money has to be used properly. But we have to be more encompassing of everyone."
Eaves and Cosby are challenging coaches across the country and the Commonwealth to join in and support black students and athletes.
"I want all the coaches to do something,” Cosby said. “Because if everyone does a little, no one has to do a lot. And we can make a tremendous difference."
Cosby said he is a die-hard University of Louisville fan and believes the program’s head coach will step up.
"I don't think, knowing Coach (Rick )Pitino, that he's going to allow a coach in Virginia to outdo him in Louisville for the thing that matters most: developing kids," Cosby said. "It's all about the kids."
And the greatest win might not be on the court but in these students’ lives.
"We're not only educating kids,” Cosby said. “We're educating missionaries with the mission of what education does."
To watch the NBA TV story on Simmons, click here.
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