Over the last few weeks, dozens of college basketball programs around the nation participated in hurricane relief exhibitions.
These added preseason games were made possible thanks to an NCAA waiver allowing teams to schedule additional contests with the goal of raising money for charities to benefit the victims of hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
Houston and the island of Puerto Rico were among the most devastated areas left in the wake of these natural disasters and will undergo rebuilding efforts for years to come, but through this small action NCAA teams were able to raise millions of dollars toward the recovery effort.
Charities benefiting from these exhibitions include: American Red Cross, Fondos Unidos de Puerto Rico, the Greater Houston Community Fund, the Florida Disaster Fund, Save the Children, United for Puerto Rico, United Way, and One America Appeal.
Amounts raised varied from small to large, but in the words of Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich: “Everything counts.” Kansas and Missouri capitalized on the opportunity and played each other for the first time since 2012. The result? A total fundraiser of nearly $2 million.
Meanwhile, Michigan State played host to Georgia in another high-profile game which took some remarkable last-minute planning to put together. All told, those two teams pulled in more than $300,000 toward recovery efforts.
A number of northeast programs, both large and small took part in these charity exhibitions and provided fans with matchups not often seen during the regular season.
St. John’s and Rutgers met in an 80-78 thriller in New Jersey, with the Scarlet Knights on top. Fairfield handled Hofstra, while Sacred Heart got the better of Manhattan. Army and Iona were even locked in a tight contest until the game had to be called early in the second half due to wet floor conditions on a humid night.
Other nearby programs taking part included Fordham, Niagara, Robert Morris, Canisius, and Colgate.
Below are comments from a handful of coaches following their experience in these exhibitions. Their words give weight to the impact college basketball has had on disaster recovery efforts and give credence to the idea these fundraising exhibitions should become a yearly tradition.
Iona head coach Tim Cluess: “Honestly, I think this is something the NCAA should allow us to do every single year. We don’t do enough of that in college sports, and I think it’s something that, with all the funds going to whatever organization you want that’s going to help people, why wouldn’t you do it every year? It’s great that they allowed it this year, and I’m hoping in the future they’ll allow it again.”
Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard: “I got a phenomenal e-mail this afternoon from someone saying how proud he was of both universities for doing this and how much Puerto Rico needs help. I think we sold 1,200-1,300 tickets, and you talk about $25,000 we can donate, that’s — I just think anything you could do to help is great.”
Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello: “That’s what it’s all about. With Ebube [Ebube] and obviously Mike [Alvarado] and Emmy [Andujar] in the past, there’s been a lot of Puerto Rican ties to our program, so it hit home for us.”
Niagara head coach Chris Casey: “Obviously everyone has the bonus of getting a second game, but our players, coaching staff, the university – we were all happy that we could play a small role in trying to provide some relief to what is a significant loss in people’s lives. The island of Puerto Rico and others hit by these hurricanes including here in the United States, their lives are going to be altered for a number of years. We were happy that we could find a way to provide some relief and hopefully in some small way make somebody’s life a little better.”
Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich: “What a great idea. The NCAA gets criticized sometimes, rightfully so, for all these rules. Some of them make sense, some don’t, but it’s great to pass this rule to do something for such a great cause. We raised some money, I think close to $5,000. Everything counts, right? Somebody said the Missouri/Kansas game rose over a million dollars. What a great thing, and then when it’s all said and done I’ll bet you there’s a fair amount of money that’s going to go to help the poor people who were affected by this stuff.”
Jaden Daly of A Daly Dose of Hoops contributed quotes for this piece. You can catch his content at http://dalydoseofhoops.blogspot.com/
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.