July 19, 2011
Saluki head coach Dale Lennon
"It is a privilege to be here today making this announcement for a very worthy cause. To give you some background about how all of this came to be, when we came back from winter break Mike came to me with a concept and it is something that number one was impressive in itself. He wanted to give back to the community, wanted to have something that the team could be a part of that was significant. He presented the idea of doing a one time worn jersey concept. When he presented it at first I thought there was no way this could happen, there were too many hurdles that we would have to encounter starting internally and then externally with the NCAA. As we took each step we were able to clear those hurdles and gain the support from the NCAA to do this event -which is something very significant. In my 25 plus years coaching college football I have never seen anything quite like this and the opportunity for fans to be able to put a name on the back of the jersey and then see that jersey on the field then being able to own it at the end makes it very significant. It is also special because like most people I have had family members affected by cancer, I lost my father three years ago to cancer. It doesn't just have to be cancer though it can be for anything that you want to bring memory to a loved one and it doesn't have to be someone that has passed on, it can be someone that survived cancer or survived something that is worth noting. Those are the things that I think makes this very special and emotional. It is from the heart and I am so excited to be apart of this."
Senior safety Mike McElroy
"This is finally coming to fruition here and this is exciting for me and for the people here. This all started during my injury. I was sitting on the sidelines thinking `what is next? How can we leave an impact here other than football?' A couple years down the road people may forget what you have done, how many tackles you have, how many interceptions you've had so the thought process was what can we do as a team to leave a legacy here in southern Illinois? A couple guys and I start bouncing ideas off one another to think of something where we could make an impact then I started thinking about my high school- Lowell High school near Grand Rapids, Michigan. They do a pink out game where they wear pink jerseys and they actually give the jerseys to someone affected by cancer or to a family member and it is a great fundraiser for them and it something that really brings community support and something that every one in the town knows about and really looks forward to each year. My idea was how can we bring that to a larger scale, how can this university, this community, this region take this and run with it? So I approached Coach in his office and laid out this grand plan that I had in my head and he gave me those looks like this is a great idea but there wasn't a lot of hope behind it. We started digging a little more and were able to clear a couple of hurdles then a major moment came. After talking to the administration and getting their approval we had to write to the NCAA requesting permission to do this with the jerseys. That took about three weeks where we were writing hand written letters and nothing was coming back, writing e-mails and nothing was coming back and I was walking out of class one day and got an e-mail on my phone from the NCAA rules commissioner that said they were going to allow a one time pass for this to happen wishing us good luck and hoping it would work. After that all the other hurdles came down pretty easily. We were able to raise money to put this into fruition.
Southern Illinois Director of Athletics Mario Moccia
"The one reason I am so excited about this is one of the things you try to do at any football program or athletic program is to try and differentiate yourself from the competition and our level of football, at Southern Illinois to say you were the first in the nation to do something that is something pretty special. We are the first in college football history, in any program to be able to do this and I am very proud of our student-athlete. Often when a student-athlete is singled out it is usually for something negative and it is in the paper so I hope Mike receives as much or more of the positive things, not only does he stand out amongst our 360 student-athletes but to raise what will be a significant amount of money that would not have happened without him I believe he should get all the credit in the world, he is one of our super stars and I am not just talking about on the field.
Often times we have tried as an athletic administration to not fall under the beuacracy that happens sometimes at an institution and it is ironic that you have to fight doing that because Mike and Coach came and knocked on my door and told me this idea and I remember thinking that there was no way this could happen and then I called Dan Rohr our compliance director and he said yeah there is no way that could happened. I told them I was behind them but here was the hurdle. There was one guy who believed and that was Mike, he took the reigns and called and hounded the NCAA and the next thing you know he showed me the waiver and I was like Dan you better come down here you aren't going to believe this. So he gets a ton of credit for ram rodding this project through.
The NCAA would not allow us to purchase the jerseys so two people in the community stepped up and that was Greg Cook from Cook's Portable Warehouse and the doctors of SIOC, our orthopedic doctors. Both of which have been huge contributers of Saluki Way so I want to thank Greg Cook and the doctors at SIOC and personally from SIOC Greg Thompson. Additionally I want to thank Under Armor, they have been a huge partner of ours and I look forward to a school wide partnership upcoming but for right now they will be producing the jerseys so I want to thank them.
Lastly I want to note that the American Cancer Society's Coaches versus Cancer program will distribute 100 percent of the proceeds locally for cancer research so it will affect the southern Illinois region. So all the money that is generated will stay right here in southern Illinois."
Jennifer Lee, American Cancer Society Regional Director
"I am here to say that the American Cancer Society is proud to partner with SIU and Saluki Athletics upcoming Black Out Cancer game. The money that will be raised through this Coaches versus Cancer activity will further to help our mission of eliminating cancer by providing funding for cancer research, educational programs on prevention and early detection of cancer, advocacy efforts and also for free services for those diagnosed with cancer. I would also like to thank you in advance for all those individuals in southern Illinois that will benefit from this activity. Lastly, if you would like to know more about The American Cancer society you can contact us at 800-ACS-2345 or visit us at cancer.org"