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Football Gives Slippery Rock Alumni Reason To Cheer

March 17, 2001

Boca Raton News
Guest Commentary: Howard Schnellenberger

For years Dr. Russell Wright has hosted Slippery Rock University's annual South Florida alumni gathering at his wonderful Wright-by-the-Sea resort. I imagine that the event in years past was a nostalgic reunion of old friends and the always present request for funds to support their alma mater.

By special invitation to President Anthony J. Catanese, members of FAU's administration and I attended last week's Slippery Rock alumni event. This time there was a great sense of celebration for the day when "The Rock" invades Pro Player Stadium, home of the Fighting Owls.

Slippery Rock President Warren Smith and his staff are veterans of this annual gathering. For the first time, Coach Mihalik and the athletic director attended to infuse new purpose and to charge all faithful sons and daughters of Slippery Rock to be on hand September 1st.

Enthusiasm reigned so high that alumni had visions of a billboard to herald the coming of Sept. 1st. Posted at Pro Player Stadium, the billboard will inform Dolphin pre-season game goers of what I believe is, if not the most important, the most inspirational game of Slippery Rock's proud tradition.

Moving through the crowd, I met big Rocks and little Rocks, young and old who shared sheer joy in anticipation of their first game in south Florida. President Smith and Coach Milhalik will bring Slippery Rock Football to them-an event that Dr. Wright confessed to me was beyond his wildest dreams or greatest hope.

I experienced the very essence of college sports: seeing people who have no good reason to get together, who have no excuse to be so excited except for the thrill of their alma mater and love for the game of football.

At age 95 Dr. Wright, who has had his life shaped, driven and interwoven to Slippery Rock, wanted to be a teacher and graduated with an education degree in 1923. He earned his medical degree and took his skills to Detroit where he served as team doctor for the Lions and the Pistons before taking respite right by the sea in Delray Beach.

Dr. Wright and countless loyal alumni find themselves thousands of miles away from their universities, wanting to be on hand to cheer for their team. He, like many citizens in Paradise, has been without a local football program to cheer for these many years. Now for the first time in the history of Paradise, transplanted zealots of college football will adopt a new love for a new team and become fans of the heart for this new kid on the block.

It begins on September 1, 2001 with Florida Atlantic University hosting Slippery Rock at Pro Player Stadium at 4 p.m. And, where it will end?



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