Smile Politely

B1G Media Days focused on inclusion, diversity, and volunteering

Comparatively few reporters traveled to Minneapolis for this autumn’s 2022 Basketball Big Ten Media Days, held last week at the Target Center. So maybe you didn’t hear that the themes were inclusion, diversity, and volunteering.

Yes, 28 basketball coaches talked about basketball, including the University of Illinois’ Brad Underwood and Shauna Green. And yes, a bevy of basketball players were also on hand, answering questions.

But Commissioner Kevin Warren made plain in his opening remarks, and in introducing each coach for a televised Q&A session, that the conference expects its members to connect with their communities’ charitable organizations, whether it’s volunteering at Habitat for Humanity, or raising awareness and funding to combat disease.

Women’s and men’s teams were showcased equally. If you were in the room, or watching from home, you’d find it hard to ignore the women’s programs. Discussion of Title IX’s 50th anniversary, and the number of Black coaches roaming B1G sidelines, could not escape even a casual viewer’s notice. Even among the attending journalists were more Black, Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC), more women, and more LGBTQ+ people than you’d expect from a Midwestern gathering of people who talk about sports. Unless, of course, you don’t limit your expectations.

Hall of Fame journalist Charles Hallman, who’s spent a career asking why a disproportionately Black sport didn’t have proportionally Black leadership, asked each of the Black leaders how it felt to be surrounded by people who looked like them.

Illinois Chancellor Robert Jones spent 34 years at the University of Minnesota, and Minneapolis gave the world both Prince and Ilhan Omar. But Star-Tribune reporter Marcus Fuller’s coverage of Gopher sports began with zero Black head coaches.

Being in Minneapolis was important to Warren, a longtime resident of the Twin Cities, given what happened there in 2020. George Floyd was in the room, at least in spirit and discussion. Mayor Jacob Frey was present in the flesh.

In the same week that Tommy Tuberville said, basically, that black people are criminals, and GOP candidates campaigned to end marriage equality, the U of I and its consortium of research institutions made a statement about inclusivity.

The B1G provided, on request, the notes Warren used to introduce each coach by naming their favorite charitable organization. You can read them below. 

Brenda Frese, Maryland women’s basketball

Coach Frese has worked closely with numerous cancer awareness groups both locally and nationwide.

Coach and her program also have a long-standing relationship with Team IMPACT and Special Olympics of Maryland. 

Kevin Willard, Maryland men’s basketball

Coach Willard is our newest Big Ten men’s basketball coach, joining our Big Ten family following a successful 12-year run at Seton Hall. 

Coach and his student-athletes work with Team IMPACT to help children dealing with
serious illnesses, as well as Special Olympics of Maryland

Teri Moren, Indiana women’s basketball

Coach Moren is active with the local Special Olympics chapter, including implementing an event at Indiana called Candy Stripe Crew — a basketball clinic hosted by the Hoosiers’ women’s basketball program for children and adults with developmental disabilities.

Mike Woodson, Indiana men’s basketball

Coach Woodson has long been an advocate and supporter of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America through his charity golf tournament and most recently has been a champion for the Bloomington Chapter’s Boys to Men program, a powerful and emotional group that directly impacts young males by providing mentorship.

Coquese Washington, Rutgers women’s basketball

Coach Washington is one of two new women’s basketball head coaches in the Big Ten this season, returning to the conference where she helped lead Penn State to three consecutive Big Ten titles from 2012-14.

Coach is very passionate about the Play4Kay initiative, helping to raise funds for
women’s cancers. She also remains an active member of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, currently serving on that organization’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.

Steve Pikiell, Rutgers men’s basketball

Coach Pikiell has helped to organize a scrimmage with Fairfield University on October 30th at Jersey Mike’s Arena with all net proceeds benefitting Team Eric LeGrand and the Christopher Reeve Foundation to help find a cure for paralysis.

Katie Gearlds, Purdue women’s basketball

Coach Gearlds is co-chair of the Lafayette Hunger Hike, an annual event that brings
together leaders in the Greater Lafayette community to raise funds in support of several organizations that provide food to the less fortunate.

Coach and her players also volunteer their time at local retirement communities as well as the Boys & Girls Club of Lafayette.

Matt Painter, Purdue men’s basketball

For many years, Coach Painter has been an ardent supporter of the National
Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Coaches vs. Cancer initiative, which helps to raise funds in support of cancer research.

Shauna Green, Illinois women’s basketball

Coach Green is our second new women’s basketball head coach in the Big Ten, coming to us after a successful run at the University of Dayton.

In her short time in Champaign since taking over at Illinois, Coach has become involved with the United Way of Champaign County, while also volunteering at local schools including the Next Generation School and Bottenfield Elementary.

Brad Underwood, Illinois men’s basketball

Coach Underwood has long been a supporter of the American Cancer Society’s
partnership with Coaches vs. Cancer.

Coach has organized an annual country-themed fundraising dinner called Kickin’
Cancer, with this past year’s event raising nearly $300,000, the most money raised at any indoor event last year for the entire Coaches vs. Cancer program.

Joe McKeown, Northwestern women’s basketball

Coach McKeown and his family are heavily involved in the Autism Speaks Foundation, a national organization that creates awareness and raises money for the fight against autism. 

Chris Collins, Northwestern men’s basketball

Like many of his colleagues, Coach Collins has been a supporter of Coaches vs.
Cancer, participating regularly in the charity’s golf outings to raise money for cancer

Lisa Bluder, Iowa women’s basketball

Coach Bluder and her Hawkeyes work closely with the Iowa City area chapter of Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit organization that helps people in the community and around the world build or improve a place they call home.

Fran McCaffery, Iowa men’s basketball

Coach McCaffery and his wife Margaret have been champions for Coaches vs. Cancer and the American Cancer Society for many years, having helped raise more than $4.5 million since they arrived at Iowa in 2010.

The McCaffery’s also helped spearhead the launch of a new Adolescent and Young
Adult Cancer program in Iowa City.

Marisa Moseley, Wisconsin women’s basketball

Coach Moseley has served alongside her team at Second Harvest Food Bank and the Special Olympics of Wisconsin. 

Coach is also a board member for Team IMPACT, as well as the Playing Field — two
organizations focused on providing opportunities through sport to underserved

Greg Gard, Wisconsin men’s basketball

In 2016, Coach Gard and his wife, Michelle, founded “Garding Against Cancer,” an
initiative that raises money for cancer research and patient care throughout Wisconsin, hosting events across the state to help keep funds in those communities.

In the six years of the program’s existence, it has raised more than $6.5 million for
groundbreaking research at Wisconsin’s Carbone Cancer Center, as well as for patient care around Wisconsin. 

Amy Williams, Nebraska women’s basketball

Coach Williams is a member of the Nebraska Athletics Inclusion Council, which meets to develop and evaluate the strategic plan for diversity and inclusion in Nebraska Athletics. 

Coach is also a noted speaker, not only serving as a guest lecturer on leadership for
Nebraska’s College of Business, but also speaking to numerous organizations year-
round, including the Rotary Club and Cornhusker Boys and Girls Club. 

Fred Hoiberg, Nebraska men’s basketball

Coach Hoiberg and his wife, Carol, have worked tirelessly with numerous organizations including Coaches vs. Cancer and the American Heart Association.

Coach and his program are also actively involved with the Malone Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating unity and prosperity throughout Lincoln while honoring African-American heritage, and he is a supporter of Camp Odayin, a camp for children with heart disease in Oakdale, Minnesota. 

Kevin McGuff, Ohio State women’s basketball

Coach McGuff works closely with the Land On A Cure Foundation, which raises money to help children battling rare diseases.

Coach and his program are also prominent supporters of the 2nd & 7 Foundation, which promotes reading by providing free books and positive role models to children in need.

Chris Holtmann, Ohio State men’s basketball

Coach Holtmann and his wife Lori have helped kids stay active through parks and
recreation scholarships and resurfacing of outdoor courts.

They have also participated in the Adopt a Center program and are regular contributors to the Mid-Ohio Food Bank, as well as proud to supporters of the A Kid Again program, Coaches vs. Cancer and the American Cancer Society.

Lindsay Whalen, Minnesota women’s basketball

Coach Whalen is active in the Minnesota Lynx President’s Circle, an organization within the WNBA franchise that has reached 105 nonprofits and over 6,100 youth since it began over six years ago.

This summer, Coach also spoke on behalf of the Senneh Foundation, an organization that focuses its support on educational efforts for diverse low-income urban and immigrant youth populations. 

Ben Johnson, Minnesota men’s basketball

Coach Johnson is a Bell Bank Champion and part of the “Pay it Forward” program, while focusing his efforts in the local community, particularly youth groups.

Coach also attended the annual Create a Memory event, which partners with local
Minneapolis/St. Paul youth service agencies the opportunity to play ball at major sports facilities. In addition, he has paired with Legacy Children’s Foundation, developed by Fargo teenagers to provide educational support and opportunities for impoverished teens.

Kim Barnes Arico, Michigan women’s basketball

Coach Arico is active with the ChadTough Foundation, which works tirelessly to fund
research toward a cure for DIPG, an aggressive brain tumor that affects children.
Coach also ran in this year’s ChadTough 5K run in Ann Arbor, finishing second in her
age group.

Juwan Howard, Michigan men’s basketball

Coach Howard created the Juwan Howard Foundation, which gives to at-risk inner-city children by organizing clothing drives and donating funds to youth-oriented groups, including an adoption agency, a youth home and Boys & Girls clubs. The foundation has helped support the placement of over 50 abandoned children into permanent homes.

Coach and his wife, Jenine, also started The Juice Foundation, which pinpoints a
healthy lifestyle as the essential key to improving cancer survival. It has raised
awareness and funds for individuals who seek alternative healing for cancer.

Suzy Merchant, Michigan State women’s basketball

In 2016, Coach Merchant helped create the EmpowHER Retreat, designed to build
confidence in girls by providing interactive workshops concentrated on the importance of self-empowerment, confidence, health and wellness and relationship building.

In 2019, Merchant was invited by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer to serve as an advisory member of the Michigan Task Force on Women in Sports, which is dedicated to developing policies, programs, and recommended investments to support and promote opportunities for girls and women in sports in Michigan. 

Tom Izzo, Michigan State men’s basketball

Coach Izzo has been actively involved in the Greater Lansing community for nearly 40 years. He and his wife, Lupe, started the Izzo Legacy to help support a wide variety of organizations in mid-Michigan, including The House of Promise, a residential program that helps address needs for post-trauma survivors, the Cristo Rey Community Center and the Greater Lansing Food Bank. 

Carolyn Kieger, Penn State women’s basketball

Coach Kieger has given back to her community in a number of ways, including
participation with Special Olympics, the United Way, YWCA and the Pennsylvania Pink Zone.

Coach and the Lady Lion program are also in the process of publishing a children’s
book on inclusion later this year.

Micah Shrewsberry, Penn State men’s basketball

Coach Shrewsberry and his wife Molly lead the charge for the Penn State chapter of
Coaches vs. Cancer, which has raised nearly $3.7 million to date and is among the
nation’s most successful fundraising chapters.

Since coming to Penn State, Coach Shrewsberry has also spearheaded holiday and
back-to-school shopping sprees for local disadvantaged youth, providing the local
children and their families with back-to-school supplies before the school year gets
underway and help make holiday wishes a reality.

Top image screenshot from Illini Report YouTube video of Brad Underwood at B1G Media Days. 

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