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Linden and Tony Dungy.

Linden (left) and Tony Dungy at the 2007 Annual Celebration

Why sports?

Athletics enhance college life, Dungy says

From M, fall 2007

On May 8, more than 3,000 alumni and friends of the University gathered at Mariucci Arena for the University of Minnesota Alumni Association Annual Celebration, featuring musician Stan Freese (B.A.'67), talent casting and booking director for Walt Disney Productions, and winning Super Bowl coach Tony Dungy (B.A.'78). Dungy offered a heartfelt reflection, based on his own experience as a student at the University of Minnesota, on why he believes that athletics increase the quality of life for the entire student body. Here are excerpts from his remarks.

"There was a young man I know who grew up in Michigan, on the campus of Michigan State University, and he never really thought of attending the University of Minnesota until his senior year of high school. He visited the campus on January 27, 1973, primarily because Michigan State was playing Minnesota in a basketball game. When that young man got here, he was very impressed, but it wasn't by the Michigan State basketball team. It was what he saw here on campus that caught his attention.

"Now, if you guessed that that young man was me, you'd be right. But when I said that athletics attracts tremendous people to a university, I wasn't referring to myself. My brother got to spend some [time] up here with me. He wasn't a star athlete, but he was a star student. Because of his experience coming here, mainly to football and basketball games, he decided he wanted to attend dental school at the University of Minnesota. Then he decided to make his practice here in the Twin Cities. So if you follow the connection, [athletics was] indirectly responsible for getting an outstanding student, an outstanding dentist, and an outstanding person here to the Twin Cities, one who never played on a sports team while he was here.

"I believe that's more the rule than the exception. I'm someone who doesn't apologize for wanting our teams to do really well, for wanting to have sell-out crowds and national championships. I don't apologize for wanting to attract the very best coaches we can get here, for wanting to turn out top-notch student-athletes--men and women who will go on to be great citizens in our community. I don't apologize for wanting a football stadium to be built on campus, even though it's going to be expensive.

"Not only do I think we should not apologize, I believe we should be excited about it. I happen to think that it pays off in a lot of ways, and I, for one, am very grateful to the University of Minnesota, because it paid off for me. If it wasn't for [the people I met and] for the instruction that I got from my coaches and from great faculty members, I know I would not be the coach of the Super Bowl champions in 2007. Let's build on the great tradition that we have...let's continue to make this university the very best in the country, and continue to make the state of Minnesota proud of its Gophers."

For more on the annual celebration, including an audio recording of Stan Freese's outstanding tuba performance, visit the UMAA Web site.