Photograph by Hilary Swift for the New York Times.
It’s First and Ten – On and Off the Football Field
By Mary Lou Retelle
I hope by now you’ve seen the profile of Anna Maria College in the December 27, 2019 New York Times story written by Bill Pennington, a veteran New York Times sports journalist. To receive this attention in one of the nation’s most preeminent newspapers is a true honor. The story focuses on our football program, but we made sure to highlight everything that makes our campus special - a supportive culture that encourages engagement, compassion, and service - and how that translates from on the field to off the field.
When interviewed for this article, I was asked to describe what I believe the value is with having a football program at Anna Maria. My response to the question was that aside from the strengths of the academic offerings here, football helps to create a unifying factor for our community. It increases school spirit and creates a fuller experience for our students by way of tradition and increased activity on campus during the weekends. Football games, the energy of the crowd, and the associated tailgating engage students, families, alumni, faculty and staff. And, they are truly fun to attend.
The story and photos ran on page one of the New York Times sports section and was picked up by other newspapers and media outlets around the country. I’ve included a hyperlink to the story below.
By way of background, this past fall the New York Times sports section embarked on a comprehensive look at the state of football in America. The series of articles looked at the game from multiple perspectives, including the evolving narrative about football as a sport, the impact of football on a small Ohio town, future concepts for helmets, how football connects military families on deployment back to home, and of course health and safety.
As part of this series Bill Pennington came to visit Anna Maria College. Mr. Pennington had researched that over the last decade, 23 colleges across all divisions had dropped football. However, 66 institutions, including Anna Maria College, added football in that same time period. Mr. Pennington wanted to know more about our football program – what were the factors behind its inception, its positive impact on overall enrollment and diversity, and why we believe going forward that it’s an important part of our athletic offerings and overall campus experience.
Mr. Pennington was incredibly interested in our student-athletes, coaching staff, and mission. He also wanted to know more about how a football program at Anna Maria College – that hasn’t always been competitive – is so directly connected to the academic achievements of our athletes and such an important part of campus life. He spent three days on campus, attended practices and a game, and tailgated with our fans.
Athletic Director Joe Brady, Head Football Coach Dan Mulrooney and the entire football team, along with several members of our faculty and staff helped provide Mr. Pennington with an in-depth view into our campus culture and how our football program is one way we help open doors of opportunity for students. Our student-athlete Kevin Supan told Mr. Pennington about how the support and encouragement of coaches, faculty and staff has helped him raise his GPA and aspire to a career where he can apply his college degree.
I am so proud that Anna Maria College was so prominently featured in the New York Times. I think the article accurately captures the advantages of our close-knit campus community, the passion and spirit of our students, and how introducing football to our campus supports the overall college experience. The fact is that our enrollment has grown over the decade not only because of football and other sports, but also because of our diverse academic offerings, strong community connections and service opportunities, and our incredibly engaged campus community.
Thanks to our coaching staff, athletes, faculty, staff and Trustees for spending time with Mr. Pennington. I hope you will share this story with your friends.
Mary Lou Retelle became Anna Maria College's 11th President on June 1, 2015, following nearly a year of service as the College's interim President. During her tenure, she has led a strategy to establish the College as a leading higher-education provider of service-oriented degrees through the pursuit of creative new programs; to advance its mission as one that integrates a liberal arts foundation with professional preparation; and to strengthen Anna Maria’s core values including service to the community, inclusivity, moral responsibility, and development of the whole person.