By: Tim Wilmes ~Sports Editor~
Xavier basketball head coach Chris Mack was one of 84 college basketball coaches wearing a pin to promote autism awareness in the Musketeers’ game against Seton Hall on Feb. 1 at Cintas Center.
The campaign, Autism Awareness Day in College Basketball, began as a way for Marshall University men’s basketball coach Tom Herrion and Towson University men’s basketball coach Pat Skerry to raise awareness of autism throughout the United States.
Herrion and Skerry both have sons with autism, an incurable disease that currently affects one in 88 children and one in 54 males in the United States. At least 31 states specifically require medical insures to pay for autism treatments.
However, for families living in the 29 other states that do not offer this coverage — including Ohio — it could cost some families over $50,000 a year to treat autism.
In an effort to promote awareness of the challenges that face the families with children with autism, the two coaches sent a blue, puzzle piece-shaped pin from the Autism Speaks organization to 82 other men’s basketball coaches to wear during their respective teams’ games on Saturday.
In wearing their pins during Xavier’s televised matchup, Mack and Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard joined coaching legends such as Duke’s Mike Krzyzwski, Micigan State’s Tom Izzo, Kansas’ Bill Self, Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, North Carolina’s Roy Williams, Louisville’s Rick Pitino and Kentucky’s John Calipari.
Former Xavier men’s basketball head coaches Sean Miller and Thad Matta, now of the University of Arizona and The Ohio State University, respectively, showed their support as well.
With some of the biggest names in college basketball showing off their Autism Speaks pin to audiences all over the nation, Herrion and Skerry’s movement have brought a widespread awareness to the issue of autism. “The SGA Executive tickets announced goal is to educate all of the country about autism and the depth of what autism is,” Herrion said via Autismspeaks.org. “I don’t think the country understands how serious a developmental disability is, and I think it’s equally important that not all states understand what autism is when it comes to insurance reform. So many kids are falling through the cracks.”
Mack’s support of Herrion and Skerry’s movement is another public showing of Xavier University’s desire to raise awareness for autism. Physical Plant has illuminated the clock tower in Gallagher Student Center blue in the past in recognition of Autism Awareness Month in April. Xavier sports teams have also supported other awareness causes, such as men’s soccer’s Down Syndrome Awareness games held in honor of head coach Andy Fleming’s daughter, Devin.
For more information about autism awareness on Xavier’s campus, interested students can contact Autism Speaks U Xavier University club president Emily Riepenhoff at riepenhoffe@xavier. edu.