Blog Entry

Rice coach understands what commitment means

Posted on: February 4, 2012 10:51 am
Edited on: February 5, 2012 2:46 am

Like thousands of other gifted high school football recruits, David Wilganowski and his family probably took a big sigh of relief and celebrated that the madness that has become National Signing Day was finally behind them.

It's around this time--just a few days after colleges announce who they've landed--that we tend to start learning about those other kids, who may have bought into hollow promises only to realize that they've been left out in the margins, squeezed by the world of big-time college sports. It happens so much now that we shrug our shoulders at coaches making cutthroat "business" decisions or when both players and coaches mangle the definition of the word "commitment" that the details behind the 6-4, 230-pound defensive end's signing with the Rice Owls Wednesday should make you smile.

Oh, Wilganowski, like the rest of the recruits who faxed in their letters a few days ago, was a big deal in his hometown. He'd committed to play D1 football on a full scholarship (to Rice) in June. He was a team captain and Homecoming King as a senior and starred in other sports (track and power lifting). The kid from Rudder High School in Bryan, Texas was also Academic All-State and picked the Owls over offers from among others, Army, Navy and Air Force.

Then, Wilganowski's life took a dramatic turn. At the start of Wilganowski's senior season, he collapsed during a game. His heart had given out. Paramedics had to revive him. Wilganowski was diagnosed with something called Long Q-T Syndrome. He had a heart defibrillator implanted into his chest. Doctors informed him his football career was over.

His mom, Susan told Fox Sports Houston she thought there was "no chance" her son would be on an athletic scholarship this fall.

However, Rice head coach David Bailiff remained committed to the kid and to his promise to welcome him as part of the Owls football program. On Wednesday, the coach was proud to announce that Wilganowski was getting that full scholarship.

We ask those young men to commit to us, and we tell them we're gonna be there through thick and thin," Bailiff said. "That's how that works. Your word has to be good."

Sadly, that's something that seems like it's becoming pretty rare these days.
Category: NCAAF
Tags: Rice

Since: Nov 18, 2011
Posted on: February 5, 2012 4:48 pm

Rice coach understands what commitment means

Mr. Bailiff is now one of my favorite coaches.  It's not easy to do the right thing, sadly, when winning is so important.  Games come and go but your character remains.  

These little things are deposits in the goodwill bank of life.  In the 1990s I became acquainted with Northern Colorado football coach Joe Glenn (DII national champs twice, went on to Montana for a 1-AA championship, and Wyoming).  Joe's a unique person for many reasons and understood that university life is much more than the football team.  Before a UNC home game in those days, the team would form two lines from the stadium corner to the field, and the Pride of the Rockies marching band would run out onto the field!  That's walking the walk.  How do you think those young men and women from that marching band remember Joe Glenn?  By the number of games he won?...  

Go Rice Freakin' Owls. 

Since: Sep 27, 2009
Posted on: February 4, 2012 10:34 pm

Rice coach understands what commitment means

Reminiscent of what happened at Auburn with . Coleman was a highly regarded prospect for the offensive line coming out of high school in 2010 who was diagnosed with leukemia after signing day. Auburn and Chizik promised to honor their scholarship offer and once Shon was well enough, he enrolled at Auburn and remains there on a full scholarship. He's never played or practiced a down for the Tigers but remains listed on the roster of the team. Glad to see that there are other programs and coaches out there, in this case Rice University and coach David Baliff, who understand what committment means.  Hat's off to coach Baliff, and best wishes for a successful academic career followed by a long, successful and healthy life for David Wilganowski.

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