I had the pleasure to grow-up around college athletics for most of my life. I grew up in Menomonie, Wisconsin, home of UW-Stout. As a kid, I was neighbors with the football coach’s son and was a ball-boy for Stout’s football team. If I wasn’t competing in sports myself, my weekends were filled cheering for all NCAA sports; both men’s and women’s. There was nothing purer than watching student-athletes put everything on the line to represent their school and communities.

As I grew into a young adult myself, I started to realize my potential in athletics. Although from Western Wisconsin, technically in “enemy” territory, I was a lifelong Gopher fan, maroon-and-golden through-and-through. In high school, my team’s highlight was the Griak Invitational, it was a completely new level of competition. As a Senior, I also ran in an indoor track meet at Minnesota’s facilities. I did a cool-down run across the beautiful Stone Arch Bridge with views of Skyscrapers lit-up at night. As a teenager from a relatively small town, a window of opportunity opened up to me that I never knew existed. So, as I was being recruited to schools across the country, it was no-brainer to sign as a Gopher, a dream come true.

As a freshman at Minnesota, I had a locker across from THE Roy Griak. Even into his 80s he was doing push-ups and sharing wisdom. I also had the opportunity to be coached by Olympian and incredible man, Steve Plasencia. That year, our team took 8th in the Nation in Cross Country and throughout my career in track & field we won five consecutive Big Ten Championships. I was on an elite team, filled with amazing men, that became friends for life. Whenever I would be tired in a workout, I would look down at the block “M” on my gear and remember what an honor it was to be there.

It breaks my heart to hear that the current narrative of college athletics is nothing but money. When growing up, and as a Gopher, the conversation was not about nothing more than putting on your University’s colors and representing your school. That required a ton of work, but it was an honor to be a student-athlete. I am requesting, please don’t take that opportunity away from future generations of Gopher track athletes, and don’t tarnish the incredible history that’s already been built.