The United States Olympics Education Center (USOEC) at NMU should be a source of pride for students, faculty and staff. These athletes are our fellow Wildcats and we want to cheer them on in any way. Such celebration, however, is difficult when USOEC athletes are not as connected to the university community as they could be.
Even if it isn’t feasible for big events like the Olympic trials last year and China vs. USOEC in 2007 to happen all the time, inter-squad exhibitions and competitions against local athletes could be more available. Even smaller, more frequent events would create pride not just in students unassociated with USOEC but hopefully within the athletes themselves, giving a sense of pride in the community they came from.
It’s not as if Northern does not have the ability to hold such events. The Berry Event’s Center (BEC), a multi-use building, could feasibly set up a ring or a mat for a USOEC event that could bring in students from throughout the university. To see the next Apolo Anton Ono, Vernon Forrest and Spenser Mango before they become well known will help instill that pride in the students and alumni.
It is possible that the national governing bodies (NGB) of each respective sport prohibit exhibition matches, but every NGB has a similar phrase within their respective bylaws stating that unless the NGB can find evidence that allowing the event would be detrimental to the sport, the NGB will approve the event. There are stipulations, such as acquiring a qualified officiating crew as well as supplying medical supervision, but these reasons don’t stop Northern from holding multiple NCAA sports year-round.
Regardless of reasons for why such events do not occur regularly, we feel that it is a shame that students graduate without feeling a greater connection to USOEC, a truly remarkable aspect of NMU. Students, faculty and staff deserve the opportunity to prove their interest in these great athletes, and we hope that more exposure occurs to make Northern a more close-knit university.