Beaming About the Red, White & Blue

With the second recipient of Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) being announced next Monday on Veteran's Day 2013, Brant Ringler of the Bell Helicopter Armed Force Bowl is "beaming" these days about the involvement by college and university football programs around the country that continue to honor the armed services each fall.

Owned and operated by ESPN Regional Television (ERT), a subsidiary of ESPN, the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl was created in 2006 when it became the first post-season game dedicated to the military and its veterans.  In addition to patriotic overtones recognizing all five branches of the armed forces, Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl “Bowl Week” activities feature a variety of events highlighted by a custom homes being awarded to wounded warriors.

Coordinated by the staff at the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl and selected by a seven-person panel featuring nationally-recognized sportswriters, the Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the FWAA was created in June 2012 “to honor an individual and/or a group within the realm of the sport of football.”

Ringler, who initiated the Armed Forces Merit Award with Steve Richardson of the FWAA, has cited the vision of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) that "football and military have a number of points of synergy.  Loyalty is a word that athletes and soldiers both embody and understand."

"We congratulate all the college and universities in the country that choose to honor the military, especially through their football programs," said Ringler, the executive director of the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl.  "We were pleased to receive a nomination this September for the Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the FWAA from Kansas State that recognizes its football program's involvement with Fort Riley Army Base."

The "NACDA vision" was on display Monday when details were released about the uniforms that Northwestern University will wear for its November 16 Big Ten Conference home football game against the University of Michigan in Evanston, Ill.

"For the past seven Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl games, the participating schools have honored the military with different uniform appearances and decals," said Ringler.  "And now Northwestern and Under Armour® have developed a uniform for the Wildcats to wear at their game against Michigan.  In addition to producing a uniform that features red, white and blue throughout from head to toe, the names of the Wildcat players have been replaced by the words of duty, honor, courage, commitment, integrity, country or service.  Congratulations to both the school and the apparel company for creating a remarkable and inspiring uniform."

In a November 4 article on Darren Rovell noted that the uniforms designed for Northwestern by Under Armour® "will raise awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization whose goal is to empower servicemen wounded in battle."

Northwestern’s honoring of the military at a home football game is "nothing new" for NACDA and the Wounded Warrior Project™ as both parties have been partnering over the years to encourage collegiate athletic departments to include injured service members in meaningful ways in their athletic program.

With each college and university participating in activities that best suit their programs, many programs have designated a Wounded Warrior as an honorary coach or team captain.  Other opportunities include, but are not limited to, inviting a Wounded Warrior to attend or participate in a practice, pre-game meal, or provide a pep talk at half-time.

In addition to collegiate events, NACDA continues to find innovative and engaging ways to support Wounded Warrior Project™.  NACDA hosted a benefit concert this past June where the association and its affiliated groups presented the Wounded Warrior Project™ with a $32,525 check.  NACDA and Daktonics provided a forum for the Wounded Warriors and their families to connect with numerous athletics administrators from various institutions.

Bob Vecchione, the Executive Director of NACDA, was named the 2013 recipient of the Tony Snow Award at last May's Wounded Warrior Project™ Courage Awards & Benefit Dinner in New York.  On, it was written that Vecchione "has been an incredible champion for Wounded Warriors and their families through college athletics.  Through Bob’s leadership, NACDA encourages collegiate athletics departments nationwide to include injured servicemen and women in meaningful ways in their athletics activities. Wounded Warriors and student-athletes share many distinguished qualities, and together, can inspire one another to persevere beyond any obstacles."