September 3, 2009

Ferris To Help Celebrate "Respect Weekend"

Big Rapids, Mich. - The Ferris State University football program will take part in a nationwide effort to promote sportsmanship with a special ceremonial pregame handshake prior to this Saturday evening's (Sept. 5) contest against Ashland at Top Taggart Field.

The American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and the NCAA are partnering on the national sportsmanship initiative called "RESPECT Weekend," which is set to begin with the Sept. 3-7 weekend of the college football season.

The AFCA and NCAA are encouraging all college football teams to meet at midfield before the kickoff of each game for a pregame handshake. The two head coaches and the two directors of athletics (or a representative of the athletics department) are to lead the sportsmanship gesture.

FSU head coach Jeff Pierce and Ashland head coach Lee Owens will highlight the pregame handshake along with FSU Athletics Director Tom Kirinovic and AU Athletics Director Bill Goldring in addition to players and staff from both instiutions prior to the coin toss.

"This is a symbolic initiative that says to the football world, our fans, our students, our student-athletes and athletics departments that sportsmanship is a vital part of the successful football programs we have in this country," said AFCA Executive Director Grant Teaff. "We wanted to show sportsmanship in a clear way."

The AFCA code of conduct already calls for coaches to shake hands before and after each game. This initiative is being conducted to help reinforce that philosophy.

"We think it is important for coaches to shake hands after the game win or lose to show true sportsmanship and respect," Teaff said. "This is a great game that is at its pinnacle. We want to make sure we're teaching the right thing to our student-athletes, the student bodies and the youngsters out there watching the game."

All NCAA institutions have been encouraged to participate.  The initiative stems from a two-year NCAA research study of student-athletes, coaches, conference commissioners, administrators and fans that indicated fan behavior was the most pressing matter to be addressed at college sporting events.

"We're proud Division II values the concept of respect for opponents and this special pregame exchange will send a strong message to everyone about the significance of this idea," said FSU Athletics Director Tom Kirinovic.

Kickoff for the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) opener between the Bulldogs and Eagles is set for 7 p.m. (EDT).  Tickets will be sold at the game starting two hours prior to kickoff.

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