Matt Kupec: My Top Ten Favorite College Football Stadiums

by Matt Kupec

October 5, 2019

This past week I had the chance to visit Memorial Stadium on the University of Illinois campus for the first time.  The Fighting Illini are not a power in the Big 10 and have not competed in many games of importance over the years but I have enjoyed seeing the occasional highlight from an Illini game on football TV shows.

IllinoisWhen driving up to Memorial Stadium I was very impressive with the outside of the football stadium.  Columns on the outer walls made me think of the Los Angeles Coliseum which is home to the USC Trojans.  The inside of the stadium is somewhat of a different story with lots of concrete, field turf and a facility lacking in character.  I do believe with some minor renovations it could be a pretty cool place to play.  Ghosts of the late great Red Grange still run strong in the football environment.

Visiting Memorial Stadium made me think about the best football stadiums I have either been in as a player or a fan.  Here is my top #10 list and the rationale behind my rankings:

#1. UCLA (Rose Bowl Stadium – 90,888 seating capacity)

UclaI consider the Rose Bowl to be the best stadium in all of college football.  I have seen three games there including the 2005 Texas win over USC to capture the national championship and 2009 National Championship games in which Texas fell to Alabama.  I grew up loving to watch the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day when the major bowls still played their games on the same day to start the new year.  I love the beautiful grass, the hills in the background, the circular stadium and history of the place.

#2.  Notre Dame (Notre Dame Stadium – 77,662 seating capacity)

Notre DameI grew up watching Notre Dame highlights on Sunday with Lindsay Nelson and Paul Horning providing commentary.  Watching ND legends like Terry Hanratty, Jim Seymour and so many others filled my childhood dreams of being a football player.  The gold helmets.  The plain uniforms.  No colors in the end zone but diagonal white stripes.  And real and beautiful grass.  The echo’s of Knute Rockne and Touchdown Jesus outside.  A majestic place that, unfortunately, has been tainted by the installation of field tur.  It is painful to watch ND on television these days.  Shameful!

To read the full story, go to https://mattkupecassociates.com/matt-kupec-my-top-ten-favorite-college-football-stadiums/

About the Author

Matt Kupec is a fundraising professional with 32 years of significant higher education development experience. He has directed three major university fundraising campaigns and nearly $5 billion has been raised under his leadership. He has led the fundraising programs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Hofstra University, Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute and HelpMeSee, a New York City based non-profit. He is currently serving as Senior In-House Fundraising Counsel for Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.

Matt is a former record-breaking four year starting quarterback for the UNC Tar Heels. During his career he set 19 season and career passing records. Two of which still stand — most consecutive games with a TD pass and most wins as a starting QB. Matt also set the ACC record for TD passes his senior year at UNC. Matt was named MVP of the 1977 Liberty Bowl and the 1979 Gator Bowl becoming the 1st player in Atlantic Coast Conference history to be named MVP of two bowl games.

Matt Kupec: ESPN “Game Day” Host Site Surprises

by Matt Kupec

September 10, 2019

ESPN’s College Football Game Day is one of the great television programs!  Last year, “Game Day” celebrated its 25th year anniversary of hosting a college football pre-game show on the college campus featuring one of the top college games of the week.  I wrote a blog to commemorate ESPN’s 25 years of “Game Day.”  https://medium.com/@mattkupec/matt-kupec-a-review-of-espns-game-day-football-sites-95c918094e33

“Game Day” has become a staple of the college football weekend!

This past weekend, “Game Day” was in Austin, TX to host the LSU vs. Texas battle featuring two top ten teams.  What I found amazing was that Austin, TX and the mighty Longhorns has not been host to “Game Day,” since 2009.  A ten-year drought!!  The last time Texas hosted “Game Day” was when my good friend Mack Brown was in his hey day as the Texas coach and Colt McCoy was playing his senior season of what was a remarkable career.

Since I was so shocked by the 10-year drought of Texas as “Game Day” host, I thought I’d take another look back at the “Game Day” host sites and give you some interesting tidbits:

  • Surprising Absence from Last Hosting “Game Day”

Texas’ ten-year ESPN “Game Day” drought was shocking.  Other droughts from successful programs include:

  • Florida (October 20, 2012)
  • Oklahoma (October 27, 2012)
  • Nebraska (September 10, 2007)

To read the entire story, go to https://mattkupecassociates.com/matt-kupec-espn-game-day-host-site-surprises/

 

Matt Kupec: Remembering Coach Mike McGee

by Matt Kupec

August 18, 2019

The sport’s world recently lost one of its great football legends with the news that Mike McGee – a decorated Duke football player, college football head coach and successful athletic administrator – died on Friday at his home in Montrose, Colorado.  Coach McGee was 80 years old.

I didn’t know Coach McGee very well but his life impacted me in a number of significant ways.  And I know that he had significant impact on thousands of young people throughout the years.  The man was a leader who lived a rich life in terms of his role in transforming so many lives.

As a quick refresher, here is a summary of Coach McGee’s very impressive career:

  • Coach McGee won the Outland Trophy as the college football’s top lineman in 1959.
  • He was named first-team All-American and ACC Player of the Year.
  • Coach McGee went on to play in the NFL for three seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, starting 36 games for the Cardinals.
  • He was elected into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1990.
  • Head football coach at ECU (1970) and the Duke (1971-1978).
  • He later became director of athletics at the University of Cincinnati, University of Southern California and University of South Carolina.

But how did a former Duke player and coach who went on to become athletic director at two USC’s have an impact on my life?

Here’s how:

  • “The difference between chump and champ is U”!!

I was heavily recruited by Duke and Coach McGee out of high school.  As the New York Player of the Year and quarterback of the #1 ranked Syosset High School team, I was a prime target of Duke. But what influenced Coach McGee the most was that my older brother Chris was finishing up an All-ACC QB year at UNC and was breaking NCAA records.  Coach McGee was probably hoping the football genes were good.

I took my official recruiting trip to the Duke campus.  The final meeting of all these trips is always with the Head Coach.  This was going to be the final push to get me to sign with the Blue Devils.

So, I travel to the football office and get walked into Coach McGee’s office.  He begins his pitch.  It was impressive.  I will always remember that as Coach McGee was building to a great close, he stared at me, straight in the eyes, and with a raised voice, asked if I knew “the difference between champ and chump?”  Without hesitating and giving me a chance to answer, he raised his hand and pointed his figure at me and answered his own question with a barking “YOU!”

For the full story, go to  https://mattkupecassociates.com/matt-kupec-remembering-coach-mike-mcgee/

About the Author

Matt Kupec is a fundraising professional with 32 years of significant higher education development experience. He has directed three major university fundraising campaigns and nearly $5 billion has been raised under his leadership. He has led the fundraising programs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Hofstra University, Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute and HelpMeSee, a New York City based non-profit. He is currently serving as Senior In-House Fundraising Counsel for Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.

Matt is a former record-breaking four year starting quarterback for the UNC Tar Heels. During his career he set 19 season and career passing records. Two of which still stand — most consecutive games with a TD pass and most wins as a starting QB. Matt also set the ACC record for TD passes his senior year at UNC. Matt was named MVP of the 1977 Liberty Bowl and the 1979 Gator Bowl becoming the 1st player in Atlantic Coast Conference history to be named MVP of two bowl games.

Matt Kupec: Is There a “Right” Age to Hire a College Coach?

by Matt Kupec

March 26, 2019

Southern Illinois University Director of Athletics Jerry Kill recently made a great hire by bringing former SIU basketball standout Bryan Mullen back to Carbondale as the Salukis new head basketball coach.  Coach Mullen has been a top assistant for the Loyola Chicago basketball program over the last four years and should return the Salukis back to the hierarchy of college basketball.

At thirty-two years old, Mullen becomes one of the youngest head coaches in Division I basketball.  In addition to Coach Mullen, the SIU football coach Nick Hill is just 33 years old.  Combined these two head coaches total just 65 years in age!

Is this unusual to have such young coaches or is this consistent with trends in the coaching field?

I immediately thought about my alma mater UNC with 67 year-old football coach Mack Brown, and 68 year-old basketball coach Roy Williams.  Heck, the two SIU coaches are younger together than BOTH Coach Brown and Coach Williams!!  But also remember that Coach Brown was 34 years old when hired as Appalachian State University’s football coach.  Coach Williams was 42 years old when Kansas made the former UNC assistant its head basketball coach.  Neither of the Hall of Fame coaches started head coaching careers at UNC but both have had remarkable success in Chapel Hill

But even at UNC, young coaches have been hired in the past.  Bill Dooley, who was my UNC college coach in the late 1970’s, was hired in 1967 at the tender age of 33 years old.  The basketball coach at the time was “ancient” 37 year- old Dean Smith who had been hired six years earlier at the even younger age of 30 years old.  So, UNC has had mix of young and old over its history.

So, is it the trend to hire young coaches?

For the full blog post, go to… http://mattkupecsports.com/848-2/

About the Author

Matt Kupec is a fundraising professional with 32 years of significant higher education development experience. He has directed three major university fundraising campaigns and nearly $5 billion has been raised under his leadership. He has led the fundraising programs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Hofstra University, Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute and HelpMeSee, a New York City based non-profit. He is currently serving as Senior In-House Fundraising Counsel for Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.

Matt is a former record-breaking four year starting quarterback for the UNC Tar Heels. During his career he set 19 season and career passing records. Two of which still stand — most consecutive games with a TD pass and most wins as a starting QB. Matt also set the ACC record for TD passes his senior year at UNC. Matt was named MVP of the 1977 Liberty Bowl and the 1979 Gator Bowl becoming the 1st player in Atlantic Coast Conference history to be named MVP of two bowl games.

 

Matt Kupec: My First Missouri Valley Conference Basketball Tournament

by Matt Kupec

March 11, 2019

I attended the Missouri Valley Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament for the first time this past weekend.  I was there to watch the Southern Illinois Saluki’s compete for the MVC Championship in hopes of coming away with three consecutive wins and the prize of a berth into the NCAA Men’s Tournament Championship.

Unfortunately, SIU came up short and lost a tight contest to the University of Northern Iowa Panthers on a last second bucket by UNI.  A very disappointing loss in a season that began with high hopes and ended in the resignation of Head Basketball Coach Barry Vinson.

I have attended many Atlantic Coast Conference Championships over the years when I was the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s vice chancellor for development & university relations.  I had seen many great games with Tar Heel victories and some disappointing losses as well.  During my twenty-one years at UNC, the Tar Heels won five ACC Tournament titles.

As I watching SIU compete Friday night, I began comparing the Missouri Valley Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournaments, thinking about the similarities and differences.  Here is my assessment….

To view the full article, go to http://mattkupecsports.com/matt-kupec-my-first-missouri-valley-conference-basketball-tournament/

About the Author

Matt Kupec is a fundraising professional with 32 years of significant higher education development experience. He has directed three major university fundraising campaigns and nearly $5 billion has been raised under his leadership. He has led the fundraising programs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Hofstra University, Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute and HelpMeSee, a New York City based non-profit. He is currently serving as Senior In-House Fundraising Counsel for Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.

Matt is a former record-breaking four year starting quarterback for the UNC Tar Heels. During his career he set 19 season and career passing records. Two of which still stand — most consecutive games with a TD pass and most wins as a starting QB. Matt also set the ACC record for TD passes his senior year at UNC. Matt was named MVP of the 1977 Liberty Bowl and the 1979 Gator Bowl becoming the 1st player in Atlantic Coast Conference history to be named MVP of two bowl games.

Matt Kupec: College Coaches Making 65 Years Old the New 45

by Matt Kupec

December 25, 2018

For all of us aging quicker than we would like to acknowledge, one of my new favorite expressions is that “in today’s society 65 years old is the new 45!” No matter how gray our hair has become or how many aches we feel on a daily basis, our minds feel that we are as young — and good — as ever!

It may feel like we are kidding ourselves but, then again, maybe we are not!!

Three recent personnel moves in the college sports world have brought great comfort to many of us who are in the 60 plus aging category! The hiring of Les Miles — age 65 — as the University of Kansas new head football coach and Mack Brown — age 67 — as head coach at the University of North Carolina were great examples that maybe there is a fountain of youth after all.

Then to add another bounce to our aging step, the University of North Carolina announced they had given an eight-year contract extension to their 68-year old head basketball coach Roy Williams. Coach Williams can be coaching at 76 years of age!

Holy youth serum!

Coaches Miles, Brown and Williams are not alone in the “new 45” age bracket. Add in youthful college head coaches Mike Krzyzewski (Duke — age 71), Nick Saban (Alabama — age 66), Butch Davis (FIU — age 68), Jim Boeheim (Syracuse — age 74), John Beilein (Michigan — age 65) and Tom Izzo (Michigan State — age 63) and we have a “youth movement” right in front of our very eyes!

What is going on here and why are coaches staying in their jobs longer into their careers? Here are a few thoughts:

To read the entire blog, go to https://medium.com/@mattkupec/matt-kupec-college-coaches-are-making-65-years-old-the-new-45-e5c3bf2d0ba5

Matt Kupec: Thank You to My Syosset HS Head Coaches

By Matt Kupec

October 27, 2018

I was reading recently of some of the legendary high school coaches of all time. Great stories of men and women who have dedicated their lives for the opportunity and responsibility to influence a young person for life through the power of coaching!

Pretty strong stuff!!

It made me think about the coaches, or influencers as I like to call them, I had while I was attending Syosset High School in Syosset, NY. I played three sports — football, basketball, baseball — and I was good in all three. Our teams enjoyed considerable success and the football team my senior year went undefeated and was ranked #1 in New York.

My coaches were Joel Goldberg, Len Mintz, and John Miller. Back then we referred to them as “Mr.” not “Coach” as is the trend today. They were talented and dedicated and they certainly had their own style of coaching. All three ingrained lessons in me that have shaped my life…….

To read the full story, go to https://medium.com/@mattkupec/matt-kupec-thank-you-to-my-syosset-hs-head-coaches-603be2bb26f1

 

Memorable Lessons Learned

October 16, 2018

Have you ever worked with somebody who taught you a valuable lesson that you have used in your life? Has anybody given you sage advice? It could be a boss, colleague, parent, teacher, coach, religious leader or somebody else whom you have been associated with during your life.

A good lesson learned will be etched in your memory and probably part of your daily routine. You can recite them in your sleep? Your poor family and friends have heard the lessons hundreds of times. You probably have tried to impart these valuable lessons to colleagues at work!

And sometimes they can be so simple it is astonishing that the lesson you learned has stayed with you for so long!

One that jumps to my mind came years ago when I was just fourteen years old. I was playing in a baseball all-star tournament and my team was set to go against a player who was an all-world pitcher. At practice the day before the game we were all intimidated by what we considered the herculean task of defeating this behemoth. We were even more of an underdog than David vs. Goliath! At least it felt that way!!

But I’ll never remember my coach, Mr. Wilkinson, telling us not to be intimidated by this guy and that he “puts his pants on one leg a time” just like we do. His message was clear. This guy was mortal and he was beatable. Well we went out the next day and won the game to advance to the National Championship Babe Ruth World Series. And thanks to Mr. Wilkinson I never ever let anybody intimidate me before a game for the rest of my career!! Any imposing situation I face, I recite the words of wisdom from Mr. Wilkinson!….

To read the rest of the article, go to https://medium.com/@mattkupec/lessons-learned-a2634b99c9e7