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Vol. 50, No. 3 March 2013 .pdf version
Most Courageous: BC's Kelley, Oakland's Francis
When it comes to the basketball universe, "courage" isn't an entity that is found only on a court.
In the cases of Beckie Francis and Dick Kelley, courgage can be demonstrated in the baring of long-held and painful secrets and in persevering with day-to-day chores while suffering the impact of a debilitating and unsparing disease.
Francis, in her 13th season as the women's coach at Oakland University, and Kelley, the sports information director at his alma mater, Boston College, since 1989, are the winners of the USBWA's Most Courageous Awards.
The women's most courageous award is named in honor of former Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, who received the award after revealing she was suffering from early onset dementia.
Last fall, Francis publicly disclosed that her now-diseased father had sexually assaulted her from the time she was 4 years old until she was in the seventh grade.
Francis had told her story to her players and fellow church parishioners before deciding to go public with her experiences, partly, she said, because of the attention the scandal surrounding the accusations against Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant football coach.
"It's not easy to talk about," she said during an interview with the Associated Press. "It's something I tried to hold back and hide because I was afraid of what people would think. It's to a point now where situations are coming out in the media with all kinds of cases from schools, churches, everywhere, and I'm tired of it."
The 47-year-old Francis said she didn't tell her mother until she was in her 30s because "I was in total denial ... and that's another example of why I want to talk about this,'' she added in the AP interview. "I know that people are so embarrassed and they think, Oh, I'm just going to forget about it. It was in the past. Move on. Buck up. Suck it up.' But there are so many things. It can affect your health. It just affects our confidence. And since I have let it go, I am happier than I have ever been. I am totally free."
She told the USBWA, "I am humbled to receive this award. I broke down in tears when I was informed that the USBWA was recognizing me and bringing attention to what has become a national problem. I told people, 'This organization gets it.'"
Kelley was struck with the incurable amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in 2011. Even with his declining health and mobility, he is a viable and vibrant presence on campus and in BC's athletic department and basketball facilities.
The school's men's basketball coach, Steve Donahue, told Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated that, "I think what separates Dick is that most guys in his job are really into the team and want them to win. (Kelley) is so much more genuine about caring for the guys as people and helping the guys. His attitude is, I'm going to make these guys be part of BC and support them anyway that I can.' You never got the sense that Dick was doing this to get publicity for the school. He was genuinely caring about the people and who they are."
When informed by Joe Mitch of the USBWA of his impending honor, Kelley wrote, "I am overwhelmed ... I am very grateful."
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