Bowling Green, Ky. — Western Kentucky University received one of 17 grants as part of the newly designed NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Grant Program. Approximately $750,000 in grant money was given to schools and conferences by the NCAA, with WKU receiving $36,000 as part of the program.
At a press conference Thursday at E.A. Diddle Arena’s Hall of Champions, Director of Athletics Dr. Wood Selig, Lady Topper head basketball coach Mary Taylor Cowles, and local school superintendents Dale Brown and Joe Tinius introduced the school’s literacy program that will begin in August when the 2008-09 academic year begins.
The program includes an essay and art contest, “How Can WKU Help Make My Dreams Come True?”, in which winners can receive scholarship assistance to attend WKU and appear as characters in a book based on Cowles’ story.
“We are honored to have been selected among the dozens of fine institutions and conferences to receive this grant to support and grow the game of women’s basketball,” said Selig. “The concept to develop a children’s book about following one’s dreams based upon the real life story of Mary Taylor Cowles is a wonderful concept with built-in elements to further Lady Topper basketball and grow support for women’s basketball throughout the Commonwealth. We are excited about this project, the story it will tell and the lessons that can be taught in the classroom to tens of thousands of elementary school students.”
WKU’s project centers on “Follow Your Dreams!”, a children’s book for grades 1-4 that focuses on Cowles’ encouragement and support of a young girl’s lifelong dream to be a Lady Topper (a dream that Cowles, in fact, saw come true after earning Miss Kentucky Basketball honors at Marshall County High School). Each book will include a single game ticket giving local children the option to attend a WKU women’s basketball contest at Diddle Arena on selected dates during the 2008-09 season. However, every child that elects to participate in the contest, which includes either writing an essay of no more than 200 words or submitting a drawing, painting, collage or any combination of those art forms (not exceeding 11x17 inches), will receive a season pass and the opportunity to earn a greater reward.
Four winners — one from each grade level — will receive a replica Lady Topper jersey and appear as characters in “Follow Your Dreams!”, and they will also earn a partial scholarship to WKU should they enroll on the Hill when they attend college. Entrants will be judged on creativity, artistic ability and relevance to the theme.
At least 6,000 books are set to be printed and distributed to local grade schools in the region.
“We are so fortunate to receive this grant from the NCAA. It will not only help us in promoting our women’s basketball program, but it will help us in promoting the importance of literacy,” Cowles stated. “We all need to help our children learn to read because reading is so critical in life. This project is going to be so much fun. I am excited to be a part of something that will help children learn while also promoting a sport that so many of us love.”
“It’s very important for the community that everyone take a role in assisting the development and growth of our youth. Wood and the WKU Department of Athletics have really come up with an exciting project to contribute to that,” said Brown. “It’s great that while WKU is looking to expand its footprint across the region and the nation it is still able to be active in the community.”
“I’d like to commend Wood Selig and the leadership at WKU for their commitment to this project,” Tinius added. “It is great to see the university and the Department of Athletics encouraging the youth of our community to believe in themselves and follow their dreams. I’m looking forward to seeing this program at work in the fall.”
The grant program was designed to foster the growth of women’s basketball on NCAA member campuses and within NCAA member conferences. More than 70 member institutions and leagues submitted proposals in the first of a three-year pilot program. National office staff and representatives from the NCAA women’s basketball marketing consultant firm Hawkeye Sports and Entertainment evaluated the proposals.
“We want to grow the game of women’s basketball at the grass roots level,” said NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Vice President Sue Donohoe. “We hope these grants will give schools and conferences the extra resources they need to enhance their women’s basketball program.
“We’re very pleased to be awarding this grant to WKU. We’re excited for the Lady Toppers and can’t wait to see the results.”
The program will undergo yearly evaluations to determine if objectives are being met. The grants are awarded on a one-year basis and are not automatically renewed. Grant recipients are required to submit a monthly progress report and a final summary report.
Other schools receiving the grant are: Arizona State, Arkansas, Columbia, East Tennessee State, Florida State, Louisville, Maryland, Oklahoma, San Diego State, Texas Tech and Washington. The conference recipients included the Big Ten, Conference USA, the Metro Atlantic Athletic and Northeast Conferences and the Patriot League.