The irony is that if it were anyone other than Mike Sadler, Tom and Donna Clemente would probably just punt.
First, don’t get them wrong. They’re grateful for a reply. And a thoughtful one, at that.
Although they were shooting a little bit higher than a commemorative coin.
“Disappointed,” sighed Donna Clemente, the Penn State fan who, along with husband Tom, recently pitched to Delany the idea for a permanent scholar-athlete award at the Big Ten Football Championship named after former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler, the four-time Academic All-American who lost his life in July 2016.
“I can’t say unexpected, but disappointed. He’s very aware of Michael’s character, which he put in there, so that was exactly the reason” they’d suggested such a commendation.
They received the thanks-but-no-thanks letter from the Big Ten, dated June 12, late Monday.
On Tuesday, they pondered what to do next.
“I guess I would describe it as an opportunity missed for the Big Ten, and for the Michael Sadler Foundation,” Tom said. “Definitely disappointed.
“We’re all in on The Michael Sadler Foundation and the Big Ten. I didn’t think we could write a letter that would make commissioner Delany be compelled to do something, but you think in the positive. You want it to happen and you believe in it, and you’re kind of invested in it. So you’re disappointed. Not bitterly disappointed. It’s an opportunity missed. Not lost, but missed.”
Know this: They’re not giving up.
The end game is an award with Michael’s name, presented at the end of the season, to represent all that Michael — who was bound for Stanford Law School when his life was cut short in a car accident — stood for.
Delany gently shot the Clementes’ proposal down with a that’s very nice, but we’ve already got one. Which they do. Sort of. The Big Ten has handed out a Medal of Honor — which now honors male and female graduating student-athletes who embody the best of academics and athletics — since 1915.
So while they’re reading from the same playbook, they’re not quite on the same page, either. The Clementes were initially pitching a football-only award, a recognition that takes the selection criteria for the Heisman Trophy — the pursuit of excellence with integrity — seriously, with the accent on the integrity part.
That said, they’re more than happy to tweak. Include sports other than football? Fine. Make it open to male and female students? Groovy.
Michael’s mother, Karen, recently sent a letter to Delany detailing her vision for such an award, and that it be presented to the top scholar on each of the teams scrapping for the Big Ten football title:
I propose that the Big Ten makes an annual presentation of the Mike Sadler Scholar Athlete Award of the Big Ten Championship Game to the top GPA player from each team in the Championship Game.
The Cotton Bowl makes its presentation at a high-ticket luncheon the day before the bowl game; the luncheon is presold to VIPs, donors, etc., and every player/coach/team affiliate/media rep is in attendance.
The Big Ten could create an even larger scale presentation on field — perhaps at the beginning of the third quarter. This would alleviate the expense of an entirely separate event for the presentation, and it would demonstrate to all viewing fans the Big Ten’s dedication to recognizing top-achieving scholar athletes. It’s an award that will inspire players to reach a little higher and work a little harder in hopes of being a recipient.
The winners of the award at the Cotton Bowl receive an engraved Tiffany football; I think the Big Ten might consider attaching a post-graduate scholarship to the award. Our foundation would work to help fund/underwrite that award … though I’m certain there are many companies that would love to have their names on it.
Your serve, corporate America.
A gr8 story on so many levels! To the Clements, You are awesome! You really are! The idea is one thing, but to initiate this & keep pushing it-Thank You!💚 To @B1Gfootball PLZ what can we do to help make this honor a reality? To Karen & @Sadler_3 God Bless & Keep up the gr8 work!
— Kelly Green (@oneputtkelly) June 8, 2018
I’m a big fan of mike I loved watching him play at Michigan state he has been a huge inspiration to me and I’m a punter in high school and I would love to have a mike Sadler wristband to wear everyday in honor of him and inspiration is their any way get free my mom buy me one
— Cullen Cox 🔟 (@cullen_cox) June 14, 2018
This is beautiful. Mike Sadler became the favorite player of my wife and I, on any team and at any level. We cried when we heard the news, for a man we never met. His character and spirit was obvious and contagious.
— Cultural Reference (@SuperPrivileged) June 7, 2018
I hope the award is created. Excellent idea
— Kyle P (@DallasSpartan) June 7, 2018
Karen, this is a great tribute to Mike's memory!
— Spartan Fan (@Taxguy1981) June 7, 2018
“I do know that we supplied, as did Karen, contact information, because a lot of people who responded, they said, ‘I want to see this get done,’” Donna said.
“So our reply would be to please contact Mr. Delany. Our hope is that those people voice those opinions to Mr. Delany so they rethink it.”
Your serve, Big Ten faithful. On fourth down, the Clementes are unequivocally, unapologetically going for it. All they need now is a little wind at their backs.