LAS CRUCES N.M.
To most fans, college football is a black-and-blue sport. At New Mexico State, it’s time to think pink.
The Aggies will wear pink socks and their coaches will wear pink golf shirts for a Sept. 29 game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff in a push to raise money for breast cancer research, a cause close to coach Hal Mumme’s heart.
His wife, June, was diagnosed in late 1996. She began chemotherapy treatments a few months later right after Mumme was hired as Kentucky’s coach.
“It’s a terrible disease and a lot of people have to go through it,” Mumme said. “When you see what your wife is going through and what your friends are going through, what to call on third-and-9 doesn’t seem that important.”
The fundraising push is called “Aggies are Tough Enough to Wear Pink.”
The players will wear pink ribbon stickers on their helmets and the field will be painted with large pink ribbon stencils. The marching band will wear pink, and organizers hope to sell pink T-shirts to fans in a bid to “pink out” the 30,343-capacity stadium.
“We’re talking to everyone from the campus bookstore to independent retailers,” co-organizer Kelley Coffeen said.
It’s reminiscent of efforts by Major League Baseball in recent years, where sluggers have used pink bats for games on Mother’s Day to promote breast cancer awareness.
Mrs. Mumme survived the disease and subsequently became active in the cause during her husband’s coaching stops at Kentucky and Southeastern Louisiana. The coach, in his third season with the Aggies, said this event marks the couple’s first push in New Mexico.
The difference this time is the scope.
Mrs. Mumme said she’d drive around Kentucky to address any group that offered. Often, she’d join her husband at charity golf events.
But until now, her biggest tie-in with football might have involved presenting a charity check at halftime.
This time, Mrs. Mumme was determined to think on a larger scale.
Although kickoff for the targeted game is more than a month away, organizers working behind the scenes already have raised $77,000. And the money is staying home all the funds will go toward cancer research at New Mexico State.
“College football carries such a high profile,” Mrs. Mumme said. “It’s the perfect vehicle for us to promote something that’s happening on our campus that ordinarily wouldn’t get the same level of publicity.”
Mrs. Mumme described how her diagnosis came in the middle of the 1996 season, when her husband was having one of his best years as a coach in leading Valdosta State (Ga.) to a 10-3 record and the Division II national playoffs.
But there was more under the surface that fall.
Within an eight-month span of Mrs. Mumme’s diagnosis, two of the couple’s friends were diagnosed with breast cancer. One died within a year; the other died last spring after a 10-year battle against the illness.
As a survivor, Mrs. Mumme felt called to help others.
She stressed that the disease doesn’t affect only the women, because husbands and families offer support during treatments and grieve when a loved one is lost. Unmarried women and single mothers can be victims, too.
“It affects men in ways far beyond what many people think about,” she said.
New Mexico State administrators agreed to pick up much of the costs associated with the football game promotion paint for the field and uniform alterations, for example. The Mummes, meanwhile, will do whatever is needed to boost awareness.
“We’ve been involved in the cause for a long time,” coach Mumme said. “June does all the work. All I do is show up to help. But I’m happy to do whatever I can and our players are ready to help, too. It’s just a terrible disease.”
– Associated Press
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