The group is new and so is much of the social activism that is sweeping the sports world now.
With that in mind, Farrell was asked if college basketball players are receptive to the pressing world concerns that are beyond their gleaming courts and often insular campus lives?
“My gut tells me if you asked me that question three months ago the answer would have been ‘No,’” he admitted. “But I think some of the recent events have shined light on the major, major issues facing us now.”
A lot has happened since the Flyers’ wondrous 29-2 season was abruptly cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic that has left the nation reeling.
Over 132,000 people have died from the coronavirus. Cases are now rising in a majority of the states and the federal government’s response has been inept, at best.
At the same time the country is being rocked by social unrest following several incidents of unarmed African-Americans being killed by police officers. That’s been an ongoing problem and – coupled with the systemic racism that permeates too much of daily life – it has given birth to massive protests across the country.
Most have been peaceful, but some have been hijacked by criminals, opportunists and, on some occasions, white supremacists who are trying to turn the efforts into something they are not.
Add in the fractured economy and all these ills have further polarized our nation and created a growing angst that pervades most households.
Farrell said many athletes, like so many other people now, want “to help fix” these issues:
“They can’t just go and do one grand thing and ‘Boom!’ everything is fixed on a snap of the fingers. But a way to change things is to use their voice and one of the best ways to do that is through the power of voting.
“That’s how you can change things from the inside out.”
Coaches 4 Change, which includes coaches from schools such as Ohio State, Clemson, Oregon. Syracuse, Harvard, Butler, Northern Kentucky and George Washington, is presenting a platform with four pillars. It wants to get athletes engaged, educated, empowered and evolved.
Farrell called the website a “one-stop shop,” where athletes not only can learn how to register to vote, but also issues like the struggle it was for some people even to get the right to vote and how voting rights are still being suppressed in certain areas.
Farrell said Coaches 4 Change is the brainchild of Siena head coach Carmen Maciariello.
He then reached out to a handful of coaches he knew and trusted, one of whom was Farrell, who 10 years ago teamed with fellow Clemson staffer Adam Gordon to form Rising Coaches, an organization meant to help aspiring young coaches grow in the business.
Maciariello spoke to the group and got to know Farrell.
When it came to Coaches 4 Change, they wanted it be diverse in terms of race, age, experience and zip code.
Farrell said the group has been holding Zoom meetings a couple of times a week for a few hours and discussing a wide variety of ideas to help their student athletes and schools:
“We share resources we’ve used in our programs, things like YouTube videos or books we’ve read and documentaries the guys could watch.”
They brought up public speakers that could be brought in and sites of social justice and historical importance that teams could visit on the road.
Farrell said he then presents the ideas to Grant and they use the ones they think most suit the Flyers.
This is just another example of the long history the Farrell brothers have with UD coaches.
Actually, the special connection with the school began with their parents who met while they were UD students. Their three boys – all products of Carroll High School – graduated from Dayton, as well.
Matt, the oldest, was the director of basketball operations for Brian Gregory from 2006 to 2011 and then served two years as an assistant athletics director at UD before moving into the tech world and also launching his own management group.
Eric, Andy’s twin brother, was on Archie Miller’s staff for five seasons and since has gone on to become the CEO of the Home Builders Association of Dayton.
After being a student manager for Gregory’s Flyers teams and also working with the UD women’s team, Andy moved to VCU, where he was a grad assistant and video coordinator for Grant, then the Rams head coach.
He then joined Oliver Purnell’s staff at DePaul – he met his wife Jillian at the school – and then was part of the staffs at Longwood University and Southwest Mississippi Community College. He reconnected with Grant at UD in May of 2017.
Unlike his brothers, Andy said he will not leave the coaching ranks.
“I’m a lifer,” he laughed. “I’m in love with it. Coaching is definitely in my heartbeat.”
The Farrell brothers have all been a part of great Flyers’ successes.
Matt was with the team when it won the NIT title. In 2010. An Eric was on the staff when the Flyers made the run to the Elite Eight in 2014. Now Andy was part of last season’s No. 3 Flyers team that was one of the most talked about programs in the nation.
And yet this effort and what it could do for the players, their campuses and communities is even more important.
“When you take the power of one athlete’s voice – one athlete’s vote – and multiply by hundreds and hundreds of other student athletes, it becomes really powerful,” Farrell said.
“Coach Grant always says it has nothing to do with basketball, but it also has everything to do with basketball, too. This is about developing the total person, all 360 degrees.
“It’s about impacting their lives forever.”