Valentine's Day weekend isn't just for sweethearts; it's also become a holiday of sorts for women's basketball.
All around the country this weekend, teams will pull on pink jerseys, tie their pink shoelaces, slip their ponytails through pink scrunchies and run into arenas full of pink-clad fans, all for something that's bigger than basketball. It's not a fight against a Big Ten or Northeast Conference foe, but rather the battle against breast cancer.
This year's event takes on an even greater meaning nationwide, with the recent passing of legendary N.C. State coach Kay Yow. She had battled breast cancer since 1987, while working tirelessly to raise awareness about the devastating disease.
"The women's basketball community has been hit hard by the passing of Kay Yow," St. Francis head coach Susan Robinson Fruchtl said. "[She was] a pioneer of the game and she fought a long, public battle with breast cancer herself. As a team, we are proud to honor her and others who have lost the battle. We are also honored to celebrate those survivors in our community who continue to fight this battle."
The Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) tipped off the "Think Pink" campaign in 2007, with Penn State immediately taking its place as one of the national leaders in the effort. The Lady Lions' squad and marketing staff put together one of the most effective "Think Pink" says in the country, with the Bryce Jordan Center bathed in the signature color of breast cancer - raising both money and awareness for the cause. Fans (women and men) donned the event's official pink t-shirts, bid on a variety of silent auction items, and even stayed for a live auction of the team's special pink uniforms. Through the first two years of the event, re-named the Pink Zone, Penn State has raised more than $50,000.
"The WBCA Pink Zone at Penn State is an event that we, as an entire team, look forward to each year," Lady Lion head coach Coquese Washington said. "It is such a great cause to fight for and we take a lot of pride in being the first team in the country to wear pink uniforms to draw attention to breast cancer awareness.'"
More than 800 teams throughout the nation will participate this weekend, including St. Francis hosting their first event of its kind when Sacred Heart comes to town Saturday at 4 p.m. Penn State hosts Iowa Sunday at 3 p.m. Penn State Altoona is holding their own WCBA Pink Zone game against Medaille Saturday at 1 p.m.
Hopefully someday soon these efforts will no longer be needed, and breast cancer will be defeated. In the meantime, grab your pink shirts and shoelaces and head to Loretto, University Park or Altoona this weekend to enjoy some great women's basketball for a good cause.
Kellie Goodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.