WASHINGTON – Mark Gottfried,Alabama head basketball coach,said he knew his assistant coach Robert Scott was sick when he heard him groaning with pain while they were on a scouting trip in New York.
Shortly after he started coaching at Alabama in 1998,Gottfried said Scott was diagnosed with stomach cancer. He fought the disease and kept coaching,even when players had to push his wheelchair off the court,Gottfried said.
“We watched him physically succumb to the disease,” Gottfried said. Scott died in 2000.
After watching Scott's battle with cancer,Gottfried said he supported cancer fundraising and research even more because the issue resonated with him.
To start the American Cancer Society's annual lobbying day,Gottfried spoke at a news conference Tuesday along with four other college basketball coaches for Coaches vs. Cancer,a collaboration between ACS and the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
The group of 500 coaches has committed to beating cancer and raising money to fund research,according to a press release.
Gottfried and coaches from the University of Maryland,University of Connecticut,Syracuse University and Temple University joined more than 200 volunteers on Capitol Hill to ask Congress for more cancer research funding and tougher regulations on the tobacco industry.
“Today,it's an opportunity to help in any way we can,” Gottfried said.
After hearing the coaches tell their stories about how cancer has touched their lives,Rep. Artur Davis,D-Ala.,said he understood how their players must feel after a halftime speech.
He said the news conference was a halftime speech to motivate the Senate because it still needs to vote on a bill to regulate the tobacco industry. The House has already passed the bill.
Davis said he supports the tougher advertising regulations on the tobacco industry because not smoking is one way to help prevent some types of cancer.
“Heck,I know some poor neighborhoods in Alabama where you can't find a school,you can't find a playground,but you can find a payday lender and a tobacco advertisement,” he said.
Jim Calhoun,UConn head men's basketball coach,said he was only four weeks removed from his last round of radiation therapy to treat skin cancer.
After the medical treatments he went through to treat the cancer and prostate cancer in 2003,he said he worries about the students he sees smoking on campus because they think it is cool.
“I can tell you right now,a needle biopsy to detect it is not cool. Thirty-five mornings of radiation is not cool,” Calhoun said. “I wish I could tell them these stories.”
Maryland's head men's basketball coach Gary Williams said his mother died of cancer when he was young,so it was an easy choice to support Coaches vs. Cancer,which has raised about $47 million.
Williams said that a tie is not an option in the fight to cure cancer.
“We have to win against cancer. There is no other option,” Williams said.
When it comes to funding for cancer research,Sen. Ben Cardin,D-Md.,said the nation has moved in the wrong direction recently by not spending enough.
With more funding to support the National Institutes of Health,Cardin said more effective treatments and early detection could be developed.
“We want to prevent cancer in the first place,” he said. “We wanted to make sure people get the type of detection to keep them healthy.”
Dr. John Seffrin,chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network,said that if members of Congress can discuss a $700 billion bailout for financial firms,they should consider $70 billion over four years to support cancer research.
Since 1991,Seffrin said the number of people who die because of cancer has dropped. He said he wants to see the momentum continue.
“When it comes to cancer,it's early in the second half,and for the first time,we're in the lead,” Seffrin said.