I've read and heard stories of how the NCAA, collegiate sports all-powerful governing body, can be heavy-handed and unpredictable in its dispensing of penalties and punishment--but it was frustrating to witness the strong arm of the NCAA level sanctions against our unofficially adopted son, Serge Gasore. A few days prior to his joining his ACU track team mates at this year's Division II Track & Field Finals at Mount San Antonio College in Walnut, California, Serge was notified by the NCAA that he would not be able to participate.
Here's the short-hand version of what happened as related by Serge: Over the 2007 Christmas break, the ACU track coaches hosted a Christmas party for the international students on the track team who had not been able to travel the great distances to their homes over the holiday. During the Christmas party, the ACU coaches presented these international student athletes with a Christmas present... a violation of NCAA rules. I didn't ask Serge what the gift was, but I'm fairly certain it wasn't a large cash gift, or a new car... because I watched Serge purchase (using his own hard-earned money) the used 1999 Taurus he drives to the two, sometimes three, jobs he works every week.
When questioned by NCAA officials, Serge did something that's viewed as strange, if not foolish, by many people... he told the truth. He admitted that he had received a Christmas gift from his coaches. And he was willing to bear the punishment of paying back the gift's cost to an NCAA sanctioned charity.
But... the wheels of NCAA justice turn slowly, and while it was hoped Serge could be cleared of his transgression in time for last week's Track & Field Finals, that did not happen. Serge remained in Abilene while his coaches and team mates journeyed to California, where they won the Division II team trophy for Track & Field at Nationals.
I saw Serge this morning, and while he was thrilled for his team mates' success... it was clear he was greatly disappointed at not being able to participate in Nationals. Susan and I affirmed Serge for winning a greater victory, one that seems to be proving more and more elusive in our society today--he told the truth, and in doing so evidenced that he is a man of integrity and character.
Five years from now, few people will remember who won the 2008 NCAA Division II Track & Field National championship. But I trust God will have brought on-going honor to a young man from Rwanda named Serge Gasore who knows the race is not always won by the fastest runner, but the one who runs well.
Serge, I honor you for running well.