ODU Athletics

Get the Max With Minium: Harry Minium's First Column With Old Dominion

August 14, 2018
By ODU Athletics

In my nearly 40 years as a journalist there were certain things I was forbidden to say or do. I couldn't hang a political sign in my yard or contribute to any political cause.

I couldn't cheer for any athletic team I had a remote chance of covering or advertise my affiliation with any institution that I covered.

Journalism ethics require you to keep most of your personal feelings to yourself, or at least they did when I broke into the business. In the age of Trump, the line between objective reporting and opinion has blurred.

But I digress.

Now that I recently retired from The Virginian-Pilot, I can say that I care deeply about ODU and believe in its mission.

ODU has transformed itself from a commuter school, the kind of place you enrolled when no one else would take you, into a school of choice. It is a rigorous academic institution with programs in engineering, oceanography and other fields that are among the finest in the nation.

It has dorms, academic facilities and even dining halls that students could only dream about when I went to school here. It also has a robust athletic program, including a football team preparing to open its tenth season.

And ODU has a commitment to diversity that I long admired.

ODU was the first predominantly-white school in Virginia to offer basketball scholarships to African Americans and reached out to minorities academically long before it was fashionable.

As for ODU's mission to help non-traditional students succeed, well, I have personal experience.

My mother, Sadie Minium, went back to school and got her teaching degree in 1980. She was then in her 50s, but was able to achieve her dream of becoming a teacher because of a program ODU had that eased older adults into the classroom.

ODU became my family school. I graduated from ODU in 1977 and both my younger brothers and my daughters attended ODU.

That’s all a long-winded way of explaining why I am so proud and happy to say that ODU has hired me as a senior executive writer and communications specialist.

My new job will take advantage of my experience in both sports and news reporting.

Half of my week will be spent on ODU's academic side of campus, where I will report to Giovanna Genard, ODU’s Assistant Vice President for Strategic Communication and Marketing. I'll write features and profiles for ODU’s web site, odu.edu, as well as Monarch Magazine.

I will also help President John Broderick and his senior executive team with research and may even do a little speech writing.

The other half of my job will be in athletics, and essentially be a continuation of what I’ve done in recent years for The Pilot. l’ll write a weekly column for odusports.com, do periodic features and news stories and will write profiles for ODU’s six football game programs.

I’ll also have a short radio segment prior to every ODU football game.

Perhaps my most important task will be to report on the expansion and renovation of Foreman Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium.

The stadium's sideline stands will come down this winter and S.B. Ballard Construction will do a $65 million renovation that will give fans 21st century creature comforts before ODU's Aug. 31, 2019 opener against Norfolk State.

Expect an update on the stadium soon.

My affinity for ODU dates back more than 50 years. I was in grade school when my dad took me to my first ODU basketball game. I don't remember who the Monarchs played, but I do recall being enamored with coach Sonny Allen and his fast-break offense.

Dave Twardzik, Buttons Speaks, Harry Lozon, Joel Copeland and so many others were my childhood heroes.

ODU was then a small Division II school, trying to find its way into Division I. It helped much that ODU won a Division II national championship in 1975. I was in Evansville, Indiana with a group of students, and we cheered our lungs out as the Monarchs eked out a two-point victory over New Orleans.

Because I know ODU's history pretty well, you can expect to see stories on former Monarchs, and where they are now.

What you should not expect is cheerleading.

Ted Alexander, the associate athletic director for external relations, is my boss in athletics. I was heartened to hear him tell me that my columns should be honest and at times have an edge.

If I think the Monarchs have lost a game because of a lack of effort, I'll say so.

I didn’t lose my love for my alma mater when I became a journalist. Neither did David Teel from the Daily Press, who graduated from James Madison; Doug Doughty from the Roanoke Times, a University of Virginia graduate, or Ed Miller from The Virginian-Pilot, who graduated from William and Mary.

When you’re covering your alma mater, you discipline yourself not to root, as Doughty has had to do his entire career. You're professional enough to know your job is to write about both the good and the bad. At times, I wrote stories that were difficult for ODU officials to digest. Teel and Doughty did it so well that they are in the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame. Miller will be there one day.

My role will be different than it was with the Pilot. ODU is, after all, paying my salary and feeding my family.

I hope to emulate a couple of friends who did well when moving into a similar positions. Jack Bogazcyk, the longtine Roanoke Times columnist, was hired by Marshall to cover their major athletic teams for their Web site. And he did it like a beat writer until he retired a few years ago.

The University of Virginia hired Jeff White away from the Richmond Times-Dispatch and covers the Cavs for U.Va.'s Web site. His stories are indispensable if you truly follow U.Va. athletics.

I promise to tell you some good stories. Digging into the backgrounds of athletes and unearthing details of the obstacles, setbacks and heartbreaks they have overcome are the kinds of stories I love to do.

My job is to find those stories, and keep you coming back to ODU’s web sites.

I've felt like I've had a continuous conversation with ODU fans the last six years, mostly through social media, but through email and phone calls as well.

Please, hit me up on Twitter. Email me with your story ideas and comments, good or bad, and let's continue the conversation.

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