Jim Durham, News Bureau Director
Back when Junior Bridgeman wore a University of Louisville Cardinal basketball jersey in the mid Seventies most players competed “for the love of the game and the loyalty to school,” he remembers. By the time he was selected 8th over-all in the NBA Draft in ’75 by the Los Angeles Lakers, he saw that it was all “business.”
Bridgeman, who would go on to become an NBA Player Representative and have his jersey retired by the Milwaukee Bucks, is the honored guest for Wednesday’s fireside chat on the “decline of character in collegiate sports” – the second in the Billy Reed “Conversations with Champions at Georgetown College.” This free event begins at 7:30 p.m. (Oct. 20) in John L. Hill Chapel.
Reed, who recently joined former Gov. Martha Layne Collins as a GC Executive Scholar-in-Residence, is a former sports editor at the Louisville Courier-Journal and contributor to Sports Illustrated. About Bridgeman, Reed wrote, “Junior always has done things the right way. He prepared himself for life after basketball by getting his degree and developing good contacts in the business world. Today he owns a chain of Wendy’s and is giving back by being a community leader. He’s a past board chairman at U of L. Bottom line, he is a great role model for student-athletes.”
Besides being president of Manna Inc/ERJ Inc and owner of 163 Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburger Restaurants and 121 Chili’s in five states, Bridgeman is active on a number of boards. Currently, he serves on U of L’s athletics board, Louisville’s Arena Authority board – which just last week saw the dedication of the KFC Yum! Center in downtown Louisville and Fifth Third Bank. He’s also a board member of the PGA, the golf organization with which Georgetown College has a unique partnership.
Bridgeman especially appreciates the platform golf gives him to talk about sportsmanship and fair play. “In golf there is respect for your opponent,” he said. “And, it’s the only sport where you can call a foul on yourself.”
Bridgman is dismayed, though, with what’s happened in collegiate sports. “Somewhere along the line it’s gotten off track – what with the money (Division 1) schools can make being on national TV every week, coaches contracts, and issues of integrity and character that have gotten away from the core values of athletics,” he said.
“Somehow we’ve got to get back to competing on a higher level than high school, but not to where winning is the most important thing – and to win you’ll do anything,” Bridgeman said.
Collectively these “conversations” with Billy Reed tie in with GC Athletics Director Eric Ward’s emphasis on the College’s “Champions of Athletic Character” program. Ward, Reed and President Bill Crouch urge all student-athletes, sports fans and concerned citizens to come and be part of the solution by helping to restore character, ethics and integrity in collegiate sports.