HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Tom Herrion doesn't want your money, pity or applause. He just wants to spread the word about autism, something he, at least one fellow coach and millions of Americans deal with on a daily basis.
Herrion and Towson coach Pat Skerry, an assistant for two years under Herrion at College of Charleston, have developed today as Autism Awareness Day in college basketball. The longtime friends share a personal stake - Skerry has an autistic child and Herrion's 8-year-old is on the autism spectrum.
The idea has spread throughout Division I, and today many coaches and media members will sport a pin with the symbolic puzzle-piece theme. All Conference USA coaches are on board, Herrion said, including Mike Jarvis of Florida Atlantic, MU's opponent at noon today.
Additionally, MU players will sport special black shooting shirts with an "Autism Speaks" theme.
"Autism is the fastest-growing behavioral diagnosis disorder in the country. Fact. Fact," Herrion said. "It's a social situation. There's a wide range of [disorders] when you fall into autism. So we brainstormed, we picked a day when we both were home, both had a TV game, and then we targeted all the nationally televised games, about 44.
"He and I purchased the pins, Autism Speaks pins, and reached out to all of the coaches. Our target was the national TV games, to gain the exposure. And we reached out directly to each of those coaches to wear the lapel pin. It was an overwhelming and humbling 'yes.' NABC, the coaches' association, jumped on board in their support.
"Media support, ESPN GameDay's going to wear the pins. [Famed ESPN analyst Dick] Vitale is going to wear it Saturday night for the Duke-Syracuse game. It's kind of grown way faster than we thought. This year is not about raising funds or anything, it's simply about raising awareness."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsm...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter. com/dougsmock.