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Does March Madness Have An Immigration Dimension? Guess!
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March 26, 2010, 04:00 AM
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Last weekend, like millions of Americans, I watched the first two rounds of the NCAA Mens` Basketball Championship.

And for the four days consecutive days that began March 25th, I`ll be glued to my television for more basketball and plenty of bracketology speculation.

For those not in the know, bracketology is a clever word made up a few years ago that now dominates March Madness. Simply translated, it means who you think will win the tournament broken down game-by-game.

Unlike most viewers, however, not much tournament time passed before I discovered an immigration dimension. That`s the curse of 25 years of dedicated patriot immigration reform activism. The issue is always bubbling up toward the surface, often interfering with my leisure time.

Today`s story has a happy end, though. I`ll introduce you to two teams and coaches that have committed themselves for years into the future to support young American students: Northern Iowa and Michigan State Universities.

In the case of the Michigan State Spartans, coach Tom Izzo implements a recruiting policy so old-fashioned that, in this era of globalism, it nearly brings tears to the eyes of this hardened old war horse.

Let`s begin at the beginning.

When my alma mater, the young and overachieving University of Pittsburgh Golden Panthers, got bumped out by the Xavier Musketeers, I went looking for another team to root for.

I first checked out the St. Mary`s Gaels. Like the Gaels, I`m Californian and Roman Catholic.

Then I looked at the Gaels` roster: 5 players out of fourteen from Australia! Please don`t insult my intelligence by telling me that California doesn`t have enough tall kids who play basketball who could make the Gaels squad and who would love to have a full ride, four-year scholarship.

The Gaels boast about what the college calls its "Australian connection," a link so strong that it also brought from down under two more Aussies for the women`s basketball team

As I pointed out last week, the presence foreign-born players in sports is about more than sports. In this case, it`s about opportunities, academic and financial, given to Australians but denied to Americans.

With the Gaels eliminated as possible favorites, I turned to the University of California, then still in the tournament. Because of its commitment to multiculturalism and open borders, the Golden Bears would have been an improbable choice for me.

Still, as a native Californian, I could pull for Cal...under the right circumstances.

But then came the final blow that eliminated the Bears. In addition to being one of the state`s most prominent diversity embracers, Cal has a Serbian, a Mexican (!) and a 7`3" Chinese player on its squad.

Spare me! Bankrupt California is underwriting the scholarships of foreign-born players from countries for which we already do plenty.

Finally, after continued research, I discovered Northern Iowa (NIU) and Michigan State (MSU).

Each has a touching, all American story behind its basketball success.

Of Northern Iowa`s sixteen players, eight hail from Iowa. The remaining come from states bordering Iowa: Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and Missouri.

NIU`s basketball success has boosted Iowa`s economy. Although the university is located in Cedar Falls, dedication to the Panthers runs throughout the state since it now is home to Iowa`s most successful basketball team.

Coach Ben Jacobson, in an interview earlier this week on ESPN`s Mike and Mike Show, told of how NIU`s strong showing in the NCAA has given a needed shot in the arm to the business community.

Fans gather at local restaurants and taverns to watch televised games in their newly bought Panther sweatshirts and caps.

Unlike Louisville coach Rick Pitino (five head coaching jobs in 25 years) or Kentucky`s John Calipari (four jobs in 20 years) who parlayed their successes into increasingly more lucrative contracts at bigger schools, this week Jacobsen agreed to a ten-year contract with NIU so he could continue to work with local players.

An even better example of local power, if you will, is MSU`s Izzo.

Here, briefly stated, is the Izzo recruiting philosophy that I referred to earlier as almost reducing me to tears: Izzo eschews foreign-born players—even many out of state players—because he wants his Spartans` Moms, Dads, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles to be able to watch their kids play!

What could be more old fashioned than making sure kids have the ongoing support of their families? [Izzo Prefers Home Cooking, by Bob Ryan, Boston Globe, April 4, 2009]

If a MSU booster were to suggest to Izzo that he establish an Australian connection, it`s unlikely that he`d be able to finish his sentence before being cut off.

Two things drive Izzo. First, his commitment to Michigan where he was born and brought up. And second his passion to restore the state to its economic prominence so that his former as well as future student-players will have better opportunities.

Izzo, who grew up in the blue collar Upper Peninsula town of Iron Mountain, wants to restore the American Dream.

During his childhood Izzo, witnessed economic opportunities vanish when the local area mines shut down.

But for the unemployed decades ago, there remained the lure of relocating south to find a good union job with middle class wages, paid vacation and a pension at one of the automobile factories in Saginaw or Macomb Country.

With just a high school diploma, a worker could still pursue the American Dream of home ownership and a college education for his children.

Now many of those Michigan kids, now adults, are out of work. Some have been displaced by H-1B visa holders, others have had their jobs outsourced. Even the few remaining entry level jobs are often filled by immigrants, either legal or illegal.

Izzo knows that Spartan success gives Michigan a much needed emotional shot in the arm. Unemployment, the economy and the mortgage crisis have adversely affected Michigan as much if not more than any other state.

In his 54 years, Izzo has only worked outside of Michigan for seven weeks. Michigan`s reward: Every MSU Basketball player who has stayed four years under Izzo has played in the Final Four of the NCAA tournament. No other active NCAA coach can say the same.

Only MSU advanced in the tournament. In the late Friday night game, the Spartans and NIU went head to head with MSU prevailing, 59-52.

Some may consider my column maudlin and inconsequential. Why, readers may ask, should Guzzardi care whether MSU has a point guard from Detroit or from Croatia?

My answer: it`s important to me (and I hope to you) because when you spend as I do 14 hours a day, seven days a week doing what you can to preserve America, every shred of success counts and keeps me motivated to carry on the fight.

What better reason is there?

Joe Guzzardi [email him] is a California native who recently fled the state because of over-immigration, over-population and a rapidly deteriorating quality of life. He has moved to Pittsburgh, PA where the air is clean and the growth rate stable. A long-time instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, Guzzardi has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.