Coaches vs. Cancer

SMU and TCU coaches lace up their sneakers to help fight cancer

by Allison Hatfield | January 21, 2020

“Losing my mom has been the hardest thing of all the difficult things in life,” says Southern Methodist University head basketball coach Tim Jankovich. “When I was young, when you would hear the word ‘cancer,’ you would shudder. You didn’t want it near your house, or in your house, or near anyone you loved,” he says.

Now, however, there are few among us who hasn’t been touched in some way by some form of cancer. Several years ago, coach Jankovich’s mother fell ill with breast cancer and then bone cancer that developed as a result. Ann Jankovich died in 2013, leaving a great vacancy in her son’s life.

Coach Jankovich and his mom

Influenced by University of Oklahoma head basketball coach Lon Kruger, coach Jankovich became involved in Coaches vs. Cancer even before his mother’s death, however. “It’s a cause I am very sincere about,” he says.

The nationwide effort is now in its 26th year, says American Cancer Society Executive Vice President Jeff Fehlis. “Since 1993, Coaches vs. Cancer has raised $120 million for American Cancer Society. Each of [the participating] coaches, including the two here in North Texas, has an enormous platform to help raise awareness.”

This week, coach Jankovich and Texas Christian University head basketball coach Jamie Dixon are participants in Suits and Sneakers, which unites basketball coaches across the country in wearing sneakers with their game attire in order to draw attention to the importance of raising money for research and to encourage people to educate themselves about cancer prevention, screening, and early detection.

Coach Jankovich and other members of SMU coaching staff will wear custom-designed sneakers at Wednesday’s game against East Carolina at Moody Coliseum. Coach Dixon and his associates will wear their sneakers Tuesday night at TCU’s game against Texas Tech at Schollmaier Arena.

The 2019-2020 Coaches vs. Cancer Suits and Sneakers games specifically support childhood cancer research and services, Fehlis says. “Cancer is the leading disease-related cause of death in children,” he says. “One in 389 children in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 15. The American Cancer Society currently has 68 active research grants dedicated to childhood cancer totaling nearly $40 million.”

But it can’t stop there. For more information and to join the coaches in the fight against cancer, go to coachesvscancer.org

Want more? Check out the news segment about this initiative from NBC DFW.

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