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Paul Blackburn selected for NCAA Student Immersion Program

Paul Blackburn ('18)

Paul Blackburn ('18)

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Photo courtesy of

Paul Blackburn ('18)

Olivia Enquist, Staff Writer

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Paul Blackburn (‘18), a member of Luther’s men’s basketball team was selected by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to participate in the NCAA III Student Immersion Program. The program provides training for those interested in coaching with the hope that they will work in NCAA Division III athletics after graduating from college. The convention will take place in January 2018.

The program began in 2015 as a recommendation from the Division III Diversity and Inclusion Working Group, which is the Division III governance staff and the NCAA Office of Inclusion. The program’s goal is to encourage minority students to participate in Division III coaching and administration, by encouraging diversity in the division. Every year, the top 40 applicants are selected to participate in the NCAA III Student Immersion Program. These applicants are students that have been nominated by administrators from their colleges or universities.

Blackburn described the process of applying to the program, a process that lasted about two weeks.

“It was brought up to me by the head coach of our basketball team, Mark Franzen.” Blackburn said. “The Women’s basketball team coach Amanda Bailey brought it to his attention. He told me that I would be nominated which is exciting because the school is only allowed to nominate one person per school. The head of Division III has a committee where they go through and pick the top forty candidates that applied. I was just lucky enough to get in.”

The NCAA program is fully funded and will take place in Indianapolis, IN. The participants will be familiarized with Division III athletics, including its members and governance processes. Participants will also receive training in various areas, and attend meetings.

Blackburn described some of the things that he was he was looking forward to gaining from the experience.

“I am super excited to network with some of the higher-ups within the NCAA and people who know a lot about the sport,” Blackburn said. “I am looking to become a graduate assistant next year, so it would be nice in January to build on some of those connections and network with people.”

Head Men’s Basketball coach Mark Franzen commented on Blackburn’s transition from player to coach.

“Paul started out as a player for us and has transitioned to an outstanding student assistant coach,” Franzen said. “He has responsibilities coaching on the floor every day and is also involved in the recruiting process. This year, he will take on the added role of coaching our junior varsity team that will play a 14-game schedule.”

Blackburn also commented on this transition and hopes the program will provide guidance as he continues his role as a coach.

“When you are a player, you will sit on the bench and listen to the coach, but when you are a coach you have to know what to do and what to tell your players,” Blackburn said. “It will be interesting to learn more about the game especially since it’s something that I love. I am just taking it all in.”

Co-captain Christian Wright (‘18) is thrilled for Blackburn.

“I was really excited for him,” Wright said. “He’s fitting recipient and definitely deserves an award like that. Since he’s been on coaching he’s done a lot. He works out with multiple guys more than once a week, so he’s very generous with his time in that way. Even before games he’ll work one-on-one over basketball handling, which is helpful. From last year to this year he’s had a lot more responsibilities and I’ve seen him grow a lot as a coach.”

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