The University of Richmond football team signed more than 200 people up for a national bone marrow donor registry during a day-long drive event in the University Forum on Wednesday. 

Tyler Cole, a redshirt junior on the football team, said the team was participating in the Be the Match registry to help give back.

Be the Match is a national registry of donors operated by the National Marrow Donor Program. 

Andy Talley, the former football head coach for Villanova, founded the national football collaboration program, Get in the Game, Dan Gariepy, the Virginia representative for Be the Match, said.

“We partner up with different football programs to host a bone marrow registry event where the football players rally together,” Gariepy said.

James Madison University, Christopher Newport University, Old Dominion University and the College of William and Mary's football programs all participate, Gariepy said.

The likelihood of being chosen as a match is 1 in 430, Gariepy said. He said college-aged students were the primary target and that doctors preferred younger donors.

“Biologically they are good donors, and availability they are usually really good donors,” Gariepy said.

Kiersten Ness | The Collegian

Students fill out paper work to join the Be the Match registry at a football-sponsored marrow donor drive. 

Russ Huesman, football head coach, said he was proud of the students who came out to participate in the registry. When he was head coach at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Huesman said he had had more than 200 students register at the school of almost 12,000 students.

Because UR is a smaller school, Huesman said he was impressed by the turnout and that the students had stepped up for the occasion.

After registering, one of Huesman’s players while he was head coach at Chattanooga was found to be a true match and donated his bone marrow.

“When he looked up and told me that he was a match, it was pretty cool," Huesman said.

A football player from ODU talked to the UR football team earlier in the day and told them about his donor experience, Huesman said. Eventually, the player was able to meet with the person he matched with and saved, he said.

The football team has participated in this event for a few years, including when former head coach Mike London was a bone marrow donor, Gariepy said. London donated to his daughter, who is now a senior at ODU.

“We did a bone marrow drive at ODU with their football team yesterday, and she was there the whole time,” Gariepy said.

Gariepy emphasized the importance of considering the decision seriously before choosing to be put in the registry.

Kierstan Ness | The Collegian

Students swipe the inside of their cheeks with cotton swabs to be sent to the Be the Match registry.

At Be the Match, Gariepy said there was a problem where people were called as a potential match and that 39% of the time, people either did not call back or outright declined.

“We want to make sure that people are committed to being a donor because it’s real,” Gariepy said. “People need life-saving transplants and they’re going to die without the transplants."

Every member of the football team is now in the bone marrow registry except for those who are medically unqualified, Huesman said. Once someone is registered, he or she is on the registry for good, he said.

Many athletes came out to support Spider Athletics because coaches were told about the registry event, Huesman said.

“Thank you to the Richmond students,” Huesman said. “They’re fantastic and this is unbelievable.”

To learn more about the National Marrow Donor program, visit https://bethematch.org/.

Contact sports writer Lindsay Emery at lindsay.emery@richmond.edu 

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