June 19, 2007
WASHINGTON -- President Bush praised a diverse assembly of college sports champions on Monday, including Northwestern's three-time defending national champion women's lacrosse team.
In all, 28 teams that won NCAA championships during 2006 and 2007 were honored on the White House South Lawn.
Bush kept his comments to a spare eight minutes. That offered some relief to those gathered in the scorching heat -- and to the president himself, who struggled through his speech in a gravelly voice. A spokesman said Bush probably had a cold.
"You've distinguished yourselves on fields and fairways, tracks and tennis courts, rivers and rinks, pommel horses and pools, bowling alleys, mountains and basketball arenas," Bush said. "You have one thing in common: You have achieved the great title 'Champion,' and nobody can take that away from you."
The championship teams spanned eight athletic conferences, 14 states and 21 campuses. The sports included bowling, cross country, fencing, field hockey, gymnastics, lacrosse, volleyball and tennis.
Bush praised the athletes for being good students and leaders. "For those of you who follow presidential politics, you know I'll be around one more year," Bush said. "I'm looking forward to having you come back."
Bush also commented on the much ballyhooed "flip-flop flap" that resulted when a few Northwestern players wore flip flops on their 2005 White House visit.
"We've got teams here that have won three championships in a row," Bush said to laughter on the lawn. "That would be called a three-peat. Georgia Women's Gymnastics -- (applause) -- Northwestern Women's Lacrosse -- (applause).
"I might as well go on the record, all right -- I was disappointed in the footwear," the president said to further laughter. "It's just too conventional, especially on a hot day."
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)