Big Ten alumni gather in Lakewood Ranch

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Posted: Monday, January 27, 2014 9:00 pm

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. - The Big Ten Alumni Luncheon was held this past weekend, and the crowd got a pep talk reminiscent of Bo Schembeckler or Woodie Hayes. ABC 7’s Don Brennan emceed the event and he has the story.

The largest crowd in recent memory poured into the Polo Grill in Lakewood Ranch over the weekend for the 2014 luncheon; a new venue but the same good time.

"Yes, not too many organizations like this, Big Tens, exist throughout the country. Especially here in Florida. We do it up big for the Big Ten, and now we have 14 schools," says event co-chair Janet Arena.

Tennis Hall of Famer Nick Bollettieri was the guest of honor and he had the crowd enrapt for his 30 minute speech -- a speech he titled ‘A Smile Can Buy the World.’

"The older you get, the more excited you get when you can get together with other almuni around the country to say, 'we were better than you.'. I am so honored to be speaking here."

Bollettieri talked about getting the most out of every day. He knows how to do it better than anyone. 10 world champions he trained, 8 wives, and 7 children plus the building of the IMG empire. "Recently I gave a speech for the Yankees, that you are only as old as you feel. Andy Pettitte gave me a great picture. The older you get, you still have to have the feeling that you are special."

Over 350 Big Ten alums were there to hear that speech, renew old acquaintances, and sing their school fight songs, as if no time had passed at all since graduation.

"Everybody loves to have the fight song; to get up and sing their fight song, and all of the camaraderie. Don't forget the Big Ten chocolate cake. That's awesome. Everybody looks forward to that, and there are never any leftovers of the cake!" says Arena.

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