Academics over athletics

Chris Williams

ISU Boxing Club head coach Terry Dowd may live for the sport, but he said there’s one aspect of his club that’s more important than anything — his athletes’ educations.

In 26 years of coaching ISU boxing, Dowd has graduated every student ever to step in his ring — more than 1,000 athletes all together.

Since Dowd started coaching, he said, education has been and will always be priority number one. In order to practice with the club, Dowd requires students to have at least a 2.5 grade-point average. If students want to box competitively for the club they must achieve a 3.0 GPA.

“I teach professional people, not professional athletes,” Dowd said. “If you don’t have a 2.5 GPA you need to get your butt out of here and go study. Employers are out to hire the people with 3.0s and 3.5s, not 2.0s.”

Dowd’s strict rules on grades have had a positive affect on Andrea Kramer, junior in animal ecology.

“He tries to keep us all on track, which is good because I don’t like to study and this gives me a reason to study,” Kramer said. “He’s like a second grandpa to me.”

Dowd’s rough demeanor comes from a rough life. Dowd was born 54 years ago in a Catholic orphanage in Des Moines. He said he met his parents once on the street, but never talked to them again. Dowd’s father was later shot, and Dowd never heard from his mother again.

Dowd was later adopted by Alice Henaman and raised in Spirit Lake. Dowd said he had a history of being tied up and beaten by his two stepfathers, both of whom were alcoholics.

“That’s why I don’t drink or smoke — I’m ornery [enough] when I’m sober,” Dowd said.

The Catholic orphanage is where Dowd put on his first pair of boxing gloves. Dowd also boxed in the military when he served in the Air Force in Vietnam.

Dowd sports a very impressive boxing r‚sum‚. In 26 years of coaching, Dowd has coached 23 national champions and 43 All-Americans. The ISU Boxing Club has been ranked in the top five nationally for each of the last 10 years. Dowd also had the chance to work with former heavyweight champion Tony Tubs.

Dowd also had success in the ring at the amateur level. His career record was 26-4.

Dowd now has five daughters, a son and a wife, Marge, who said she comes to 99 percent of the club’s practices.

Dowd and his wife credit the boxing club as the reason he’s still alive today.

Seven years ago, Dowd suffered from a stroke that paralyzed the left side of his body. Doctors told him he would never walk or speak again. Only a month after his stroke, Dowd was at practice in a wheelchair, coaching as usual.

A month and a half ago, Dowd fell and broke his ribs while entering State Gym, but not even that could keep him down. He still does vigorous abdominal exercises with the team before practices.

“I’ll do it with broken ribs and all,” Dowd yelled as he did sit-ups with the team.

Dowd may be as hard-nosed as they come, but he still has a soft spot in his heart for his team.

Once you’ve been coached by Dowd, you’re in more than just a club; you’re now part of his family, he said. Dowd and his wife repeatedly check up on boxers to make sure their academics are going well and that they have enough money and food. If not, Dowd said he’d get them a tutor. In addition to that, during Dowd’s tenure at Iowa State, he’s helped 40 different student-athletes pay their tuition.

“That’s all just part of being a good coach,” Dowd said.

With a growing number of students in the club, Dowd continues to learn every one of his athlete’s names.

“This is so much fun. What other 54-year-old man gets to come work out with college kids every night?” he said.

Dowd said his style of coaching is a great way for students to get into shape and to learn. A majority of the club’s boxers never put on gloves before Dowd worked with them.

“Here, nobody ever gets hurt. We won’t embarrass you. Everybody here is equal,” Dowd said.

This spring, the men’s team will travel to Xavier, Ohio, for a regional tournament and then to Reno, Nev., for the national club boxing tournament.

There are no collegiate competitions for the women in the club yet.

“They won’t let women compete yet, which is stupid,” Dowd said.

Second only to his emphasis on education is Dowd’s goal that everybody in the ISU Boxing Club be treated equally, no matter what race or gender, he said.

“If you’re a racist or a bigot, don’t you dare come down here. There’s no place for those kinds of people here,” Dowd said.

The main reason Dowd is so loved by his team is his ability to relate to his athletes.

Jamey Anderson, junior in construction engineering, who Dowd thinks could possibly be Iowa State’s next national champion, said Dowd is “more like a friend.”

“He’s given me a lot of discipline. He pulls my grades up and keeps me in line,” Anderson said.

Dowd has had the same impact on Adam Nussbaum, club president and sophomore in industrial engineering.

“He’s kind of like that crazy uncle you never had,” Nussbaum said.