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Vol. 46, No. 2 • February 2009 • .pdf version
Michigan State's '79 champs to highlight Final Four breakfast
By JOE MITCH / Executive Director
This year's USBWA breakfast to honor the nation's player and coach of the year figures to be a social highlight at the Final Four in Detroit in April.
In addition to presenting the Oscar Robertson Player of the Year Trophy and the Henry Iba Coach of the Year Award, the USBWA also plans to honor the 1979 Michigan State NCAA Final Four team on the 30th anniversary of the Spartans' national championship.
The breakfast will be held the day before the national semifinals on Friday, April 3, at the downtown Detroit Athletic Club, beginning at 8 a.m.
The USBWA has received commitments from former Michigan State coach Jud Heathcote and current coach Tom Izzo to attend the breakfast. The Michigan State basketball office also has committed to send invitations on behalf of the USBWA to the players and coaches of the 1979 team.
It is hopeful that Magic Johnson will make an appearance at the breakfast. USBWA Past President Andy Katz said he would approach Magic and felt encouraged since Johnson is under contract to ESPN and probably would be attending the Final Four.
This will be the fifth straight season that the USBWA has held a breakfast at the Final Four for the general public to honor its national coach and player of the year.
The event has been a sellout every year. Revenue from the breakfast underwrites the USBWA's journalism scholarship program and helps fund the organization's operating budget.
A portion of the proceeds from the breakfast is also given to the National Kidney Foundation on behalf of Oscar Robertson, who several years ago donated one of his kidneys to his daughter.
The USBWA renamed its player of the year award after Robertson in 1998. It is the nation's oldest such award and the only one named after a player. The "Big O" was the association's first player of the year recipient in 1958. He was named College Player of the Century by the National Association of Basketball Coaches in 1999.
By honoring Michigan State's 1979 national-championship team, the USBWA is continuing the tradition of recognizing individuals or teams from the geographical area of the Final Four site for their contributions to college basketball and the impact they made on the sport.
At the first breakfast in St. Louis in 2005, the USBWA honored retired coach Lou Henson, who took two teams – New Mexico State and Illinois – to the Final Four. The following year in Indianapolis, the USBWA recognized I ndiana's 1976 team on the 30th anniversary of the Hoosiers' national championship.
At the 2007 breakfast in Atlanta, the USBWA honored the state of Georgia's three Final Four teams – Georgia in 1983 and Georgia Tech in 1990 and 2004.
Last year, the USBWA recognized the former chair of San Antonio's Local Organizing Committee for his efforts to bring the first Final Four to San Antonio in 1998.
The USBWA has the full support and endorsement of the NCAA, which lists the breakfast in its Final Four schedule of events and was actively involved in securing the site for the event.
Tickets for the breakfast are $75 each for the general public and $60 for USBWA members.
The USBWA is negotiating with WWJ radio in Detroit to serve as a media partner for the breakfast and has secured a Detroit public-relations firm, Jonathan Witz & Associates, to publicize and coordinate the event.
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