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Vol. 52, No. 2 • January 2015 • .pdf version
USBWA has treasured relationship with Oscar
By JOE MITCH
The USBWA has enjoyed a long and rewarding relationship with perhaps the greatest college basketball player of all time – two-time USBWA player of the year Oscar Robertson.
My friendship with Oscar goes back some 35 years ago to the mid-1970s. Oscar was a color analyst on the Metro Conference game-of-the-week telecasts. I served as assistance commissioner of the Metro for media relations.
When the USBWA decided to name its national player-of- the-year award after a former player or coach, the organization looked no further than to Oscar to put his name on the award.
After all, Oscar is a national treasure. He was voted the greatest player in the 20th Century in all of basketball. He was the USBWA's first national player of the year in 1959 and was coming off a 1958 season in which he was named a consensus All-American at Cincinnati.
The USBWA named the award the Oscar Robertson Trophy in 1998, and in the 17 years since then the Robertson Trophy has become one of the nation's most prestigious player-of-the-year awards.
There are other player-of-the-year awards – the Wooden Award and the Naismith Award being the most notable – but what makes the USBWA's Robertson Trophy so unique is that it is the only one named after a player and the only award whose namesake is living.
Since its inception, 49 players have won the award. Virginia's Ralph Sampson and UCLA's Bill Walton are the only three-time winners. Texas' Kevin Durant and Kentucky's Anthony Davis are the only freshmen to win the award, although Walton did earn USBWA national player of the year in his first season of eligibility. Aside from the "Big O" himself, Hall of Famers Jerry Lucas (Ohio State), Lew Alcindor (UCLA) and Pete Maravich (LSU) are the other two-time recipients.
The original Robertson Trophy, a sculpture made of bronze depicting Oscar rebounding a basketball with his legs spread-eagled, is on display in the foyer of Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Oscar's hometown. The USBWA commissioned world-renowned sculptor Harry Weber to produce the sculpture of Oscar and the trophy.
The USBWA membership votes on the player-of-the-year award at the end of the regular season, along with the USBWA's coach and freshman-of- the-year awards. The winner is announced each year at the NCAA Final Four and then is presented with the trophy at the Devon Energy College Basketball Awards dinner the week after the Final Four on April 14 at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.
In addition to the player-of-the-year trophy, the USBWA's Henry Iba Coach of the Year Award, the Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year Award and the Wayman Tisdale Humanitarian Award are also presented at the dinner in Oklahoma City.
The Iba Award is named after legendary Olympic and Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State) coach Henry Iba, who won 655 games in his career and led the Aggies to NCAA championships in 1945 and 1946. He also coached the U.S. Olympic team to gold medals in 1964 and 1968 and a silver medal in 1972.
The Tisdale Award for the freshman of the year, first awarded in 2011, is named in honor of the late Wayman Tisdale. Tisdale was a three-time USBWA All-American at Oklahoma and in 1983 was the first freshman to be named a first-team All-American by the USBWA.
Following a stint on the 1984 U.S. Olympic team, he played 12 seasons in the NBA before retiring in 1997 to focus on a blossoming jazz music career. In March 2007, Tisdale was diagnosed with cancer and, following a courageous battle, he passed away in May 2009.
The Devon Energy gala is hosted by the Oklahoma City-based non-profit charitable organization Access Sports, which provides funding for basketball programs in Oklahoma for disadvantaged youth.
Funds from the gala are also used to support the USBWA's scholarship programs and for contributions to various charitable groups, including the National Kidney Foundation in honor of Oscar, who donated a kidney several years ago to his daughter Tia.
BURWELL TRIBUTE. Bryan Burwell served the USBWA well when he was president of the association in 2010-11. He provided the USBWA with outstanding leadership, especially in the areas of diversity and student-journalist education. He pushed for more minorities and women in the USBWA Hall of Fame and was always ready to participate as a panelist in the USBWA's writing workshops for student sportswriters.
Bryan was the USBWA's first black president in 33 years and only the second in its 59-year history.
As has been written by many who knew him, Bryan Burwell was a giant in the sports journalism profession. He will be missed.
Lodge Notes: Ex-Nebraska SID Bryant passes away
Longtime USBWA member and former Nebraska sports information director Don "Fox" Bryant passed away on Dec. 5 at the age of 85. Bryant was the sports editor of the Lincoln Star from 1954 until Nebraska hired him as SID in 1962. He retired in 1997 after 35 years at the school. Bryant served as a member of the Final Four media relations crew. ... Steve Wiseman has been promoted to sports editor of the Durham Herald-Sun. He will continue to cover Duke basketball.
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