Vol. 49, No. 4 May 2012 .pdf version
John Akers: Entering uncertainty, we need each other
Joe Mitch: Basketball gala to feature USBWA awards
Lenox Rawlings: Bob Ryan honors us all

Joe Mitch

Basketball gala to feature USBWA awards

By JOE MITCH / Missouri Valley Conference
USBWA Executive Director

The USBWA is moving the presentation of its annual men's college basketball awards to a new venue beginning next year.

Having presented the Oscar Robertson Trophy to the national player of the year and the Henry Iba Award to the coach of the year at a breakfast at the NCAA Final Four since 2005, the USBWA will now present both awards at a college basketball gala in Oklahoma City one week after the Final Four.

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The USBWA's freshman of the year award, named in honor of former Oklahoma great Wayman Tisdale, was part of the first two galas this year and last but now will be combined with the USBWA's player and coach of the year awards in the future to showcase the best in college basketball every year at one event.

The USBWA is partnering with Access Sports, an Oklahoma City-based not-for-profit foundation, on the awards dinner. USBWA members will select the award winners and Access Sports will serve as host of the gala. Access Sports will also present a Humanitarian Award to someone in college basketball.

Funds raised through the gala are used to support the USBWA's scholarship program and a number of charitable activities, including the National Kidney Foundation and youth basketball programs in Oklahoma for disadvantaged youth, and to fund prosthetic devices for needy individuals through the Wayman Tisdale Foundation.

Tisdale's leg was amputated and he died of cancer following a brilliant career at Oklahoma and in the NBA. He was the first freshman ever to receive first team All-America accolades from the USBWA in 1983.

The USBWA is hopeful that a partnership with Access Sports will lead to a television show on a sports cable network that will feature the association's player, coach and freshman of the year.

MEN'S FINAL FOUR: Nearly 300 people attended this USBWA awards breakfast in New Orleans honoring the USBWA's player and coach of the year winners.

USBWA President Lenox Rawlings of the Winston-Salem Journal and the legendary Oscar Robertson presented the trophy named in honor of the Big O to this year's national player of the year, Anthony Davis of Kentucky.

ESPN's Andy Katz, also a past president of the USBWA, presented Missouri's first-year coach, Frank Haith, with the Henry Iba Award for leading the Tigers to the Big 12 tournament championship, a 30-4 record and a No. 3 national ranking going into the NCAA tournament.

The USBWA also honored former LSU coach Dale Brown and his 1981 and 1986 LSU teams that went to the NCAA Final Four. Brown was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by CBS Sports announcer Tim Brando while past board member and current Baton Rouge TV host Lee Feinswog recognized the two LSU teams.

The USBWA had a second breakfast for the association's annual business meeting and awards function held on the morning of the NCAA championship game.

John Doleva, president of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, greeted the crowd as a sponsor of the breakfast and announced that the Hall of Fame was returning as sponsor of the USBWA's writing contest.

Craig Miller of USA Basketball gave details about the media application process for this year's Olympic Games.

A trailer for an upcoming ESPN documentary on the sale of the original document of basketball rules written by James Naismith was shown by the ESPN media relations department. ESPN also serves as a breakfast sponsor.

The USBWA honored past president and Hall of Fame member Bob Ryan for his years of service to the organization and his announced retirement from the Boston Globe for which he had covered 29 NCAA Final Fours.

Special recognition was also given to former Big East commissioner Dave Gavitt, who passed away last fall and was remembered for being media-friendly. Gavitt's son, Dan, an associate commissioner of the Big East, accepted a plaque from the USBWA honoring his father on behalf of the Gavitt family.

The USBWA's Katha Quinn Award, recognizing individuals for their service to the media covering college basketball, was presented to longtime Louisville SID (and now Senior Associate Athletics Director for Media Relations) Kenny Klein by board member Pat Forde, of YahooSports.com. Forde saw Klein's professionalism and dedication to the job when he wrote for the Louisville Courier-Journal in the 1990s.

Florida State's Bernard James was presented with the Most Courageous Award. James delayed starting his college playing career until the age of 26 after serving overseas in the Air Force in Iraq and the Middle East and experiencing the dangers of war first hand.

Three new members of the USBWA Hall of Fame were enshrined at the Monday breakfast Tom Cushman, now retired from the San Diego Union-Tribune; Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News; and Peter Finney, who at 84 still writes columns for the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Rawlings received the Ray Marquette Award for his leadership this past year as president of the USBWA.

WOMEN'S FINAL FOUR: Mel Greenberg and Wendy Parker handled a similar USBWA awards breakfast in Denver at the NCAA women's Final Four. They presented plaques to Kim Mulkey of Baylor as coach of the year and Brittney Griner of Baylor as player of the year. Greenberg announced that the player of the year award will now be named after former UCLA great Ann Meyers-Drysdale. Tennessee coach Pat Summitt was also recognized as recipient of the USBWA's women's Most Courageous Award. Summitt recently announced she is suffering from early stage Alzheimer's disease.

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