2010 January

Academy Opens Athlete of the Month Voting

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The United States Sports Academy is asking the world to help nominate its Male and Female Athletes of the Month and, ultimately, the Athletes of the Year.

Beginning in February, sports fans around the world are asked to nominate the athletes they think are deserving of the Athlete of the Month award. Submissions will then be presented to an internal committee, which will decide on six male and female candidates each month for the final ballot, which will be posted on the Academy’s website. The world can then vote at large for a period of one week. Winners will be announced on our website each month and in the online edition of the Academy Update.

People who nominate athletes are asked to provide the name, sport, country and a short description on why their particular athlete should be considered.

Balloting for the Academy’s 2009 Athlete of the Year was an international success. More than 2 million votes were cast in December 2009 thanks to the help of the websites of USA Today and NBC Sports. The winners were boxer Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines and pole vaulter Yelena Isinbaeva of Russia.

Athlete of the Month Nomination

Academy’s Sport Summit Offers Interesting Opinions, Perspective

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With eight sports personalities, all with different backgrounds, gathered for the United States Sports Academy’s 2010 Sport Summit, it was expected to be an interesting and fascinating discussion on current topics in the sport world.

Nobody left the room disappointed.

The Sport Summit, an Academy tradition involving award winners and other honored guests held yearly as part of the Board of Trustees meeting and Awards of Sport ceremony, ranked as one of the finest ever.

Headlined by recently retired Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden, the group of eight participants discussed the hot topics of the day in engaging fashion.

The panel included important sport administrators such as Robert Kanaby, the executive director of the National Federation of High School Associations (NFHS), which is responsible for the managing of 7.5 million student-athletes. Also participating was Wallace “Wally” Renfro, the senior advisor to the president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

The world of sports medicine was represented by Dean Kleinschmidt, the athletic trainer of the Detroit Lions. Philippa “Phil” Raschker, who has set more than 200 records as a senior track and field games standout, offered the perspective of an outstanding and accomplished athlete.

There was also a high school football standout turned war hero and actor, J.R. Martinez, who spoke of how his experiences as a football player helped him survive an incident in Iraq and later thrive as a motivational speaker.

And finally, former All-American football players from Alabama and Auburn, centers Dr. Gaylon McCollough (a member of Alabama’s 1964 national championship team) and former NFL player Jackie Burkett (who played on Auburn’s 1957 national champions), provided their unique views on how sports and how things have changed since their playing days.

With Dr. Fred Cromartie, the Academy’s Chair of Sports Management and Director of Doctoral Studies, serving as moderator, the discussion moved from coaching advice, conditioning and coaches’ salaries to the economy’s effect on sport, among other topics.

Discussions that drew the most reaction from the panel were the subjects of athletes turning pro early and the idea of high school athletes playing multiple sports.

Both are certainly hot-button topics, and the panel’s discussion on them was enlightening. The panel members were passionate in their agreement about kids playing multiple sports. Kanaby noted a study showing kids who play one sport are more susceptible to injury than those who play multiple sports.

Not everyone agreed on the topic of athletes turning pro early.

McCollough, who considers Burkett a dear friend and the inspiration behind McCollough going from “a fat kid in the band” to an All-American center snapping footballs to Joe Namath, respectfully disagreed with Burkett’s view that players should take the money and run when they have the chance.

“The average life of an NFL player is 3.2 years,” McCollough said. “The average working life of a person with a degree is 50 years. To give up that kind of money is crazy. I feel strongly about the academic aspect. … An education and a degree is a sure thing.”

The Summit included laughs — Bowden drew many when he playfully chided University of Texas football coach Mack Brown for being the highest paid coach in his profession at $5 million a year “to finish second?” acknowledging the Longhorns’ runner-up finish to Alabama in the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) title game. Kanaby also drew some chuckles when he quipped that soccer clubs are going to “start a pre-natal program,” a nod to the sport’s astounding popularity among youngsters.

There were other light moments, when Martinez talked of his mother’s desire for him to get a college education, and instead chose to become an inspirational speaker and teach others about life. Even though Martinez has been wildly successful, he said his mother still hounds him about going back to school.

“We can help you with that,” added Cromartie with a smile.

There were also plenty of serious moments, such as when the NCAA’s Renfro admitted that, with 100 football coaches making more than $1 million a season, “salaries are out of whack.”

And finally, there were also inspirational moments when Raschker, age 62 and still running 100-meter races in times that men half her age would envy, told the crowd to “know your events and know them well, and be prepared to compete like anything else. Prepare yourself for whatever might happen.”

Good advice for a career in sport, and life in general, from a group of people who know best.

Yankees President Accepts Academy’s Team of the Year Award

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Yankees President Randy Levine, left, accepts the United States Sports Academy’s Male Team of the Year award from Dr. Harvey Schiller, a former Yankees CEO and 1996 Distinguished Service Award winner.

New York Yankees President Randy Levine accepted the 2009 Men’s Team of the Year Award from the United States Sports Academy.

Making the presentation was Dr. Harvey Schiller, a former chief executive officer of the Yankees, and the winner of a 1996 Distinguished Service Award from the Academy.

The Yankees returned to the top of the baseball world in 2009 with their first World Series championship in eight seasons. New York’s power-laden lineup beat the defending champion Philadelphia Phillies in six games for the title.

The return to the top was especially sweet for the Yankees, who in 2008 missed the playoffs for the first time in 13 seasons. They were buoyed by the free-agent additions of pitchers C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett as well as slugging first baseman Mark Teixeira. The newcomers added to a collection of talent that included homegrown stars Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte, as well as star third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who shook off his past postseason struggles and shined in the playoffs.

The Yankees won their championship in their first year in a new stadium, across the street from the venerable, historic Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Jeter, the Yankees’ captain and star shortstop, broke Lou Gehrig’s all-time franchise hit mark during the season, and later on became the first Yankee to be named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year.

Vilade Overwhelmed by Alumnus of the Year Award

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Bobby Bowden and James Vilade

James Vilade speaks with great pride about his relationship with the United States Sports Academy.

Upon reception of his “Order of the Eagle Exemplar With Rosette” from Board of Trustees Chairman Robert C. Campbell III for being recognized as the 2009 Alumnus of the Year, Vilade, the athletic director and head baseball coach at the University of Texas at Tyler, became emotional when describing his Academy experience.

“It was the best decision I ever made,” Vilade told the gathered audience. “It was priceless. I appreciated the platform to come here and study and dream.”

Vilade, a 2003 master’s graduate in sports management, is an expert in building baseball programs. He’s built two National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III powers from scratch in Texas, including at UT-Tyler starting in 2002.

Left to Right: Dr. T.J. Rosandich, James Vilade and Dr. Thomas P. Rosandich

He was also an accomplished baseball player at Baylor University, where he served as team captain, and was also hitting coach at Oral Roberts University.

During his award presentation, Academy President Dr. Thomas P. Rosandich mentioned Vilade’s many charitable causes, which include funding scholarships and working with the Boys and Girls Club of East Texas. His players have also distinguished themselves off the field, as more than fifty have made All-Academic rosters, and his team won the NCAA National Community Service Award in 2006-07.

Daphne Mayor Gives City Keys to Academy Honorees

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L-R: TAFA, Mayor Fred Small, J.R. Martinez

Daphne Mayor Fred Small gave keys to the city to United States Sports Academy honorees TAFA, left, and J.R. Martinez on Thursday, 21 January 2010.

TAFA won the 2010 Dr. Zhenliang He Culture Award as the Sport Artist of the Year. Martinez was the recipient of the 2009 Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias Courage Award.

TAFA is the first native of Africa to be named Sport Artist of the Year. Martinez is a motivational speaker and actor on the soap opera “All My Children.”

Martinez, a member of the U.S. Army who served in the Iraq war, began his motivational speaking career after the vehicle he was driving was struck by a landmine in Iraq, leaving 40 percent of his body burned. He endured 32 surgeries over a 34-month span, leaving permanent scars.

Academy Unveils Larsen’s Iron Bowl Monument

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Former Alabama All-American Gaylon McCollough, left, retired Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden and former Auburn All-American Jackie Burkett share a laugh during the unveiling of the Iron Bowl Monument on 22 January 2010.

Perhaps there is room for civility when Alabama and Auburn play. Two time-honored veterans of college football’s greatest rivalry proved it while helping the United States Sports Academy unveil sculptor Bruce Larsen’s Iron Bowl Monument.

The Iron Bowl Monument, by 2009 Sport Artist of the Year for Sculpture, Bruce Larsen of Fairhope, AL.

It was class personified on 22 January 2010 when two former All-American centers from national championship teams, Jackie Burkett of Auburn’s 1957 team and Dr. Gaylon McCollough of Alabama’s 1964 squad, represented their schools in the ceremony. The ex-players were joined by a legendary coach and native Alabamian, retired Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, who tossed a coin to determine which player would be the first to lay a brick and also choose what side of the monument to place it on.

Burkett won the coin toss and surprised the crowd gathered by deferring his choice to McCollough. The classy Burkett didn’t have to think twice about the decision, saying it was the right thing to do considering how well the Alabama football team, which won the national championship two weeks earlier, represented the state.

McCollough, who grew up idolizing Burkett, appreciated the gesture.

“He was the reason I wanted to be a center,” said McCollough, who snapped the ball to Crimson Tide football legend Joe Namath during his playing days in Tuscaloosa.

The sun-splashed warm day was a perfect backdrop for Larsen’s latest and most ambitious project for the Academy. Fairhope’s Larsen, the 2009 Sport Artist of the Year for Sculpture, introduced the initial phase of a project that will eventually become the largest monument dedicated to American football.

Future plans are to include twenty-two figures in the monument, signifying the number of athletes on a football field. The first phase features a quarterback trying to elude the grasp of an onrushing defender. The second phase will consist of a wide receiver trying to get open against a defensive back.

The Alabama-Auburn rivalry was named the Iron Bowl as a nod to the city of Birmingham, which hosted the game for many years before it moved to the schools’ home stadiums. Birmingham has a rich background as a center for iron and steel production.

Fans of the rivalry may purchase bricks of their own to make their allegiances known. Purchases will help form the foundation on which the Iron Bowl Monument will stand and help the project grow over the years. For a tax-deductible donation of $50 a brick, you can leave your personal stamp on the rivalry. Contact the Academy at (251) 626-3303 to become a unique part of Iron Bowl lore.

Sport Artist Wows Students Along Eastern Shore

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TAFA with students at the Eastern Shore Art Center

TAFA, the United States Sports Academy’s 2010 Sport Artist of the Year, worked with students at the Eastern Shore Art Center on Friday, 22 January 2010.

TAFA worked with deaf children and painted a basketball player. He demonstrated his technique and then presented his painting to the Eastern Shore Art Center.

TAFA poses with students from Bayside Academy in Daphne along with the basketball player painting he did for the school during his presentation.

TAFA also gave a program at Bayside Academy later in the day.

The programs were arranged by Nancy Raia, the community arts director for the Eastern Shore Art Center and a member of the Academy’s Art Committee.

All-Americans, Bowden to Assist in Iron Bowl Monument Unveiling

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Two former All-Americans and a legendary college football coach from the state of Alabama will participate in a special coin flip to celebrate the unveiling of the Iron Bowl monument at 4 p.m. Friday, 22 January, on the campus of the United States Sports Academy.

Former All-American centers Jackie Burkett of Auburn and Dr. Gaylon McCollough of Alabama will represent their schools during the unveiling of the Iron Bowl monument honoring the Alabama-Auburn football rivalry. At the ceremony, Burkett will call “heads” or “tails” on a coin flip. The winner will choose what side of the monument will be dedicated to Alabama, and which one for Auburn.

And the man who will be flipping the coin, retired Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, a native of Birmingham, Ala., just happens to be one of the most popular faces in the history of the sport.

The public is invited to attend the event by calling the Academy at (251) 626-3303 or emailing communications@ussa.edu to reserve a spot in the crowd.

Fans can show their support for their favorite school — Alabama or Auburn — by purchasing bricks that will be placed on the base of the monument. All the Alabama bricks will be on one side, and the Auburn bricks on the other.

For a tax-deductible donation of $50 a brick, fans can leave their stamp on the Alabama-Auburn rivalry. Contact the Academy to become part of Iron Bowl lore.

McCollough starred on Alabama’s 1964 national championship team while Burkett was an all-American on Auburn’s 1957 national champions. Burkett went on to play 10 seasons in the National Football League (NFL).

Bowden, who retired from Florida State after the Seminoles’ 1 January Gator Bowl win, will be on campus to receive a Distinguished Service Award (DSA) from the Academy.

Florida State’s Bowden Headlines Academy’s Awards of Sport Extravaganza

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Bobby Bowden

The United States Sports Academy welcomes retired Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden to campus as part of its Awards of Sport celebration.

Bowden, who coached 44 seasons and finished second on the all-time list for coaching victories, received a 2009 Distinguished Service Award (DSA) from the Academy. During his 34 seasons at Florida State, the Seminoles emerged as one of the dominant programs in college football. Bowden’s teams finished in the top five of the Associated Press poll an astonishing 14 straight seasons.

Bowden will accept his award during his stay on campus, and also headlines a Sport Summit to be hosted at 1 p.m. Friday, 22 January.

The Sport Summit will also include the following honorees: James Vilade, the Academy’s Alumnus of the Year and athletic director and baseball coach at the University of Texas at Tyler; and DSA winners Robert Kanaby, the executive director of the National Federation of High School Associations (NFHS); Wallace Renfro, the vice president and senior advisor to the president for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA); and Philippa “Phil” Raschker, the holder of 200 world and U.S records in women’s senior track and field.

Two former Alabama and Auburn football standouts will also be on hand for the summit. Dr. Gaylon McCollough, a center for the 1964 Alabama national championship team, and Jackie Burkett, a center on the 1957 Auburn national champions, are also participating. They will help the Academy unveil a monument honoring the Iron Bowl at 4 p.m. that same day.

The panel will discuss current topics in sports and take questions from the Academy’s staff and gathered guests.

Activities get underway on Thursday, 21 January with an art show honoring the American Sport Art Museum and Archives’ 2010 Sport Artist of the Year, TAFA, starting at 5 p.m. Also being honored on 21 January is All My Children actor and Iraq war veteran J.R. Martinez, who is being given the Academy’s 2009 Mildred “Babe” Didrikson-Zaharias Courage Award.

Martinez was wounded in Iraq when a Humvee he was driving was struck by a land mine. The resulting injuries left him with burns over 40 percent of his body. He endured more than 30 surgeries over 34 months while trying to recover. He uses his scars to “get people’s attention” and provide a positive message of life and faith.

The public is invited to any of the Academy’s events on 21-22 January by calling 251-626-3303 or emailing communications@ussa.edu and reserving a seat. Admission is free.

‘All My Children’ Star and Iraq War Hero J.R. Martinez to be Honored at Academy

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J.R. Martinez

J.R. Martinez, an actor on the ABC soap opera All My Children and an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran who gives motivational speeches across the country, will be on the campus of the United States Sports Academy on 21 January 2010 to receive a courage award.

Martinez will receive the Academy’s Mildred “Babe” Didrikson-Zaharias Courage Award during a presentation at 5 p.m. Thursday, 21 January 2010 in conjunction with an art show honoring the American Sport Art Museum & Archives Sport Artist of the Year, TAFA.

The public is welcome to attend the art show by calling the Academy with a reservation at (251) 626-3303 or by emailing communications@ussa.edu.

Martinez grew up playing high school football in Hope, Ark., before moving to Dalton, Ga., where he was a special teams standout and backup running back for a high school team that finished as state runners-up. After high school he enlisted in the Army. One year later, while stationed in Karbala, Iraq, the Humvee he was driving was struck by a land-mine. The injuries he sustained left him severely burned over 40 percent of his body, including the entire left side of his face. After 32 surgeries, the longest lasting 15 hours, over 34 months, Martinez decided to use his scars to “get people’s attention” and have his positive message of life and faith heard.

Martinez plays the character Brot on “All My Children.” He is a veteran who is re-establishing his life in the civilian world. His storyline finds him falling in love with a beautiful character, but because of his disfigurement, he is unsure if his romantic attention will be accepted.

The Courage Award is presented annually as part of the Academy’s Awards of Sport program, honoring the artist and the athlete. It is presented to an individual who demonstrates courageous action in overcoming adversity and exhibits grace and perseverance in doing so.

Tide Rolls to Academy’s Game of the Year Honor

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The University of Alabama celebrates its national championship victory.

In a season full of memories for the Alabama football program, on no other day did the Tide roll as impressively as it did during a 32-13 thrashing of Florida in the SEC championship game in Atlanta on 5 December 2009.

For its dominating performance against the reigning national champions and quarterback Tim Tebow, Alabama’s victory was named by the United States Sports Academy as the College Football Game of the Year for the 2009 season.

Alabama’s masterful performance in the No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup left no doubt which team was the best in the country, a point that was proven over a month later when the Tide finished off Texas 37-21 to win the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) national championship game.

But the game that put the Tide in position to win its first national title since 1992 was the one from the 2009 season many fans will never forget.

Florida and Alabama were ranked as the top two teams in the country for much of the season, having clinched their spots in the SEC championship game early. The public knew something special was looming, as television ratings were the highest for a non-bowl college game since 2006.

Early on, it was clear that Alabama was the superior team despite Florida’s No. 1 ranking and 22-game winning streak. The Tide amassed 490 yards of total offense while limiting high-powered Florida to 335. Sophomore running back Mark Ingram clinched the first Heisman Trophy in Alabama’s rich history with 113 yards rushing and three scores against a Florida defense that had allowed an average of only 230 yards a game.

Further illustrating Alabama’s dominance was the play at quarterback, where first-year starter Greg McElroy outdueled Tebow, the former Heisman Trophy winner. McElroy threw for 239 yards and a TD on 12-for-18 passing to earn the game’s Most Valuable Player honor.

“Our entire team played great. Greg (McElroy) played great. Mark (Ingram) played great. Julio (Jones) played great,” said Alabama coach Nick Saban, who won the Academy’s Amos Alonzo Stagg Coaching Award, after the game. “Really, most of the credit goes to our guys up front on the offensive line. This is a great win for our program.”

The College Football Game of the Year concept was developed by Daniel Moore, the Academy’s 2005 Sport Artist of the Year. The 2009 award will be the fourth presented by the Academy. Past winners have included Rutgers/Louisville-2006, Appalachian State-Michigan-2007, and Texas Tech/Texas-2008. The University of Alabama will receive a canvas replica of the Daniel Moore painting commemorating the game, a shadowboxed Award/Proclamation and a $5,000 donation for its general scholarship fund for the Game of the Year honor.

A panel of experts helped the Academy decide the Game of the Year. Chairman was Hall of Fame coach Jack Lengyel, the former athletic director at the U.S. Naval Academy and coach at Marshall University following a 1970 plane crash that claimed the lives of 75 players and coaches. The Marshall story was depicted in the 2006 film We Are Marshall.

Fifteen men with distinguished backgrounds in college football worked with the Academy’s Awards of Sport on the College Football Game of the Year Committee, including: Hall of Fame coach Vince Dooley from the University of Georgia; Dr. Homer Rice, the former head coach at Rice University and longtime Georgia Tech athletic director; and Ron Dickerson, the first African-American head football coach in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I.

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