NCAA 2001 Convention Proceeding

  NCAA Honors Dinner Sunday Evening, January 7, 2001

NCAA Honors Dinner Sunday Evening, January 7, 2001


Charles Wethington

(NCAA Executive Chair/University of Kentucky):

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Tonight we celebrate the 36th NCAA Honors Dinner, and it is my pleasure to welcome you to this prestigious affair. We will begin tonight with the invocation and dinner, followed by the presentation of the 2001 NCAA honorees.

Delivering tonight’s invocation is the vice-chair of the Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and a member of the Columbia University women’s lacrosse team. Please welcome Miss Bola Bamidura.


Bola Bamidura

(Columbia University):

Let us thank our higher power for allowing all of us to share in this very special moment. We are thankful for the opportunity to be here in the presence of people with such outstanding talent. Commitment, dedication and hard work are qualities that those being recognized tonight possess. Allow them to continue to use these qualities to find success and achievement in future endeavors.

In addition, allow each one of us the foresight to take risks, to give our all, and never give up, in the hopes of obtaining our intended goal.

Please enjoy your meal.

[Dinner was served.]

Mr. Wethington:

Honored guests, ladies and gentlemen, it has been my pleasure as the chair of the NCAA Executive Committee to have the opportunity to take part in the honors program for the past two years. To stand here among these extraordinary past and present student-athletes has been one of the many highlights I have experienced as the committee chair, and it will be my honor to stand here tonight to help celebrate these accomplished individuals.

The individuals we honor tonight embody the spirit of athletics as they are meant to be. But more importantly, they have taken this spirit further — further into their communities — to charities, to schools and into their professions.

Tonight, we look into the lives of 18 individuals. While they may have played different sports, they all share something quite remarkable. Yes, athletics excellence is one bond they share. But it is their giving spirit and their leadership that makes each a true champion.

Tonight, we will honor an impressive group of young student-athletes. We will also take a look at the contributions of six student-athletes 25 years after graduation. We will hear about heroics and the true meaning of teamwork. Finally, we bestow the NCAA’s highest honor on one outstanding individual with the Theodore Roosevelt Award. You will no doubt be both impressed and inspired by each of them.

Tonight, we celebrate a gold medal Olympian, an NBA general manager, NCAA national champions, entrepreneurs, athletics directors, and leaders in national government. They are also champions, humanitarians and heroes.

Before we begin, I would like to introduce two very important people who make this evening possible. First, is the chair of the NCAA Honors Committee, who along with his committee, had the difficult task of selecting tonight’s honorees and planning tonight’s program, Robert Steitz, associate commissioner of the Atlantic 10 Conference.

Bob, will you please stand so we can applaud you. (Applause)

Also on the dias with us tonight is a man who has dedicated his career to collegiate athletics and serves today at the helm of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Please join me in welcoming the president of the NCAA, Cedric Dempsey. (Applause)


Mr. Wethington:

Tonight’s master of ceremonies certainly has a great deal in common with this year’s honorees. Not only is he an Emmy winner, but he is also a former Silver Anniversary Award winner. Jack Ford can be seen almost daily as an anchor and correspondent for ABC News.

Prior to his television career, Jack was a three-year football starter as a defensive back at Yale University.

After graduation, Jack pursued a law degree and later served five years as chief legal correspondent for NBC News before moving to ABC in 1999. Four years after the NCAA first honored Jack Ford, host Mark McEwen’s words still ring true. In fact, add the 1998 National Father of the Year Award to the resume of this decorated athlete, lawyer and journalist.

Mark McEwen

(By Video):

This next gentleman is the only athlete here tonight who I watch every Saturday and Sunday. He is an excellent broadcaster and even more an excellent human being.

Jack Ford began his unbroken string of success as a three-year starter on the Yale defense, where he displayed the same bruising intensity that would later mark his professional life. Ford went on to become a successful lawyer in New Jersey. He later became a network legal analyst and reporter, first with NBC and now with ABC, where he anchors “Good Morning America.” His journalistic and legal expertise were put to the test during the recent presidential election. He is one Jack who’s truly a master of all trades.

Mr. Wethington:

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to introduce tonight’s emcee, Jack Ford. (Applause)


Jack Ford

Charles, thank you very much. When I was asked to act as the emcee this evening, I was absolutely delighted for a number of reasons. I did have the opportunity four years ago to be a part of this evening as a Silver Anniversary Award winner. I was struck at the time by the nature and the spirit of this night.

I’ll tell you a true story. My children were with me at the time. My daughter, who is now a freshman at Yale University, where she is a member of the varsity lacrosse team, was a freshman in high school. Our son was 10 years old. Given the nature of my business, they had had an opportunity to travel around and meet an extraordinary array of people. But they had never been as impressed after an event as they were after this event.

I made the point of giving each of them a chance to meet not only the other Silver Anniversary Award winners, but more importantly, to meet the Top VIII winners. When it was over, I sat down and I said to the two of them, “What did you think about those people?” They both said independently that they were just astonished that the winners could be so accomplished on the athletic field and in the classroom and be such good people at the same time.

I thought if it can make that impression on a 10-year-old and a 14-year-old, that this truly is an event to be a part of. I was glad to come down.

I recall watching a number of the Silver Anniversary Award winners and being in awe of them then, and am much more impressed now after seeing what they have accomplished in their lives. And the Top VIII Award winners, who are just a wonderful array of young people, it was a great opportunity to meet them.

But the real reason was this: In my profession, we are essentially the chronicle of society. We watch, we listen, we ask questions, and eventually we become the conduit for information and for understanding for people. But the sad fact is, that we often chronicle the worst in our society.

I have spent years sitting in courtrooms looking into the eyes of people like Timothy McVeigh standing in front of the remnants from the destruction he caused, looking into the eyes of Theodore Kaczynski, the “Unabomber,” and say how can someone so wantonly and willfully take the lives of others?

So for me, it is such a wonderful opportunity to have a chance to chronicle the best in our society, which is what this evening is all about. You have come face to face with the true student-athletes who bring with them hope, idealism and success. So it is a great opportunity for me to say let’s be a part of this celebration tonight.

I would pass this on to the Silver Anniversary winners — having been here four years ago — it is an opportunity for some humbling moments. I remember sitting with Tommy Casanova, the great LSU football player four years ago. We looked at each other and we said: “Why are our films in black and white? Did they even have color back when we were playing?” Not to mention the hair styles. Guys, we will talk about those in a little while. I promise you all that.

I have a quick story that sort of brings it all back to a level that we can appreciate. When I was advised by the NCAA that I was to be a member of Silver Anniversary winners, I got home that night and I sat down with my family. I think I told this story, as a matter of fact, four years ago. We sat down and we talked. I said this is a great thing. We will all go to the NCAA Honors Dinner. I explained this concept of the Silver Anniversary Award. My 10-year-old son at the time listened very carefully, and with that marvelous clarity of wisdom that resides in the mind of a 10-year-old, he said: “That is great, dad, but how do you deal with the bad news?” I said: “What bad news is that?” He said: “The fact that you played your last college football game a quarter of a century ago.”

Silver Anniversary Award winners, I assure you we are not here to celebrate merely the passage of time. It is a great opportunity for me to be part of an evening that for those who have been here before know what I am talking about. For those of you who are experiencing this for the first time, you will leave here tonight in awe of these award winners and for very good reason.

Tonight, I am going to have the pleasure of introducing you to Today’s Top VIII Award winners, the Silver Anniversary Award honorees, an extraordinary Award of Valor recipient, and finally, our 2001 Theodore Roosevelt Award winner.

Drew Brees, Purdue University

Mr. Ford, Jack

We will begin tonight with Today’s Top VIII Award winners, an extraordinary array of accomplished individuals. Our first honoree this evening is Drew Brees, Purdue University. (Applause)

As a top Heisman Trophy contender, you have no doubt heard about Drew’s excellence on the football field establishing numerous Big Ten and Purdue passing records. But he has also made plenty of great plays in the classroom, making the dean’s list three out of the last four semesters, and in the community, where he perhaps has his greatest impact making visits to elementary schools as part of Purdue’s “Gentle Giants Program.”

Audiovisual Recording:

To reach Pasadena, Purdue needed a big lift from a strong breeze, as in Quarterback Drew Brees. Everything seemed to come up roses during Brees’ career. His success started in 1998 when he was named the Big Ten player of the year. By this season, when Brees earned that honor a second time, he had become the all-time conference leader in completions, yards and touchdowns. All told, he accounted for over 12,000 yards of total offense.

Brees is just as capable of putting up gaudy numbers in the classroom, as his 3.42 GPA suggests. But stats don’t tell the whole story of Drew Brees, because numbers don’t measure the way he turned Purdue into a Big Ten power. This year, Brees closed his career by leading the Boilermakers to their first Rose Bowl appearance since 1967.

Mr. Ford:

Receiving his Top VIII Award from Morgan Burke, athletics director, Purdue University, ladies and gentlemen, please join me in congratulating Drew Brees. (Applause)

Matthew Busbee, Auburn University

Mr. Ford, Jack

Our next honoree is Matthew Busbee, Auburn University. (Applause) Matthew is a 14-time all-American and a three-time NCAA 200-meter freestyle relay champion. His success in the pool led the Auburn Tigers to two national championship titles.

Graduating with summa cum laude honors, Matthew received the NCAA Walter Byers postgraduate scholarship and is now enrolled in medical school.

Audiovisual Recording:

What’s all the buzz about? It is about Matthew Busbee, who has been busy the last four years rewriting the record books at Auburn’s Martin Aquatics Center. Busbee, a finalist for the AAU’s Sullivan Award as the nation’s top amateur athlete, made his mark as an explosive sprinter and ranked among the world’s top 10 in the 50-meter freestyle.

Busbee was also a buzzsaw in the classroom, where he posted a 3.86 grade-point average. This year, he has traded in his swimsuits for hospital scrubs as a first-year medical student at the University of Alabama. But while Busbee may be playing for the enemy now, the Auburn faithful won’t soon forget his work in the pool, where he anchored a freestyle relay team at the 2000 NCAA championships that set a new record and won his Tigers a national title.

Mr. Ford:

Receiving his Top VIII Award from Dr. William Muse, president, Auburn University, ladies and gentlemen, Matthew Busbee. (Applause)

Alia Fischer, Washington University

Mr. Ford, Jack

Our next honoree is Alia Fischer, Washington University. (Applause) The two-year team captain of the women’s basketball team, Alia catapulted her team to three NCAA championships. Graduating with nine school records in her possession, Alia was recently honored as a 2000 NCAA Woman of the Year top 10 finalist for her performances on the court, in the classroom, and perhaps more importantly, in her community.

Audiovisual Recording:

Few student-athletes have enjoyed as much individual success as Alia Fischer of Washington University. In the classroom, Fischer earned dean’s list honors every semester. On the basketball court, Fischer was named the Division III player of the year for three consecutive seasons.

She graduated as the school’s all-time leader in points, rebounds, blocked shots and field goal percentage. But perhaps the truest test of a champion, she turned that individual excellence into team success. And that is where Fischer really left a mark, guiding the Bears to three consecutive National titles and 68 straight victories. (Applause)

Mr. Ford:

Receiving her Top VIII Award from John Schael, athletics director at Washington University, ladies and gentlemen, Alia Fischer. (Applause)

Andrea Garner, Pennsylvania State University

Mr. Ford, Jack

Our next award winner this evening is Andrea Garner, Pennsylvania State University. (Applause)

Graduation did not end Andrea’s life-long passion for basketball. She made it a career, playing for the WNBA’s Seattle Storm. As Penn State’s team captain, Andrea led the team to an NCAA Final Four appearance last year.

Along with her passion for basketball, Andrea also has a passion for helping others, volunteering, among other things, for three years to help disabled children learn to ride horses.

Audiovisual Recording:

During her career at Penn State University, Andrea Garner picked up her fair share of accolades. Among the awards she “garnered” was USA Today’s national player-of-the-year award last year, a season in which she led the Nittany Lions to their first Final Four appearance.

Garner was an inside force on both ends of the floor, leading Penn State in scoring and leading the Big Ten in blocks. Garner was a two-time selection to the all-conference first team, and she ranks in the top 10 of virtually every Penn State career chart.

After graduating with a 3.41 GPA in marketing, Garner has gone on to the WNBA, where she now plays for the Seattle Storm.

Mr. Ford:

Receiving her Top VIII Award from Dr. Graham Spanier, the president of Pennsylvania State University, ladies and gentlemen, Andrea Garner. (Applause)

Kristy Kowal, University of Georgia

Mr. Ford, Jack

Our next recipient is Kristy Kowal, University of Georgia. (Applause)

Kristy earned her spot on the U.S. Olympic Team by shattering an eight-year-old American record in the 200-meter breaststroke. During her career, she has broken one world and eight American records.

When she is out of the water, she is usually out in the community, recently receiving the “Peach of an Athlete” award from the Atlanta Boy Scouts for her community service efforts.

Audiovisual Recording:

If Kristy Kowal knows one thing, it’s how to celebrate a millennium. In 2000, Kowal had the kind of year that most people can only dream about. In the spring, she guided the University of Georgia to its second straight national championship, while adding to her personal stash of seven national titles — the most by any athlete in the school’s history.

In the summer, Kowal took her victory tour on the road, all the way to Sydney, where she earned an Olympic silver medal in her signature event, the 200-meter breaststroke. What to do for an encore? In Kowal’s case, win the NCAA’s Woman of the Year Award. With a grade-point average of 3.60 and a new world record to her name, Kowal showed there was no bug in her Y2K program for success. (Applause)

Mr. Ford:

Receiving her Top VIII Award from Dr. Michael Adams, president, University of Georgia, ladies and gentlemen, Kristy Kowal. (Applause)

Amanda Scott, California State University, Fresno

Mr. Ford, Jack

Our next recipient is Amanda Scott, California State University, Fresno.

Amanda has also had the good fortune to turn her love of sports into a profession. She was the Women’s Professional Softball League’s No. 1 draft pick. She also pitched her way into the NCAA record books, setting three top 10 NCAA all-time career pitching records.

When not on the diamond or in the classroom, Amanda spent her time volunteering at a local children’s hospital.

Audiovisual Recording:

Forget “Great Scott.” Fresno State University has the greatest “Scott,” at least when it comes to softball. Amanda Scott was a two-way threat who led the nation in earned-run average the last two seasons. She was also named the team’s top clutch hitter.

Scott earned first team all-America honors four times. And just as impressive as Scott’s low “ERA” was her high “GPA,” as she graduated with honors in communications. As far as honors on the field, she was named MVP of the 1998 Women’s College World Series after leading the Bulldogs to the national title. (Applause)

Mr. Ford:

Receiving her Top VIII Award from Dr. Allen Bohl, athletics director, California State University, Fresno, ladies and gentlemen, please join me in congratulating Amanda Scott. (Applause)

Joshua Sims, Princeton University

Mr. Ford, Jack

Our next recipient is Josh Sims, Princeton University. (Applause)

During his college career, Josh led his lacrosse team to four Ivy League and two NCAA championship titles. A proven leader, Josh’s accolades include being named Ivy League player of the year, College Lacrosse USA sportsman of the year, and the first Princetonian to receive the NCAA Top VIII Award. I might note personally that I mentioned this to Josh’s mom and his grandmother that my 14-year old son, the son of a Yale football player, decided to idolize Josh Sims, a Princeton lacrosse player. No doubt I will be required to undergo some form of therapy at some point in time, Josh, but my congratulations, nonetheless. To his giving character, Josh has volunteered many hours for many causes, including pediatric AIDS causes.

Audiovisual Recording:

How do you “sum up” the career of Josh Sims? Perhaps this says it best: During his four-year career at Princeton University, the team went undefeated in conference play, winning 24 consecutive games. Sims was the chief reason for that Tiger run, as he earned three first- team all-America honors and was twice named the nation’s top fielder.

He provided “symmetry” on both ends of the field for the Tigers, and he ranks fifth on the school’s all-time scoring chart with 103 career goals. Princeton’s success with Sims wasn’t confined to the Ivy League. He also guided the Tigers to two national titles before graduating with a 3.5 grade-point average last May. (Applause)

Mr. Ford:

Receiving his Top VIII Award from William Tierney, head men’s lacrosse coach, Princeton University, ladies and gentlemen, Josh Sims. (Applause)

Kevin Listerman, Northern Kentucky University, Great Lakes Valley Conference

Mr. Ford, Jack

Our next recipient is Kevin Listerman, Northern Kentucky University. (Applause)

As a starting point guard for four years, Kevin shattered about every record in NKU’s books. His success and leadership skills were not reserved only, however, for the basketball court. He led other student-athletes by serving as chair of the NCAA Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and leading many community service projects. Graduating summa cum laude, he is currently enrolled in graduate school with a 4.0 grade-point average.

Audiovisual Recording:

Kevin Listerman’s list of accomplishments is no quick read. Listerman, a four-year starter at point guard for Northern Kentucky University, guided the Norse to two national runner-up finishes in Division II basketball.

Defense was his hallmark, and he tops the school’s all-time steals chart. Last year, after leading the squad in steals, rebounds, assists and minutes played, Listerman was named the team’s most valuable player. While Listerman’s performance on the court was near perfect, his effort in the classroom was perfect on several occasions.

He earned a 4.0 grade point in five different semesters and graduated summa cum laude with a degree in biology and secondary education. (Applause)

Mr. Ford:

Receiving his Top VIII Award from Dr. James Votruba, who is the president of Northern Kentucky University, ladies and gentlemen, Kevin Listerman. (Applause)

Kevin Listerman will now speak on behalf of Today’s Top VIII student-athletes. Kevin.

Kevin Listerman

When they asked me to speak tonight, for the longest time I couldn’t figure out why. When Ced walked in the room tonight, it dawned on me. You see, the first time that I met Ced Dempsey, we were here in Orlando at the NCAA Leadership Conference. We were on a bus going from one activity to another. He had his arm in a sling. After being with 300 student-athletes for four or five days, I’m sure the sling had to wear on him, and he was looking a little ragged.

I was seated in the front of this bus and there happened to be a microphone. I decided to lighten the mood. I did my impression of an airline steward doing pre-flight — the whole nine yards, the white lights, the red lights, the emergency exit, and the mask, the whole nine yards. So in the end, Ced felt much, much better. But the real reason is if he didn’t let me speak tonight, he was very afraid what might happen. (Laughter)

In all honesty, I am humbled and honored to be standing here at this podium tonight speaking on behalf of the Top VIII recipients. It is rare to be surrounded by such decorated and talented athletes, yet tonight we are recognized more for the character we display than the talents we possess.

It has been my pleasure to meet these outstanding individuals who are truly better people than they are athletes. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in congratulating tonight’s honorees. (Applause)

When I was about six or seven, I used to take my basketball and go out into the side yard where I would play. There is one thing you have to understand about my basketball hoop at home. My dad is a high-school coach. He decided that the best way for me to learn how to dribble a basketball was not on blacktop, it was not on concrete, dirt or grass, but gravel. Obviously, it worked.

It was a wonderful experience. It cost me a couple of teeth in the end, but everything is okay. I used to go out on that court and imagine I was playing in a packed arena with thousands of screaming fans. Of course, as a little kid, you are not only playing the game but you get to be the coach, the commentator and the crowd.

All the time, my “game” went like this: “Listerman brings the ball down the floor with five seconds to go, and his team trails by one. He crosses over, three, two, lets it fly...swish! The crowd goes wild! Listerman wins the national championship!

That was my dream.

Thanks to Northern Kentucky University and the NCAA, I had the opportunity to pursue and make that dream a near reality. I believe dreams are what we celebrate this evening. The individuals seated upon the stage not only pursued and achieved their athletic dreams, but modeled academic excellence and demonstrated character uncommon in today’s world.

Although tonight we are honored as individuals, our successes have not been the result of some efforts. We owe a great debt of gratitude to all those who made this evening possible. First, I would like to thank almighty God for the physical and mental blessings that he has bestowed upon each of us.

Thank you to the NCAA for providing the framework within which we as athletes participate, and for holding fast to the ideals of sportsmanship, fair play and the development of character through competition. All of the institutions that participate as members of the National Collegiate Athletic Association deserve thanks for making the Association what it is and for providing opportunities for young people to pursue their athletics and academic dream.

The institutions represented on this stage deserve special thanks for their efforts on behalf of tonight’s recipients and all of their student-athletes. Specifically, I would like to thank Northern Kentucky University, its president, James Votruba; athletics director Jane Meier; and faculty athletics representative Tom Kearns; my coach, Ken Shields; his assistants; and especially my teammates who have shared the dreams and triumphs of the last five years.

Finally, I would like to thank my family and all the families and loved ones of tonight’s honorees. Their self-sacrifice, guidance and friendship has helped us become the people we are today. I said that tonight we celebrate dreams, and what better time than now? What better place than Disney World for each of us in this room to recognize and accept the awesome responsibility to continue pursuing our dreams with undying passion, and more importantly, to inspire the dreams of others, to provide opportunities to achieve those dreams, and then win or lose, applaud those individuals for their efforts? If you need an example of how to inspire and applaud, you need only to look at my mother. She has always known how to keep sport and competition in perspective.

From the time that I began playing ball, the first question she would ask me was not, “Did you win?” She never asked how many points I scored. The first question she would always ask me was, “Did you have fun?”

Tonight, I would like to end by answering that question. “Mom, I lived my dream. I had the opportunity to live the greatest life, the life of a collegiate athlete. Yes, I had fun and I have always had fun.” Thank you very much. (Applause)

Mr. Ford:

Kevin, thank you. As Kevin said tonight, we do, in fact, celebrate dreams. I think it is important one last time to congratulate those Top VIII Award winners who are with us this evening for accomplishing their dreams.

I am going to ask all the Top VIII Award winners and their parents in the audience to stand for one moment so that we can recognize the achievement of your own dreams in these children. Please stand for one more round of applause. (Applause)


Mr. Ford:

We now turn our attention to this year’s Silver Anniversary winners. This award, for those of you who may not be familiar with it, honors six former student-athletes 25 years after their graduation.

Not only did these student-athletes have astonishing athletics careers, as you will see, but they also used that same competitive spirit, that competitive drive to succeed in making their lives enormous successes. They are not only champions in what they did in their various athletics endeavors, but more so in what they have done with their lives and for the lives of others in the 25 years since they left their colleges and universities.

Alpha Alexander, Dr., College of Wooster, Black Women In Sport Foundation, Co-Founder

Mr. Ford, Jack

Our first recipient this evening is Alpha Alexander, College of Wooster. (Applause) Alpha was a four-year varsity starter with the Wooster women’s basketball team, but her talents did not stop there. This four-sport star also excelled in volleyball, tennis and lacrosse.

Alpha is now an independent consultant who dedicates her career to the advancement of sport. In 1995, she was named one of the 30 most valuable professionals in the business of sports in the United States by Black Enterprise magazine.

Audiovisual Recording:

Those who think athletics are dominated by “alpha males,” meet one of sport’s first “alpha females.” Alpha Alexander has been taking women’s sports to a higher level since her days at Ohio’s Wooster College, where she lettered in three sports, including volleyball and basketball.

But her biggest impact has come off the court, where Dr. Alexander has worked for a quarter century to help women and minorities succeed in athletics. She co-founded the Black Women in Sport Foundation in 1992 and documented the achievements of our greatest black female athletes. As a long-time member of the national YWCA, she has brought the joy of sport to new places and new people.

But Dr. Alexander’s efforts haven’t stopped at our borders. In recent years, Dr. Alexander has led cultural exchanges around the world — from Russia to Haiti, from Greece to South Africa — spreading the gospel of sport and inclusion. (Applause)

Mr. Ford:

Receiving her Silver Anniversary Award from Dr. R. Stanton Hales, president, College of Wooster, ladies and gentlemen, Alpha Alexander. (Applause)

Archie Griffin, Elizabeth City State University

Mr. Ford, Jack

Our next honoree is Archie Griffin, Ohio State University. As a running back for Ohio State, Archie became the only player in history to win the Heisman Trophy twice. He remains Ohio State’s career rushing leader, his record unmatched in 25 years.

After enjoying an equally successful NFL career, Archie turned his efforts toward professional and civic contributions. Still easily recognized as one of football’s greatest, Archie has been inducted into four different athletic hall of fames.

Audiovisual Recording:

Archie Griffin, the name is synonymous with college football itself. And for four years in the early ‘70s, Ohio State’s Buckeyes might as well have been called “The Archies,” as Griffin carried them to Rose Bowl berths every season he suited up.

With his darting moves and his refusal to be corralled, Griffin reeled off an incredible string of 31 straight 100-yard games. He also made a bit of sports history, winning the Heisman Trophy not once, but twice. In 1976, Griffin took his unrelenting ground attack a few miles south as the top draft choice of the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals. He played eight seasons with the club, and his average of 4.1 yards per carry still ranks among the team’s all-time best.

But while he worked in Cincinnati, Archie’s heart had never left Columbus. In 1985, the pride of the Buckeyes rejoined the Ohio State athletics program as an administrator. Today, he is the school’s associate director of athletics and also operates two charitable funds that bear his name. (Applause)

Mr. Ford:

Receiving his Silver Anniversary Award from Dr. William E. Kirwan, president of Ohio State University, ladies and gentlemen, Archie Griffin. (Applause)

Steve Raible, Georgia Institute of Technology

Mr. Ford, Jack

Our next honoree is Steve Raible, Georgia Institute of Technology. As a Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket, Steve was a two-sport star, lettering three years in both football and track and field. His lethal combination of speed and catching ability made him Georgia Tech’s top student-athlete in 1976 and later ensured him a spot in the NFL on the Seattle Seahawks roster. Once off the field he continued to gather awards. He is the pride of my profession, this time in the form of Emmies.

Audiovisual Recording:

In the mid-’70s, it was a fleet-footed receiver who put the “ramble” in Georgia Tech’s “Ramblin’ Wreck.” On a team known for its bruising ground attack, track star Steve Raible was a dangerous threat via the air. The long, lanky Raible once ran the 100-yard dash in a blistering 9.5 seconds. His speed made him the Tech offense’s leading receiver in 1975.

In 1976, Raible joined the expansion Seattle Seahawks, earning a job alongside another rookie wide receiver by the name of Steve Largent. For five years, this one-two punch knocked out more than a few defenders, as Raible demonstrated a knack for being in the right place at the right time.

It was that knack that helped Raible score in his life after football as well. He has become a successful broadcaster, whose reports from around the world, including trouble spots like the Balkans, have earned him five Emmies. He has twice been named Seattle’s best anchor, and his charity work has earned him the Big Brothers/Big Sisters outstanding role model award. (Applause)

Mr. Ford:

Receiving his Silver Anniversary Award from David Braine, director of athletics at Georgia Institute of Technology, ladies and gentlemen, Steve Raible. (Applause)

Lee Roy Selmon, University of South Florida, Associate Athletics Director

Mr. Ford, Jack

Our next honoree is Lee Roy Selmon, University of Oklahoma. (Applause)

As a lineman, Lee Roy helped lead Oklahoma to the 1975 Orange Bowl championship. His success on the field also led to the 1975 Vince Lombardi Trophy and Heisman Trophy nomination.

While playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he was a 1983 finalist for the Byron “Whizzer” White Award given by the NFL for humanitarian service. Away from the field, Lee Roy continues to dedicate his free time to charitable causes in the Florida area.

Audiovisual Recording:

For Big Eight offenses in the mid-’70s, the only thing worse than one Selmon was three of them. Alongside brothers Tom and Jerry, Lee Roy Selmon was one giant cog in the Oklahoma Sooners’ “Big Red Machine,” crushing hapless opponents with his rare blend of size and speed.

Selmon’s 1975 season has gone down in Sooners’ history, as he led Oklahoma to a national championship while leading the nation in tackles and winning the prestigious Outland Trophy. Selmon stepped effortlessly into the NFL, where he spent 11 seasons tormenting quarterbacks with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Selmon helped the so-called “Black and Blue” division live up to its moniker. He was named one of the game’s hardest hitters by Sports Magazine. The hall of famer earned six trips to the Pro Bowl and was named the league’s top defensive player in 1979, all while holding down a successful banking job on the side. Selmon is still involved in the Tampa community, currently serving as an associate athletics director at the University of South Florida. (Applause)

Mr. Ford:

Receiving his Silver Anniversary Award from Joseph Castiglione, director of athletics, University of Oklahoma, ladies and gentlemen, Lee Roy Selmon. (Applause)

Wally Walker, University of Virginia, Seattle Sonics, President and General Manager

Mr. Ford, Jack

Our next Silver Anniversary honoree is Wally Walker, University of Virginia. (Applause)

As the leading scorer for two straight years, Wally led the Virginia basketball team to its first NCAA tournament berth. His No. 41 jersey is one of only six jerseys retired by the school.

After graduation, Wally took on the NBA and led both the Portland Trail Blazers and the Seattle Supersonics to NBA championship titles. Even today, basketball continues to be his profession of choice.

Audiovisual Recording:

When Wally Walker thinks “W”, he is not thinking of his monogram. Walker has made a career out of winning, starting 25 years ago, when his dead-eye shooting guided the University of Virginia to its first NCAA tournament appearance, and its first Atlantic Coast Conference title.

After Walker scored 21 points to key Virginia’s upset of North Carolina for the ACC crown, Charlottesville, Virginia, was officially transformed into “Wally World.” It wasn’t Walker’s last brush with glory. Just a year later, he helped the Portland Trail Blazers win their first and only NBA title.

Two years after that, he joined the Seattle Supersonics for their own league championship. With his slick shooting and consistent play, Walker became a Sonics fixture, once starting 70 consecutive games for the club. These days, Walker is sitting on the sidelines but is as involved as ever, pursuing the Sonics’ second title as the team’s president and general manager. (Applause)

Mr. Ford:

Receiving his Silver Anniversary Award from John T. Casteen III, president of the University of Virginia, ladies and gentlemen, Wally Walker. (Applause)

Steve Largent, University of Tulsa, Oklahoma Congressman

Mr. Ford, Jack

Our next honoree is Steve Largent, University of Tulsa. (Applause)

A two-time national leader in touchdown receptions while at Tulsa, Steve caught an amazing 136 passes for 32 touchdowns. Catching the eye of the NFL, Steve enjoyed a celebrated 14-year NFL career. He was a five-time team MVP and a seven-time Pro Bowl player. With born leadership talent, Steve now leads the people of the great state of Oklahoma. (Applause)

Audiovisual Recording:

Steve Largent has enjoyed improbable success with a simple approach: never let them see you coming. Largent honed his craft in relative anonymity, playing college football at the University of Tulsa in the small Missouri Valley Conference. There, he raised eyebrows by leading the nation in touchdown catches in back-to-back seasons.

But was he big enough, fast enough, good enough for the pro game? The Seattle Seahawks gambled an eighth-round draft pick and wound up hitting the jackpot. The undersized and underestimated Largent proved a wizard at outwitting his foes. Dubbed “the master of tomfoolery” by Raiders’ defensive back Lester Hayes, Largent wove indecipherable pass patterns, conceived and executed by pro football’s ultimate possession receiver.

When he retired from the NFL after 14 seasons, he held the league’s career records for receptions, yards and touchdowns. Just a few years later, Largent found himself a new “hill” to climb. Today, he is battling Democrats, not defensive backs, as a Congressman from his home state of Oklahoma. (Applause)

Mr. Ford:

Receiving his Silver Anniversary Award from Judy MacLeod, athletics director, University of Tulsa, ladies and gentlemen, Steve Largent. (Applause)

Now, ladies and gentlemen, Steve Largent will speak on behalf of the Silver Anniversary Award winners.

Steve Largent

Thank you, very much. I just want you all to know that those hairstyles are coming back. (Applause) When Judy MacLeod, our athletics director at the University of Tulsa, called me and said that I was to receive a Silver Anniversary Award, I told her it had to be a mistake because I am not old enough to be a Silver Anniversary Award winner. I guess that is really fuzzy math. (Laughter)

It has been a real honor this weekend to meet Alpha Alexander, Dr. Alexander, this weekend. I have had the pleasure to come across the other award recipients in my life before. Archie and I competed against one another when he was playing with the Bengals. I want to assure you all that the Bengals have not been the same since Archie left.

Lee Roy and I played on the same high-school all- star team after our senior years in high school, and we both were inducted into the professional hall of fame in 1995 together. So we go way back. Wally Walker and I became friends when he was helping the Supersonics win a national championship. We really forged our friendship when we went on a deep sea fishing trip for salmon and Wally turned Supersonic green and puked over the rail. (Laughter)

Finally, Steve Raible and I actually were teammates, as the video mentioned, with the Seattle Seahawks and were roommates when I first came to Seattle. He was actually the first wide receiver who I ever saw play for the Seattle Seahawks.

The first practice when I arrived there, I saw Steve running a slant pattern and the ball ricocheted off his helmet. I thought, “I know I can play for this team.” (Laughter) But on behalf of all the Silver Anniversary Award winners, I want to say thank you. We are humbled, we are honored and we are very grateful for the recognition that the NCAA has bestowed upon us.

We also want to add our congratulations to Secretary Cohen, the recipient of the Teddy Roosevelt Award, one of the great athletes produced by the state of Maine. We also want to congratulate and wish continued success to all the very deserving Top VIII Award winners in tonight’s program.

I want to ask you to indulge me for just a moment. If you have a billfold, a wallet, or a purse with a one-dollar bill in it, pull it out right now. Pull out a dollar bill. I know, it is a scary thing to have a politician ask you for more of your money, but I want to assure you this will not constitute an NCAA infraction.

If you have a dollar bill, or you don’t have one, look on the back of the dollar bill with somebody. What I want you to see there is our national seal on the back of the dollar bill. You have the pyramid and the eagle on both sides. We are actually the only nation in the world that has a two- sided, double-sided seal. It was established in 1782.

The pyramid on the back side of the seal symbolizes strength. It is 13 layers that represent the 13 original colonies. It is unfinished at the top symbolizing that America will continue to grow, build and improve as we pursue truth. Above the pyramid, you see the eye of providence within the glory of light symbolizing the spiritual above the material. The model above says “Annuit Coeptis,” or “God has favored our undertaking.” The other side is the American eagle breasted by the national shield. In one talon are 13 arrows symbolizing the 13 states struggling for independence. In the other talon an olive branch with 13 olives and 13 leaves symbolizing the states’ struggle for peace.

Finally, in the eagle’s beak is a ribbon that contains our national motto, adopted by Benjamin Franklin, “E Pluribus Unum” — out of many one. This was a term familiar to our founding fathers. It was a monthly publication in England entitled The Gentlemen’s Magazine. Each year, they bound together all 12 months’ editions into one final volume, a 13th volume, and entitled it “E Pluribus Unum.”

There are really two arenas in our society today that I think best speak loudest about this principle of E Pluribus Unum, out of many one, the principle of unity. They are the military and athletics. In both, we see and learn that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

The truth is, we all desire to be a part of something that is bigger than ourselves. The Bible teaches that two are better than one and a cord of three strands is not easily broken and one chases a thousand, but two chases ten thousand.

In Washington, this principle of unity is now known as bipartisanship. Our founding fathers would have called it patriotism. In sports, we call it team. The lessons we can learn about unity and about team, I believe, just might be able to heal our nation.

So we, as the Silver Anniversary Award winners, a very young class, I might add, say thank you to the NCAA for the lessons learned about life, about team, about unity, about E Pluribus Unum, out of many one. Thank you. (Applause)

Mr. Ford:

Steve, thank you. Steve brought up a topic. I must, in the spirit of the full disclosure that our journalism ethics require, tell you that there was a sub-category of the Silver Anniversary Award this year. You probably wouldn’t see it in your program.

It is the sub-category that the award goes to “the recipient whose current hairstyle least resembles that of his college days.” (Laughter) I must tell you that within the committee there was such turmoil as we wrestled with Wally Walker, Steve Largent, Steve Raible. And Alpha, I don’t mean to leave you out of this, but we all agreed that you looked good in yours. (Laughter)

There was such turmoil in our committee over these three that it made our recent voting adventure in the state of Florida look like nothing but a Victorian tea party. We decided then through the guidance of my friend, Bob, rather than fracture the entire structure of the NCAA with this battle, we would agree to retire the trophy in the hands of these three worthy gentlemen.


Mr. Ford, Jack

We move now to our next award presentation. This is a very special one. It is the NCAA Award of Valor. This award may be presented to a coach or an administrator, or to a current or former varsity letter-winner at an NCAA institution.

To give you some idea of the significance and the value of this award, tonight will mark only the seventh time that this award has been bestowed since its inception in 1974. If you look in the dictionary, under the term “valor” you will find this definition: Strength of mind or spirit that enables a person to encounter with firmness; personal bravery.

Well, tonight we honor not one, but three such individuals who fall squarely within that definition; three individuals who in the truest form of the teamwork that Steve Largent just spoke about a few moments ago acted together not just to accomplish some athletic feat but far more importantly to actually save the lives of fellow human beings.

Here is the story. Following a victorious football game, an Appalachian State University van and two team buses made a rather joyous caravan back home. Separated by only a few minutes, the team van led the way. With about seven miles left in the trip, the team members in the buses came upon a very frightening event. There was a fiery traffic accident.

An oncoming car lost control, veered across the center line and crashed into a van. That van was carrying 12 members of the Appalachian State University football support staff. The driver and a student assistant coach were trapped inside that van. Without regard for their personal safety, understanding the flames were now spreading from the car to that van, assistant coaches Rob Best, Shawn Elliott and Stacy Searels entered the van and literally saved the lives of their trapped friends.

The character of the coaches seemed to transfer to the entire team. The Mountaineers finished the 2000 campaign with a 10-4 record, reaching the semifinals of the Division I-AA playoffs for the first time in 13 years.

I would like to ask for a moment that Shawn Elliott, Stacy Searels and Rob Best stand. Hold your applause for a moment, please, because there is something I want to read to you. As we said before, this is an extraordinary act of bravery on their part, an act of bravery that literally saved lives.

But as bravery often does, it not only saved lives, but it dramatically changed lives. Jonathan Taylor was one of the young men pulled from the wreckage and perhaps he says best what is in the hearts of those who are alive because of what these young men did in a letter that he has written to these coaches. I want to read that letter to you.

He writes: “Valor is used to describe an act of bravery or a willingness to help someone in need. In describing the actions of coaches Stacy Searels, Rob Best and Shawn Elliott in the early morning hours of October 1, people would use words such as courageous and heroic.

“For those of us who are so fortunate to work with these men, their actions would be explained as normal or routine. The men you honor tonight were not only heroic for that brief moment, but exemplify heroism every day. To understand what kind of values they have bestowed upon the Appalachian State football program, you must understand that these men jumped in the van. But the members of the team, the young men they influence every day, were waiting in line for their chance to do the same.

“Although I can’t recall what happened in the accident, I will always have the comfort of knowing that because of the bravery shown by these men, I can wake up and thank God each morning for letting me be here and thank him for letting them be there.

“I once read that a perfect day is one in which you do something for somebody that can never be repaid. There is nothing that I can say or nothing that I can give that will ever measure up to being given my life back that night, but because of the lessons I have learned from these men and coach Jerry Moore and the other members of the Appalachian State staff, I can only promise that I will try to make this and every day a perfect day.

Sincerely, Jonathan Taylor.” (Applause)

So often in this day and age, we tend to mistake notriety for virtue and tend to mistake mere celebrities for heroism. But make no mistake about it, these three gentlemen are indeed heroes.

Presenting the award is Roachel Laney, athletics director at Appalachian State University. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in offering our very deep congratulations to the recipients of the NCAA Award of Valor: Appalachian State University football assistant coaches Rob Best, Shawn Elliott and Stacy Searels.

(The assembly extended a prolonged standing ovation.)

Shawn Elliott, Appalachian State University, Assistant Coach

Stacy Searels, Appalachian State University, Assistant Coach

Rob Best, Appalachian State University, Assistant Coach

Mr. Ford, Jack

Now, Rob Best will speak on behalf of the Valor winners. Rob.

Rob Best

Mr. Ford, honored guests, ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of Stacy and Shawn, we would like to thank the Honors Committee of the NCAA and the NCAA for this prestigious award. We would also like to express our appreciation to Roachel Laney, the directors of athletics at Appalachian State, Kelby Siler, sports information director, and Geoff Wiswell, football information director for their efforts in reporting the events of that fateful Saturday night to the Honors Committee for its review.

The three of us are here before you tonight grateful and humbled by the recognition. However, we would not be as thankful as we are without the knowledge that due to a lot of prayers and expert medical care, Tony Barnett, assistant trainer, Jonathan Taylor, student-coach; Jacob Stroot, student videographer; Nick Lewis, student videographer; Keenan Moore, student manager; Mason Ringeisen, student manager; Eric Race, student manager; Tim Samsel, student trainer; Josh Chandler, student trainer; Barclay Ballard, student trainer; Anne Smallwood, trainer; and Katy Smith, student trainer; are all on the road to recovery for their injuries sustained in that horrendous accident, with a wide range of injuries from bumps to scratches to critical conditions.

Each of the 13 students has battled back from the physical pain. They are dealing with the mental and psychological trauma that accompanies such an ordeal. We are happy to report that all these courageous and dedicated young people will be back this spring semester pursuing their dreams for the future that they all had prior to the accident.

We also have to commend our players for their actions on that Saturday night. They went from celebrating a tough Southern Conference win in one minute to attending to the physical needs of the injured and reassuring them everything was going to be fine while waiting on rescue personnel.

It was a genuine display of care and concern for their fellow students that left a lasting impression on all present at the accident scene. Coaches and players alike experienced a gamut of emotions and thoughts that Saturday night on a dark winding road in the mountains of western North Carolina.

The most evident throughout to many was we only are assured of the present and no guarantees for the future. So it is paramount to live life to its fullest and cherish each and every moment as we go through this journey called life. Again, Stacy, Shawn and I thank you, and we humbly accept this on behalf of the entire Appalachian State University football family that lived through the experience of September 30, 2000.

I will close with this wish for all here tonight. It is from an old Gaelic toast. “May the road rise to meet you, may the wind always be at your back, and may the good Lord forever hold you and yours in the palm of his hands.” We thank you. (Applause)

Mr. Ford:

You will remember when we first began this evening that I told you that those of you who were here for the first time will walk away with a better understanding of the true spirit of this event. I think what we have heard through these three gentlemen has certainly proven that to you all. Once again, gentlemen, our thanks and our respect for what you did. (Applause)


William Cohen, Bowdoin College, United States Secretary of Defense

Mr. Ford:

Now, ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor to introduce to you the 34th recipient of the Theodore Roosevelt Award. Beginning with the first award recipient, President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1967, up to and including the 2000 award winner, Roger Staubach, each has shown us that perhaps the best victories in life come after we have left the athletic playing field.

These national figures have shown us that the benefits of the student-athlete experience can indeed last a lifetime and that the successes in athletics can, indeed, spill over into a life and into a career that is greatly enriched as a result of those athletic experiences.

The Teddy Award is presented each year to a prominent national figure who, as a student-athlete, competed in varsity sports and who, after graduation, continued to keep alive the importance and dedication to sports.

Tonight’s Teddy recipient has transferred his leadership on the basketball court to become the leader of the most powerful military force in the world. In 1997, President Clinton asked this Republican from Maine to cross party lines and become the administration’s United States Secretary of Defense.

I should note again a personal note. In my profession, people tend to often be skeptic, sometimes cynics when they are dealing with people in the political arena. I can tell you through my own experience and that of all that I know, that when they are asked to characterize this gentleman, they will all say, and perhaps this is the highest accolade a journalist can give to anyone, including a politician, that he is a good, honest, fair and decent man.

During his more than 30 years in public office, he never lost an election. He never lost one, and for good reason. He was also a winner in sports. While playing for Division III, Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, he was named the team’s captain in 1961 and 1962, evidencing leadership abilities even then.

In both his junior and senior seasons, he led the team in scoring. Even as one of the most powerful figures in the Defense Department, indeed in Washington and indeed in the world, he is known for organizing more than a few pick-up games at the Pentagon. Perhaps there is no greater sense of a true sportsman and a true competitor than you can find in a recent quote of his. “When you get on the court, there is no respect for titles. Once the pin-striped suit comes off, I am fair game.”

Audiovisual Recording:

Before he was one of the President’s main men, William Cohen was the man in Maine. A member of the state’s 1962 basketball all-star team, “Billy” Cohen was the pride of the Polar Bears of tiny Bowdoin College. The future Secretary of Defense conducted aerial assaults on the opposition, firing guided missiles from every possible angle, while displaying honorable field generalship as Bowdoin’s captain and as its top scorer during his junior and senior years.

Cohen hasn’t slowed down since. After college, he took his intensity and leadership out on the campaign trail, connecting with the voters of Maine when he walked 600 miles through the state during his first bid for Congress. The young Republican later introduced himself to the nation during the Watergate hearings, when he put Democratic principles above party affiliation.

Cohen said, “It’s been said that an impeachment proceeding will tear this country apart. To say that it would tear this country apart to abide by the Constitution is a proposition that I cannot accept. I think what would tear the country apart would be to turn our backs on the facts and our responsibility to ascertain them.”

And when scandal returned 13 years later, Cohen again summoned his independence and idealism. Cohen said, “Democracy demands not only that the rights of the minority be protected but that the rules of the majority be respected. And that’s true even if you and I believe the majority is wrong. We have to respect the rule of law until we can change the law itself. Otherwise, the rule of law will be reduced to the law of rule.”

Cohen, a cum laude graduate of both college and law school, later recounted the challenge of the Iran-Contra hearings in one of the nine books he has written. But his greatest challenge came in 1997, when he was asked to author the nation’s defense policy. Said the President of his new appointee, “He has a creative, intelligent, inquiring mind, which is just what is needed for this team.” As a powerful Republican within a Democratic administration, Cohen has built bipartisan consensus on a series of thorny national security issues.

The old Bowdoin floor general has become actively involved in building morale and keeping the service combat ready, while also mending fences with old enemies around the world. And when Cohen hands over the keys to the Pentagon, he will be handing over a new military — one he has helped prepare for the demands of combat and diplomacy in the 21st Century.

Mr. Ford:

Ladies and gentlemen, I would ask Mr. Charles Wethington to return to the podium to present the 2001 NCAA Theodore Roosevelt Award.

Mr. Wethington:

Thank you, Jack. Bill, it is my honor to present to you the Theodore Roosevelt Award, the highest honor the NCAA bestows upon an individual. On behalf of the NCAA, I present this award to you for your lifetime achievements in basketball and as a leader in public service. You represent success in athletics and in life, and it is fitting that you receive the NCAA’s highest award.

Ladies and gentlemen, United States Secretary of Defense, Bill Cohen.

[The assembly extended a prolonged standing ovation.]

Mr. Cohen:

Mr. Wethington, Congressman Largent, I single you out even though I don’t have to appear before any committee of yours in the future to say what a fan I have been of you and so many of the other honorees this evening.

The university president, Jeff Ward of Bowdoin, Jack Ford, one person who is missing from all of that film that you saw was my wife, Janet. Thank you for being here. You should be noted for your athleticism on the polo field. Janet and I, during the course of many years, have seen a number of films at various functions we have attended. I must say that watching that film just a moment ago, I could have watched it all evening.

I must say that looking at those photographs, especially the sideburns, I remember what Justice Holmes once said when they unveiled a portrait of him in the Harvard Law Library. He looked up and he said, “It’s not me, but I am glad you think so.” (Laughter)

I am truly honored and humbled to be here this evening. It was 14 years ago that I received the Silver Anniversary Award from this great institution. It is hard for me to believe that the photograph that was shown before was taken 42 years ago.

I have always had this sort of gothic preoccupation with time and feeling that time has been leaking through my fingers, and to look up at the photographs that I saw in the film a few minutes ago surely reminded me of that.

When I was named to the Silver Anniversary all-star team, I had a few minor ball players who were on the team. The first player they called out was John Havlecik, the second player was Terry Dischinger. The third player was Dave DeBusschere, Billy Packer and then finally me. I said for my acceptance speech, thank God the NCAA still believes in the Affirmative Action Program. (Laughter)

I wasn’t sure what I could possibly say to you this evening at this hour. For any after-dinner speaker to stand behind a podium at 10 o’clock in the evening and look out into an audience, that is truly an intimidating thing. I was asking Ced what I might say this evening, how long I should speak. He said, with Janet overhearing him, “Give them five or 10 minutes.” And she quickly added, “Something light and not too intellectual.” She said, “I have heard you speak so many times before I know you can do it.” (Laughter)

I did once give a speech while I was a senator and a woman came up to me and she said, “Oh, Senator Cohen, that was perhaps the finest speech that I had ever heard.” I listened to her and I was kind of feeling myself puffing up in sort of narcissistic pride. She said, “It was just superfluous.” (Laughter) And I thought it might be a slip of the knife as much as a slip of the tongue. I said, “Thank you, ma’am. As a matter of fact, I was thinking of having it published posthumously.” She said, “Oh, wonderful, Senator, the sooner the better.” (Laughter) I have always kept that in mind.

Before I launch into too much this evening, I want to extend a special welcome to Merritt and Harriet Henry, who have come here from Portland, Maine, and Jim and Carol Wilcox from Bangor, Maine, two families that have been very strong supporters of mine through the years. Thank you for coming all the way from Maine. (Applause)

I listened to Jack Ford talk about what a wonderful evening this was going to be and to stand and sit among so many heroes in our midst. I thought about my own aspirations back in college. I had two. Being a politician, I had a back-up plan. I wanted to be either a Latin professor or preferably a professional basketball player.

Years later, my Senate colleagues would say I had achieved both of my dreams, that I continued to dribble while speaking a dead language. But believe it or not, even given the size that I am, I still wanted to play professional basketball, but I ran into two separate things.

I ran into a rock called Jungle Jim Luscutoff, and during an exhibition game that he was conducting during a tour of Maine, he persuaded me in a very non-verbal way that I was not ready for prime time. Then I did, in fact, have a chance to play in an exhibition game with the Boston Celtics.

I was a substitute one evening for K. C. Jones in my hometown of Bangor, Maine, where I was the mayor that day, and Don Nelson brought his team to Bangor and was putting on an exhibition game and one of the players was injured that night and couldn’t play, so Don Nelson asked me to suit up.

I called home and I talked to my folks and I said, “Bring my sneakers. I am going to play this evening.” Nelson gave me his practice jersey, which came down over my elbows. He gave me his practice shorts, which came down over my knees. I had fairly long sideburns, and I was wearing horn-rimmed glasses. I proceeded to play that evening with Satch Sanders and so many of the other Celtics great.

I went out on the court and Satch Sanders threw me a full-length pass that I went up to catch in all my glory, and it carried me right into the stands. After the game, all the people who were there came in the locker room. I was suiting up with the Celtics and this 12- or 13-year-old boy came in.

He started getting all the autographs from the guys. He said, “You guys were fantastic. What was that Woody Allen act out there?” (Laughter) That sort of dashed my hopes forever of thinking I could possibly play basketball again.

When I campaigned for Congress the first time back in 1972, I used to put out my little resume and I would go around to all the schools and talk. One time, I had a young lady who got up in the classroom and she said, “Why do you always mention the fact in your little resume that you played basketball for Bangor High School and Bowdoin College? What is the big deal?” I said, “Perhaps it is not significant, but to me it was everything.”

I learned from playing basketball that there were rules that had to be obeyed, there were referees who would call a foul if I violated a rule, and discipline that had to be imposed. I learned the joys of victory and the sorrows of defeat.

Every emotion I would feel during the course of my life I would experience on that basketball court. I learned one time, for example, when Kevin, you talked about your family and dad, I had a father who was a remarkable man, who worked 18 hours, six days a week, who never had a vacation in almost 60 years, and he loved his work. He was a baker. He loved watching me play basketball.

One time he came down to a church league game. I was showing off for him that afternoon, and I happened to score 43 points in that game. I finished the game and I walked over to my father and I said, “Dad, what do you think?” He looked at me with total seriousness and he said, “If you had not missed those two shots you would have had 45.”

It was a lesson I have never forgotten, that you must always strive for perfection. Don’t ever be satisfied to think that you have done your very best. You can always do better. He felt that way after all of those years, some 65 years of making rye bread and rolls, working with his hands, he was always trying to make the perfect roll. It was a great lesson and a great inspiration for me to take that into politics and into other endeavors as well.

But I wanted you to know tonight that the greatest honor that I have ever achieved certainly was being in the Bangor City Council and Mayor of Bangor, the third largest city in Maine, a population of 38,000. Mr. Mayor, is it still 38,000? Of course not.

I’m proud of being the mayor and going on to be a member of Congress and the United States Senate, but nothing in my lifetime will ever compare with being Secretary of Defense of the United States of America. There is a great relationship between the kind of skills and dedication and sacrifice that everybody who you have paid tribute to this evening has demonstrated.

There are people who preserve freedom for you and I and all of us. We live under the blanket of freedom safe every night because there are men and women who are out there tonight and tomorrow who are sacrificing their very lives so that we can live free.

You would be overwhelmed, you would stand in awe if you had the experience that Janet and I have had for the past four years. I thank President Clinton every chance that I get for his being willing to step across, reach across the party lines for the first time in history to select a high official from a different party to say I want to send a message to the country, to the Congress, to the world that when it comes to national security there is only one policy, there is no party label.

I thank him day in and day out for the opportunity that it has given me to serve in this capacity. Nothing will compare to the experience that we had in going out to Bosnia or to Kosovo or Korea, or the deserts of Kuwait or Saudi Arabia, or going out on an aircraft carrier and seeing the teams under the leadership of people like Captain Devalore, a young woman who had four letters in school and got her degree, studying law in Germany while she was stationed there and captained a ship, commanded it with 500-odd men and women. She is just one example of a tremendous talent we have and the kind of sacrifice we see day in and day out.

It is a great relationship between the kind of dedication that we see in athletics and the kind of patriotism that is demonstrated every day by our men and women who are serving us. Janet and I had the privilege of going out to the Indy 500. She is from the great city of Indianapolis. She is a Hoosier.

She said, “You have got to go out to the Indy 500.” We got invited out there and we were going to kick off that wonderful race. It was the largest audience that I have ever addressed. There were 500,000 people in that audience that day. As I approached the podium, she said, “Remember to keep this very, very short.”

But something happened that day that reminded me of how patriotic the American people really are. Before the race started there were two Harrier jets that came over the raceway. The people looked up and they started applauding. Then one jet came back. Those Harriers have the ability to hover. One Harrier made a 360degree turn over the race track, and the people just exploded with applause.

As I was walking to the podium that afternoon, a number of people came over and said, “That was a sound of freedom and thank God they are ours.” That is what we have to remind ourselves day in and day out. There are dedicated people out there. You see them during times of crisis. You saw them during Desert Fox when we flew 38,000 sorties in that campaign. Two planes were lost out of those 38,000 sorties, no pilots.

That tells you something about the excellence and the professionalism and the dedication, the competence that we have in our military. You see it also in the sorrow when you see a hole blown into the side of the USS Cole. Most people saw the hole. They saw the tragedy. But what you didn’t see was the people after that hole was blown on that ship. There were all of those people aboard that ship in total darkness. They had no power. They were taking on water, almost three feet a minute pouring in.

They had no means of getting it out. They were bailing it by hand. They were determined to make sure that ship didn’t go down. That is the kind of dedication, that is the kind of patriotism that our men and women have day in and day out. They demonstrate that on our behalf.

So what Janet and I have tried to do, we have tried to reconnect America to its military. We have a smaller military than we have ever had in the past. We have an all-volunteer force. It is a less visible presence in your lives. We have a less visible enemy in our lives.

So we want to reconnect the American people to the people who are serving to remind them that we need to have bright people capable, dedicated athletic people to come into our military to serve us. So we take every occasion to remind them, whether we go to the Microsoft campus or drop into the Illinois Legislature or the Chambers of Commerce.

But wherever I can, wherever we go and I have traveled in four years over 800,000 miles, and Janet has been by my side virtually all of that time, and it has been the highlight of our lives. We say that we serve as the civilian leaders of the greatest military in the world, bar none.

Wherever we go, they say we want to be like you. We admire or we envy or we fear, but we want to have a military like you have got in the United States. It is that kind of patriotism and dedication that we see represented by the United States.

We took NFL Fox Sunday — some of you may have seen that show a few weeks ago — out on the USS Harry Truman just off the coast of Italy a couple of weeks ago when we were helping to take a holiday tour to bring a touch of home — Janet is the first lady also of the USO — to all of those troops who are over there, who are missing their families at Christmas time. You can’t imagine how poignant it is to see these people who are without their families who want to be home celebrating, out there doing their job and their duty protecting us.

We brought NFL Fox Sunday, and thank goodness they came. They had their own team of Terry, Howie, Chris and J.B., and they went out for two or three days aboard that carrier showing the kind of dedication and talent and competence we see in our military.

We traveled to Ramstadt, to Kosovo, to Bosnia, to bring this message of cheer to our troops. Mike Singletary, the great linebacker of the Chicago Bears, got up and said something that has stayed with us and stayed with all our troops. He said, “When I look out into the faces of these young men and women, I think of that passage in the Bible in the book of Isaiah when God asked who will go for me?” And the answer came back, “I will go for you.” And he said, “Thanks to you, people like me, professional football players, and Terry, we are able to go out and be as good as we can be because of you.” We should never, ever forget that.

So tonight, I wanted to come to you to say how honored I am to enjoy receiving this award that went to Presidents Eisenhower, Ford, Reagan and Bush, Mr. Bradley, and maybe afford in my future some other political aspiration I can have.

But what I really wanted to say is we need to pay tribute to our military as often as we can. Every time you see somebody in uniform, go up and say, “Thank you, thank you for what you do for us. Because of what you do we can have the athletes performing at high school and college and professional football and basketball and all of the sports because of what you do.”

I would like to close with something that was said by Walter Lipmann many years ago back in 1940. It was on the eve of World War II. He was talking to his classmates. It was the 30th reunion of the class of 1910. He looked out to his classmates’ faces and he was lecturing them.

He said, “You know, every time we have had a hard choice to make, we took the easy way out. That has been the story of everything that has happened since World War I. Here we are on the edge of war with this mechanized evil that is ravaging through Europe.”

He said, “This is the standard to which we must now repair. You took the good things for granted, and now you must earn them again. For every right that you cherish, you have a duty you must perform. For every hope that you entertain, we have an obligation you must perform. For every good that you wish to achieve, you must sacrifice your comfort and your deeds. There is nothing for nothing any longer.”

Those words had great meaning on the verge of World War II, but they are a prescription for life as well. Every single athlete who you have paid tribute to this evening, everyone on this podium, all who are in the audience who have participated, everybody understands what it means to say to you that you must sacrifice your comfort and your ease.

You must dedicate yourself to the high ideals and principles that made this the greatest country in the face of the earth, the greatest source and force for freedom. Thank you very much. I am honored.

(The assembly extended a prolonged standing ovation.)

Mr. Ford:

Mr. Secretary, I suspect that this award is certainly a reflection of the fact if the President indeed did want to send a message through his selection, he chose the right messenger to do so. I also suspect as proud as you are of your father and his accomplishments, he would be as proud of you and your accomplishments, even if you were a few points short of 45 that day. Congratulations from all of us once again. (Applause)

As we are about to wrap up this evening, I am hopeful that those of you who were here for the first time now understand and appreciate what I said about the spirit of this evening. As we have honored this extraordinary array of award recipients this evening, I think it is interesting to note that as different as their backgrounds may be, as different as their athletic accomplishments may be, as very different as their subsequent life experiences and accomplishments may be, they all share certain very compelling characteristics, characteristics that teach us an awful lot not only about their success but about life.

They all share a sense of optimism that has allowed them in their lives to say there is something out there over the horizon that is worth searching for in a way they shared the philosophy of one of our great philosophers, Bruce Springsteen, who said in one of his wonderful songs, “we are all just around the corner to the light of day.”

They also share a confidence, a confidence that recognizes that every great achievement of mankind was prefaced by somebody saying, “No, you can’t do that.” What they have been able to do is prove the words of the philosopher who said they can because they think they can.

All of those honored this evening not only can but they have done it because they thought they could. Finally, they all share a sense of courage, not just the physical courage that is so abundant in their lives and in their accomplishments, but more importantly a courage of the heart, a courage of the mind and a courage of the soul.

There has been in this room this evening, ladies and gentlemen, a celebration of brilliance. It is a brilliance that has illuminated our past, it is a brilliance that illuminates our present. You can all leave here this evening being absolutely certain that the brilliance that has radiated from these honorees this evening will continue to illuminate our lives in the future. For that, once again, we congratulate and thank each of our honorees. (Applause)

As we wrap up the evening, I am going to ask President Wethington to return to the podium to conclude the event. I just want to take this moment to once again congratulate these magnificent heroes we honor tonight and to thank the NCAA for allowing me to be a part of what I truly believe is the grandest evening in the universe of intercollegiate athletics. Thank you very much. (Applause)

Mr. Wethington:

Thank you very much, Jack, for the outstanding job you have done in helping us celebrate our honorees. We appreciate your time with us tonight and for your tireless work as an NCAA Honors Committee member. As a token of our appreciation, the NCAA will make a donation to your alma mater, Yale University, in your name. I think both you and Yale University deserve a round of applause. (Applause)

This has been a special evening. I hope you have been inspired by our special honorees tonight. For your information, this evening’s special will air on ESPN Friday, February 2, at 1 p.m. Eastern time.

I want to again say “thank you” and congratulations to all the award winners for letting us celebrate your accomplishments. I am sure you will enjoy many more victories during your celebrated lifetimes. To bring a close to this special evening, Miss Bola Bamidura will present the benediction.


Ms. Bamidura:

Good evening again. I would like to thank the higher power for gathering everyone here today, to recognize these outstanding athletes for their amazing accomplishments. I ask that each recipient use their shared qualities of selflessness, courage and resilience in future undertakings.

We thank you for your hard work and dedication in your individual athletic careers and may you continue to be an inspiration to all.


Mr. Wethington:

Thank you all very much. Have a very good evening and a happy new year.