“Sports’ Greatest Citizens:” Dick Vitale, High School and Collegiate Athletes To Be Recognized at 13th Annual Wooden Cup Awards

Dick Vitale
Dick Vitale

ATLANTA (January 8, 2017) – The 13th Annual Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup, an award given to the most outstanding role models among athletes, has announced the professional, collegiate, and high school honorees for its 2017 award ceremony, to be held April 11 at Atlanta’s Cobb Galleria. Bob Ryan, the famed sportswriter for the Boston Globe and analyst for ESPN, will serve as the Master of Ceremonies.

Founded by Athletes for a Better World (ABW), a non-profit organization committed to changing the culture of American sports, the Wooden Cup is unique in that it is open to athletes in all collegiate and Olympic or professional sports and, for the first time this year, to high school athletes. Nominations are open to every division and conference in college sports and to athletes in public and private high schools across the country in a new partnership with the National Association of High School Athletic Administrators.

The Wooden Cup is named for John Wooden, who won ten national championships during the years 1964–1975 as basketball coach at UCLA and is considered one of college sports’ greatest coaches.  But it was Wooden’s emphasis on character development in his players and his dedication to community service that drew ABW’s attention.  “John Wooden is universally regarded as one of the finest human beings to ever grace the world of sports, and his character, conduct and selfless gifts stand at the highest level by any standard,” said Fred Northup, ABW President. When Coach Wooden learned about Athletes for a Better World, he authorized ABW to attach his name to this annual award, and Coach Wooden attended and addressed the inaugural event in Los Angeles in 2005. In his honor, the Wooden Cup has been presented to two distinguished athletes, one collegiate and one professional or Olympic, for character and leadership both on and off the field and for contributions to sport and society. This year, the Wooden Cup, in partnership with the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, will inaugurate a high school division of the Cup. 

The professional recipient, Dick Vitale, is well known as college basketball’s top analyst and ambassador.  Vitale joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season following a successful college and pro coaching career.  Vitale called ESPN’s first-ever NCAA basketball game and over 1,000 games since.  His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate, and never boring style.  In 2008, Vitale received basketball’s ultimate honor when he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Most importantly, Vitale is a tireless philanthropist. He serves on the Board of Directors of The V Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to finding a cure for cancer and founded in 1993 by ESPN and the late Jim Valvano. He has co-chaired the annual V Foundation Golf Classic and hosts the annual V Foundation Gala in Florida. 

Vitale’s numerous honors reflect the respect he has earned for his contributions to sport and to the larger community.  The honors include:   Man of the Year by the Detroit Athletic Club; one of the sport’s Five Most Influential Personalities; the American Sportscasters Association “Sports Personality of the Year;”  the Phil Rizzuto “Scooter Award” as the most caring broadcaster in the N.Y.C. metropolitan area; the Black Coaches Association (BCA) honor for dedication to youth; Man of the Year by the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Suffolk County (N.Y.); an honorary degree from The University of Notre Dame; the Ronald Reagan Media Award; the Basketball Hall of Fame’s Curt Gowdy Media Award;  the NABC Cliff Wells Appreciation Award; the College Sports Information Directors of America’s Jake Wade Award; the Keith Jackson Eternal Flame Award; The Florida Association of Community Corrections’ President’s Humanitarian Award; the Ethics and Sportsmanship in Sports Media Award given by the Institute for International Sport; the Ronald McDonald House Man of the Year Award of Excellence; and the Make-A-Wish Chris Greicius Award. In addition, he has been selected for nine halls of fame, including the National Italian Sports Hall of Fame, the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Born in East Rutherford, N.J., Vitale graduated from Seton Hall University with a bachelor of science degree in business administration. He also earned a master’s degree in education from William Paterson College. He and his wife, Lorraine, have two daughters.

The 2017 Collegiate Wooden Cup recipient will be announced at the April 11 award ceremony. Finalists for the collegiate division include:

  • Melissa Berkay, Mills College, Swimming
  • Oren Burks, Vanderbilt University, Football
  • Tori Doss, Xavier University, Soccer
  • Joseph Spencer, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Football

The high school recipients this year are Erin Houchins of Bowling Green, Kentucky and Ian Saum of Casselton, North Dakota.

Master of Ceremonies Bob Ryan will bring extraordinary experience and perspective to the evening’s events.  He has been named “Sportswriter of the Year” four times in recognition of his work at ESPN and the Boston Globe.  He is a member of the College Basketball Writers Hall of Fame, the New England Basketball Hall of Fame, a winner of the Curt Gowdy Award from the Basketball Hall of Fame, and, perhaps most notably, a recipient of the Red Smith Award for sports journalism.

The Wooden Cup is becoming one of the most prestigious awards in all of sports. Previous professional recipients include Jack Nicklaus, Pat Summitt, Dikembe Mutombo, Drew Brees, Mia Hamm, Peyton Manning, John Smoltz, John Lynch, Andrea Yaeger, Shannon Miller and Cal Ripken, Jr.  Recipients of the Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup are determined by the Wooden Cup Selection Committee after reviewing voting by the Board of Directors and over 100 distinguished individuals involved in athletics across the country.

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