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NCAA honors Jud Damon with Bob Frederick Award

Three student-athletes also recognized with Sportsmanship Award

The NCAA Committee on Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct has selected Flagler Director of Athletics Jud Damon to receive the 2012-13 Bob Frederick Award for his demonstrated history of sportsmanship leading the Division II Saints. The committee also selected Georgia tennis student-athlete Maho Kowase, Air Force track and field student-athlete William Kent and Illinois College golf student-athlete Wilson Neill to receive the 2012-13 NCAA Student-Athlete Sportsmanship Award.

Sportsmanship is one of the founding principles of the NCAA. These awards honor the efforts of student-athletes and administrators who work to protect the integrity of the game and create an even and welcoming playing field for all student-athletes and fans.

Jud Damon, Bob Frederick Award

In nominating Damon for the Bob Frederick Award, Assistant Athletics Director Ryan Erlacher called him, “an ambassador for sportsmanship.”  Since taking over the athletics director post three years ago, Damon has focused his efforts on providing a top notch fan experience that is family friendly and supportive of both home and visiting student-athletes.

Damon takes a hands-on approach, monitoring the crowds during contests to ensure no bad language or other inappropriate comments occur. If bad behavior happens, Damon will speak with the offender and explain that the behavior is not reflective of the values of Flagler, and will also use the interaction as an opportunity to explain why sportsmanship is important to the institution and the student-athletes on the field.

“Our culture is inundated with examples of bad sportsmanship every day,” Damon said. “Those of us involved in intercollegiate athletics have an opportunity to reduce the number of those examples by taking a stand, intentionally modeling and teaching good sportsmanship, and holding our coaches and student-athletes to high standards. Maintaining such standards can help move the culture of sport in our country in a positive direction.”

Damon has included sportsmanship as one of his department’s “core covenants.” He asks that his staff keep sportsmanship as a central part of their approach.

Under his leadership student-athletes are also asked to read a sportsmanship pledge before every game.

“It’s important to have a culture of respect among NCAA institutions because that will create game environments and experiences that are enriching for everyone involved – fans, student-athletes, coaches, staff – everyone,” he said.

“Ultimately, we’re trying to develop and positively impact the student-athletes in our programs, as well as those for whom our student-athletes are role models.  Having a real commitment to outstanding sportsmanship, as opposed to just lip service, helps us do that.”

Maho Kowase, Sportsmanship Award

During the 2012 NCAA Division I Women’s Tennis Championships, the junior tennis student-athlete was competing in a singles match that was pivotal for the overall team championship. Kowase was trailing in the final set when the official made an incorrect score call that favored her.

When Kowase’s opponent challenged the call she immediately came forward to agree and correct the mistake.

“At first, I wanted to take the point, because it is the biggest match of the season and a point could change a lot of things,” Kowase admits. “Teammates, coaches and fans were cheering for me…and I wanted to give everything I have for the team. I also knew, however, my opponent from Clemson wanted to do the same thing for her team, so knowing what the true score was, I knew I needed to step in and correct the referee and play it fair.”

Kowase ultimately won the match, pushing her team into the quarterfinals.

In nominating her for the award, Georgia’s Senior Associate Athletic Director for Sports Communications, Claude Felton, called Kowase’s actions, “one of the most honest moments in Georgia tennis history.”

“I believe part of being a good sport is having respect for your opponent, enjoying what you do, and giving 100 percent all the time,” Kowase said. “When both players do this, the match becomes so much fun and I feel great after leaving the court no matter what the score was.”

William Kent, Sportsmanship Award

During the New Mexico Classic, Air Force junior William Kent was participating in the men’s weight throw. After his throw, Kent saw the official recorded a 19.55-meter toss.

He knew it was a great throw, but he also knew it was far short of 19.55—a school record and a provisional NCAA qualifying throw.

“I felt that the mark the official called was farther than I could have thrown even by the end of the season,” he said. “Knowing that the mark called was farther than what I threw, I knew that if I did not correct the official I could not think of myself as an honorable person anymore.”

Despite the fact that a shorter distance would harm the team’s chances and his own chance at a provisional NCAA qualifying throw, Kent discussed the distance with the official. After a conversation the throw was changed to 18.55 meters.

Kent’s toss was still far enough to win the competition, but he sacrificed a school record, personal best and NCAA provisional mark.

“Sportsmanship to me is an unsaid promise from one competitor to the other to behave under a certain conduct while competing,” Kent said. “In other words, making sure you beat your opponent fair and square."

In receiving the award Kent said, “I know that I can take pride in my coaching staff, my teammates, my parents, and my teachers for instilling in me the beliefs of sportsmanship and the courage to act in a challenging situation. I believe that this award does not belong to just me alone, but to all those around me who have inspired me to be the person I am.”

Wilson Neill, Sportsmanship Award

In a tournament in April, senior golf student-athlete Wilson Neill withdrew himself from the competition after realizing he benefitted from a ruling he knew was incorrect. Despite the fact that officials found his play to be within the rules, Neill disagreed and refused to sign his scorecard, effectively withdrawing from the round and the tournament.

On a blind tee shot, Neill was unable to find his ball. Searching for the ball unsuccessfully, Neill went back to hit what he considered a provisional ball.

After the second shot Neill found his first tee shot, which was playable. He picked up his second shot and played out the first shot.

Neill discussed the play with the others in his group, his coach and tournament officials who all determined the play to be within the rules. Unsatisfied, Neill and his coach asked others about the ruling and eventually learned the play was illegal.

Once a player goes back to the tee box after not being able to find a shot, the initial shot is dead and the second ball must be played.

“My actions that day simply reflected my respect for the game of golf and its rules,” Neill said. “I always try to play the game the way it was meant to be played, whether in a tournament or in practice with my team.”

Neill said winning the sportsmanship award for his actions is an incredible honor.

“My withdrawal from the tournament that day was definitely not required, but I knew that it was the right thing to do, so it had to be done,” he said. “I hope through this award, people can see the good that can come from doing the right thing.”