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NCAA names 2015-16 sportsmanship award winners

Grove City College’s Lyle is recognized with the Bob Frederick Sportsmanship Award

The NCAA Committee on Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct is honoring Donald L. Lyle, former athletics director at Grove City College, as the 2015-16 recipient of the Bob Frederick Sportsmanship Award. The award recognizes his careerlong demonstration of sportsmanship as a coach and athletics director.

Three athletes and one team were also selected by the committee to receive the 2015-16 NCAA Student-Athlete Sportsmanship Awards: Ruben Guerrero, current basketball player and finance major at the University of South Florida; Minden Miles, a rifle athlete and strategic communication major at Texas Christian University; Imke Oelerich, a former cross country runner and current MBA student in sport and revenue generation at Nova Southeastern University; and the University of Georgia football team.

The awards recognize the athletes and administrators who exemplify sportsmanship, one of the core principles of the NCAA.

Donald L. Lyle, Grove City College

The 2014-15 academic year marked the end of Lyle’s distinguished career. Serving a total of 43 years at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, Lyle committed his time to academics and athletics as he completed 13 years as athletics director and 19 as chair of the exercise science department.

His ability to touch the lives of student-athletes on the field and in the classroom created a legacy of sportsmanship that his nominator, Joe Onderko, commissioner of the Presidents’ Athletic Conference, noted.

Lyle also coached men’s soccer for 34 years at Grove City, compiling a 277-206-37 record and leaving behind something even more important than a won-loss record. Onderko said in his nomination form: “Dr. Lyle’s legacy and emphasis on ethical conduct profoundly shaped the culture and lineage of the men’s soccer program.”

First awarded in 2009, the Bob Frederick Sportsmanship Award is presented annually to honor an NCAA coach or administrator who exemplifies a lifelong commitment to sportsmanship, ethical conduct, leadership and promoting positive fan involvement.

In a letter of support written by Mike Dreves, who is a former player, assistant coach and member of the athletics department under Lyle, one of the honoree’s finest moments was recalled.

After his men’s soccer team was eliminated in the conference tournament, the women’s team made the NCAA tournament for the first time. “Dr. Lyle purchased a rose for each woman on the team and presented it to the team in a sendoff ceremony as they left for the tournament,” Dreves wrote.

Lyle’s lead-by-example approach has set the bar for Grove City athletics. Under his leadership, the school received 50 percent more PAC Team Sportsmanship Awards than the second-highest conference recipient.

Ruben Guerrero, University of South Florida

Standing 7 feet tall, Ruben Guerrero presents an intimidating exterior, especially when he’s blocking shots on the basketball court. However, Guerrero, voted by his peers as the most spirited student-athlete at South Florida, is a gentle giant.

Guerrero has committed himself to supporting all of the school’s athletics teams and does so in a respectful manner. During a South Florida tennis match in March, Guerrero was able to calm a rambunctious crowd by encouraging the group to cheer more appropriately.

“Ruben is an amazing and genuine person who is a great example of what a good sportsman in collegiate athletics should resemble,” said Guerrero’s nominator, Jodie Libadisos, South Florida’s associate athletics director for student-athlete engagement.

The South Florida junior also was awarded the American Athletic Conference Sportsmanship Award, which is voted on by all 10 basketball coaches in the conference.

Minden Miles, Texas Christian University

During the National Collegiate Men’s and Women’s Rifle Championships this past March in Akron, Ohio, Mindy Miles did the unexpected. While on track to shoot a personal best and just two points off the lead entering the final stage of the smallbore event, Miles self-reported her own misfire.

Midcompetition, the second-team All-Academic Big 12 selection raised her hand to inform the range officer that she had just fired a round inadvertently, which didn’t record on her target. The misfire cost her as many as 10 points; however, her act of sportsmanship was noticed.

“Mindy had the candor to do what was right even when no one was looking, which came at a personal cost,” TCU Senior Associate Athletics Director Gretchen Bouton wrote in her nomination form. “This was an incredible display of sportsmanship.”

Imke Oelerich, Nova Southeastern University

While competing in the Sunshine State Conference Cross Country Championships last fall, Imke Oelerich shocked her coaches, competitors and spectators with an act of sportsmanship rarely witnessed on the competitive field.

Oelerich saw a University of Tampa runner ahead of her fall to the ground with an injured knee and stopped to support her competitor, staying with her until help arrived. This cost Oelerich 15-20 seconds, a significant time loss in the race.

“The decision to stop wasn’t a decision at all,” Oelerich explained. “It was a reaction.”

Oelerich’s coach, Bryan Hagopian, looks forward to using this example of sportsmanship as a way of training his runners in the future. “I will encourage my athletes to help the opposing runner,” he said. “I know the mindset is to always win, but I’d rather someone be safe than have a win-at-all-cost mindset.”

University of Georgia football team

On Sept. 26, 2015, Southern University wide receiver Devon Gales suffered a career-ending spinal injury against the University of Georgia at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia.

When Gales went down, the Georgia football team was the first to respond. At that moment, the color of his jersey didn’t matter. Gales’ safety did. In the months that followed, the Georgia football family stood by his side during his recovery, visiting him in the hospital, voicing support on social media and arranging for Gales’ family to fly in from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Claude Felton, the senior associate athletics director at Georgia, nominated the Georgia football team, noting the    relationship between Gales and the Bulldogs team, built on mutual respect, that continues to flourish nearly a year after the injury.