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NCAA names sportsmanship awardees

The NCAA Committee on Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct selected Bill Richards, head men’s tennis coach at Ball State University, as the recipient of the 2014-15 Bob Frederick Sportsmanship Award. This honor recognizes his demonstrated history of sportsmanship while leading the Cardinals.

The committee also selected four college athletes to receive 2014-15 NCAA Student-Athlete Sportsmanship Awards: Kate Bucknam, who competed in women’s cross country and track and field while studying kinesiology at the University of Minnesota; Hunter Hulley, who competes in men’s track and field while studying art at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls; Bailey Kent, who competes in women’s tennis while studying biology and Spanish at St. Olaf College; and Sebastian Stiefelmeyer, who competed in men’s tennis and majored in economics at the University of Louisville.

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

Bill Richards, Ball State University

Bill Richards, head men’s tennis coach at Ball State University, is the recipient of the 2014-15 Bob Frederick Sportsmanship Award

Bill Richards’ 44years as the head men’s tennis coach at Ball State have netted 645 career wins, 38Mid-American Conference regular-season or tournament championships and eight trips to NCAA championships. But his nominator Paula Haughn, assistant athletic media relations director at Ball State, didn’t list his record as the reason for her nomination.

Rather, as Haughn noted in her nomination, Richards’ commitment to providing the “utmost respect and sportsmanship to the opposing team, on both sides of the court, winning or losing,” spurred her to seek recognition for him.

The Bob Frederick Sportsmanship Award, first presented in 2009 to honor the late athletics director at University of Kansas and Illinois State University, is awarded annually to an NCAA member school coach or administrator who exhibits a lifelong commitment to sportsmanship and ethical conduct, leading by example and promoting positive fan involvement in and out of competition.

“I am very honored and humbled to receive this award, as sportsmanship is the core value of intercollegiate athletics and one of the most important things that we teach young people,” Richards said. “It is a special privilege to win an award baring the name of such a great athletics director and role model, Bob Frederick. I want to thank to the NCAA Committee on Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct for selecting me.”

A letter of support written by Steve Rodecap, who formerly competed in men’s tennis at Ball State and is now the head men’s tennis coach at Marquette University, noted the unique situation many college tennis players find themselves in when they have to make their own line calls. “It is during these intense moments where sportsmanship is in the balance. Coach Richards firmly believes that it is how you handle yourself in these situations that will determine who you are as a player and as a person,” Rodecap wrote.

Richards’ impact on the sport of tennis is commended. “To this day, coaches from across the country will call him for advice and insight,” said Pat Quinn, associate athletics director at Ball State. “Whether it’s at the college level, the junior level or internationally, the esteem for Bill Richards is unbelievable.”

“Coach Richards is very deserving of this prestigious award,” Ball State Athletics Director Mark Sandy said. “Although I have only known him for a short time, his enthusiasm for the sport, sincere interest in his players, and his legacy of championships speaks for itself. We are fortunate to have him as our head men’s tennis coach.”

Richards is on the board of directors of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association and serves as a member of its rules committee.

Kate Bucknam, University of Minnesota

Ann Marie Dunlap (center) of Baylor is assisted across the finish line by teammate Madison Zimmerman (right) and Kate Bucknam of Minnesota (left) in the 2014 NCAA cross country championships at Wabash Valley Family Sports Center. PHOTO: Kirby Lee - USA TODAY Sports

While competing in the 2014 NCAA Division I Women’s Cross Country Championships,  University of Minnesota senior and co-captain Kate Bucknam noticed a fellow runner, Baylor University freshman Annie Dunlap, stumbling toward the finish line. Bucknam joined with Dunlap’s teammate Madie Zimmerman to assist Dunlap in finishing the race.

“I feel grateful to have had the opportunity to help a sister in my sport out,” Bucknam said. “Every runner in that race sacrificed so much…and I know all of us had a rough race. The least we deserved was to finish, and I wasn’t going to finish without her.”

Bucknam completed the race as Minnesota’s sixth runner in her NCAA championship debut. Following the season, she was awarded Minnesota’s Big Ten Sportsmanship Award and was the recipient of an Outstanding Sportsmanship Award from the Big Ten.

Hunter Hulley, University of Wisconsin - River Falls

Hunter Hulley competes in men’s track and field while studying art at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls

At the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletics Conference Outdoor Championships, Hunter Hulley, a University of Wisconsin-River Falls freshman, noticed a fellow competitor’s shoe had torn as he was preparing to compete in the high jump. Knowing he had the same type of shoe in his bag – albeit a size smaller – Hulley loaned the pair to Chanler Leonard, a high jumper from University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. With the shoes, Leonard made the jump and achieved a personal record.

Leonard’s mother expressed her gratitude in a letter to head men’s track and field coach Matthew Cole. “This young man has true sportsmanship and an amazing kind heart,” Donna Leonard wrote of Hulley. “Please make sure he understands how truly thankful we are.”

Bailey Kent, St. Olaf College

Bailey Kent, who competes in women’s tennis while studying biology and Spanish at St. Olaf College.

During a doubles match against rival Carleton Knights, St. Olaf College junior tennis player Bailey Kent and her partner Erin McDonald were a match point away from clinching victory. Kent’s next volley sailed past her opponents, sealing the win. However, Kent called out that she had touched the net, and although Carleton head coach Luciano Battaglini and several players did not notice, Kent still whistled herself for the violation.

Play continued, momentum shifted and the Knights unexpectedly rallied to win the match. However, the Knights’ coach cited Kent as the day’s winner.

“In tennis, it can be hard for people to compete and be cordial because they get so involved in what they do that they often lose perspective,” Battaglini said. “The fact she had the courage to call that on herself was more important than winning the match.”

Sebastian Stiefelmeyer, University of Louisville

Sebastian Stiefelmeyer, competed in men’s tennis and majored in economics at the University of Louisville

In his senior year competing in tennis at the University of Louisville, Sebastian Stiefelmeyer was down 0-1 in the Round of 16 of the singles event in the NCAA Division I Men’s Tennis Championships. He was in a critical stage of the second set when his opponent, Winston Lin of Columbia University, hit a serve that both Stiefelmeyer and the chair umpire called out, meaning Stiefelmeyer would face a slower second serve with a greater chance to return the point and take over the second set. However, after taking a second look at the line, Stiefelmeyer reversed his initial call, giving the pivotal point to Lin, who went on to win a 7-4 and 6-4 match that ended Stiefelmeyer’s collegiate career.

Columbia head men’s tennis coach Bid Goswami, a 30-year coaching veteran, told Louisville head men’s tennis coach Rex Ecarma that he had never seen a player reverse a call like that in such a close match, with advancement in the tournament on the line.

Stiefelmeyer was awarded the Intercollegiate Tennis Association/Arthur Ashe Leadership and Sportsmanship Award, one of the most prestigious awards in college tennis, for his character, conduct and unwavering sportsmanship.