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Division II announces 2015 Award of Excellence finalists

The NCAA Division II Student-Athlete Advisory Committee has selected 25 colleges and universities as finalists for the 2015 Division II Award of Excellence. The award recognizes events and activities that exemplify the type of campus and community engagement the division emphasizes.

Each finalist is awarded $500 for the event or activity for which the institution is  recognized. Examples of events the award seeks to acknowledge include activities associated with Division II partner Make-A-Wish, Team IMPACT, military appreciation, community engagement, game environment, student-athlete leadership development and educational programming.

Two runner-up recipients and the overall 2015 Division II Award of Excellence winner will emerge from the finalists. The national winner will receive a cash prize of $1,500 and a nationally televised football or basketball game during the 2015-16 season. The first runner-up will receive a $1,250 cash prize and the second runner-up will receive $1,000. All prize money is to be used toward future community engagement initiatives.

The two runner-up recipients and the overall winner will be announced during the Division II Business Session at the 2015 NCAA Convention on Jan. 17 in Washington, D.C.

2015 Division II Award of Excellence Finalists

Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference: Philadelphia University’s “Mason Day” helped make Mason’s (the Team IMPACT’s teammate) wish to see Derek Jeter play for the last time against the Boston Red Sox come true.

California Collegiate Athletic Association: California State University, East Bay’s “Make-A-Wish Night” provided Make-A-Wish child Tara the opportunity to be an honorary member of the Pioneer volleyball team for a night.

Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association: Bowie State University’s “Veterans Day Football Game” showcased Bowie State’s core values of civility, integrity, diversity, accountability and excellence.

Conference Carolinas: Erskine College’s “Flying Fleet Field Day” encompassed a full slate of learning and athletics, in partnership with a local elementary school.

East Coast Conference: St. Thomas Aquinas College’s “Halloween Candy Drop” taught leadership lessons to local youth with a Halloween theme.

Great American Conference: Arkansas Tech University’s “Green, Gold and Growing” is a volunteer initiative centered on service projects, interactions, events, fundraisers and engagement of local youth.

Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference: The Wayne State University (Michigan) “W Week” is dedicated to the celebration of women’s athletics and is full of events to honor more than 1,000 women who have competed in intercollegiate athletics at the university. Shortly after Title IX, former WSU diver Dacia Schileru was the first female in the history of the NCAA to compete in a championship event.

Great Lakes Valley Conference: Bellarmine University’s “Chance of a Lifetime” provided 15-year-old cancer patient Patrick McSweeney an opportunity to start for the Knights basketball team against Louisville (and garner ESPN coverage).

The Great Midwest Athletic Conference:  Trevecca Nazarene University’s “One Shining Memory” saw more than 75 TNU student-athletes assist quadriplegic Lynn Wheeler in completing the 2014 Conquer the Challenge Race.

Great Northwest Athletic Conference: Western Oregon University’s “Athletics Fan Fest” connected fans and student-athletes through student-led activities.

Gulf South Conference: Shorter University’s “Caring is Never a Challenge” took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to new levels by rallying around the ALS diagnosis of former Athletics Director Richard Cowan.

Heartland Conference: The University of Arkansas, Fort Smith’s “Toy Toss Game” encourages fans to bring a soft toy to a basketball game. When Arkansas-Fort Smith scores its first bucket of the night, fans rain toys down upon the court. Toys are donated to local youth for the holidays, and ESPN covered the event.

Independents: Bluefield State College’s “Big Blue Madness Event” has become a highlighted event on campus, not only for the students but the community as well, to promote Alcohol Choices Education for Students.

Lone Star Conference: Texas A&M University-Kingsville’s “Live The Dream” provides an inspiring venue for local elementary school students to begin to realize that attending college is not only a dream they can have, but also a dream that can become a reality.

Mountain East Conference: West Liberty University’s  “Miracle League” partnered the WLU and Wheeling Jesuit University baseball teams with an all-inclusive special-needs baseball team.

Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association: Emporia State University’s “Hootin’ Hornet Hoedown” was the theme of ESU’s Eighth Annual Senior Citizen Prom.  Student-athletes developed the event to give back to the older generations in Emporia, who constitute many of the school’s fans. 

Northeast-10 Conference: The University of New Haven’s “Class at the Court” introduces fourth-grade children from traditionally lower socio-economic backgrounds to the college environment with experiential and interactive learning sessions throughout the year.

Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference: Southwest Minnesota State University’s “Mustang Mail” partners every student-athlete with an elementary student in Marshall, Minnesota. The student-athletes and elementary school students write letters to each other throughout the year before a face-to-face meeting.

Peach Belt Conference: Georgia Regents University Augusta’s “Operation JAG R.A.I.D. (Run. Army. Initiative. Day.)” is part of a three-year initiative involving the university and Fort Gordon to collaborate between the NCAA and military installations. GRU Augusta’s cross country teams hosted the 2014 Peach Belt Conference Championships at Barton Field, located on Fort Gordon.

Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference: Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania’s “The SAAC Fun Meet Series” is a fully engaged Special Olympics swim meet (fall) and track meet (spring) that provide an opportunity for the local Special Olympics chapter to experience  a meet-like atmosphere before its Special Olympics competition.

Pacific West Conference: Point Loma Nazarene University’s “Superfest” is an inclusive event bringing children from economically challenged areas of the San Diego community for a day trip to scenic Point Loma. More than 1,500 local youth attended this year’s event and interacted with the university’s student-athletes.

Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference: Colorado Mesa University’s “Swing for Life Weekend” raised $9,000 for breast cancer research during a weekend when four teams (football, men’s and women’s soccer and volleyball) hosted Swing for Life events at their contests.

South Atlantic Conference: Brevard College’s “Meme Brown Fight Like a Girl Scholarship Fund” supports former Lees-McRae College volleyball student-athlete Meme Brown, whose career was cut short because of ovarian cancer. Led by assistant coach Jordan Raye, one of Brown’s high school teammates, Brevard’s volleyball team raises money for the scholarship fund and helps provide a college opportunity for a student at Brown’s former high school.

Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference: Kentucky State University’s “Fresh Water Drive” supported fellow Division II member University of Charleston (West Virginia) following a chemical spill in its community.  Kentucky State’s SAAC rallied campus organizations, administrative offices, academic offices and local businesses to donate more than 1,300 gallons of unopened bottled water for student-athletes and staff at Charleston.

Sunshine State Conference: The University of Tampa’s “Midnight Madness” celebrated the start of basketball season as the largest non-mandatory event of the school year. Student-athletes partnered with numerous local vendors and more than 120 Tampa students to put on a series of nine variety acts inside a jam-packed gymnasium.