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Division II names 2020 Award of Excellence finalists

Winner will be announced at 2020 NCAA Convention

By Ashley Beaton

Nineteen schools and two conferences have been named finalists for the 2020 Division II Award of Excellence, an accolade recognizing initiatives in the past year that exemplify the Division II philosophy, community engagement and student-athlete leadership.

Division II honors its members each year for conducting events that promote student-athletes giving back and serving as leaders within their communities or on their campus. A committee of athletics administrators determined this year’s finalists, and the national Division II Student-Athlete Advisory Committee will select the winner, which will be announced at the Division II business session Jan. 25 at the 2020 NCAA Convention in Anaheim, California.

Each finalist will receive $500. The winner will receive $3,000, the first runner-up will receive $1,500, and the second runner-up will receive $1,250. All prize money is intended for future community engagement events.

The following are the 2020 finalists, alphabetized by conference:

School: UC San Diego 

Conference: California Collegiate Athletic Association

Event: IMPACT. The athletics department hosted its first Increasing Movement and Physical Activity in Class Time Field Trip with over 600 students from third grade to sixth grade.

School: Georgian Court

Conference: Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference

Event: Georgian Court goes “Inside Out.” The athletics department hosted its first Mental Health Awareness Night working with the campus chapter of Active Minds during a home basketball doubleheader, to help break the stigma of mental illness.

School: Virginia State

Conference: Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association

Event: Samaritan’s Feet International. The Virginia State Student-Athlete Advisory Committee fundraised and distributed shoes and socks to 300 elementary school students in Petersburg, Virginia, at the community event.

School: Lees-McRae

Conference: Conference Carolinas

Event: Afterschool Swim. Swimming student-athletes from Lees-McRae taught Banner Elk Elementary school kids swimming skills in an after-school program that is free of cost for the elementary school students.

School: New York Tech

Conference: East Coast Conference

Event: League of YES. A partnership between New York Tech athletics and the League of YES led to the Bears baseball team being named the League of YES Buddy of the Year and the organization’s annual volunteer award being named after the New York Tech student-athlete who introduced the League of YES to the campus.

School: Oklahoma Baptist

Conference: Great American Conference

Event: Bison Buddies. Oklahoma Baptist launched a mentorship program with elementary school children called Bison Buddies. The Oklahoma Baptist athletics department hosted an annual Trunk or Treat for those elementary school kids to enjoy.

School: Wayne State (Michigan)

Conference: Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference

Event: Christmas for Community. The athletics department gave 19 families from a metro Detroit area elementary and middle school a full Christmas, with gifts that they would otherwise not be able to have.

School: Southern Indiana

Conference: Great Lakes Valley Conference

Event: #CureFA. The Southern Indiana baseball team hosted its annual #CureFA exhibition game to raise money and awareness for Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance, which supports those diagnosed with Friedreich’s ataxia.

School: Walsh

Conference: Great Midwest Athletic Conference

Event: Taylor Ceepo Memorial Night. The Walsh women’s soccer team and the Ceepo family were involved in over 140 hours of community engagement and raised $4,449 for the Taylor Ceepo Memorial Fund, to continue to support the causes that Ceepo was passionate about (Akron Children’s Hospital, Make-A-Wish and organ donation). Ceepo was a friend and recent Walsh graduate who collapsed and died during the 2019 Rite-Aid Cleveland Marathon.

School: Montana State Billings

Conference: Great Northwest Athletic Conference

Event: Pack the House Elementary Day. The Montana State Billings women’s basketball team partnered with three local elementary schools for the Yellowjackets’ first elementary school game. More than 500 elementary school students attended the game.

School: Texas A&M International

Conference: Lone Star Conference

Event: Building Homes for Heroes. The athletics department celebrated its seventh annual Military Appreciation BBQ by hosting a Building Homes for Heroes party, which raised $3,474 for the organization.

School: Missouri Western

Conference: Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association

Event: Carson’s Wish. The athletics department was able to grant a wish for Carson Powell, a Make-A-Wish child, to have a room makeover.

School: West Virginia Wesleyan

Conference: Mountain East Conference

Event: ROAR. Over seven weeks, 54 student-athletes completed 156 hours of community engagement in areas of need at five different community partner sites.

School: American International

Conference: Northeast-10 Conference

Event: Rex’s Pantry Garden. Members of the American International Student-Athlete Advisory Committee tended a vegetable garden to help the food desert crisis in Springfield, Massachusetts. The Rex’s Pantry Garden provides fresh produce to Rex’s Pantry, a college initiative that serves hot meals to Springfield residents in need, as well as neighborhood food distribution locations.

School: Minnesota Duluth

Conference: Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference

Event: Military Appreciation Weekend. The Minnesota Duluth football team wore branded helmet decals, purchased by family and friends of military veterans and featuring photos of their loved ones. Families who purchased a decal had the chance to meet the  student-athlete who wore their decal. Minnesota Duluth also partnered with the Black Woods Group to raise money for Operation One Voice.

School: Holy Names

Conference: Pacific West Conference

Event: Hawk Mania. The athletics department hosted a wrestling event with three different tag-team matches and hosted a tailgate before the matches. The event raised  $10,000 for Make-A-Wish.

School: Lander

Conference: Peach Belt Conference

Event: Monster Bash and Halloween Walk. The Lander Student-Athlete Advisory Committee hosted the Monster Bash and Halloween Walk for the entire Greenwood, South Carolina, community to meet student-athletes and enjoy games, candy and giveaways.

School: Mercyhurst

Conference: Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference

Event: Fighting for Folgs. In honor of longtime men’s ice hockey equipment manager Mike Folga, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, the athletics department hosted Fighting for Folgs to raise money for his medical expenses and the American Cancer Society.

Conference: Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference

Event: Youth Sports Clinic. The RMAC and Mountain West Conference hosted a youth sports clinic, which took place during a two-day event that included a joint meeting of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committees of the Division I and II conferences.

Conference: South Atlantic Conference

Event: Sportsmanship Panel. The South Atlantic Conference hosted an officials panel to start the conversation about changing the culture surrounding officiating. This panel was a part of the annual conference Student-Athlete Advisory Committee meeting.

School: Eckerd

Conference: Sunshine State Conference

Event: Christmas for Kids. The men’s and women’s basketball teams and Athletics Director Tom Ryan helped with the annual Christmas for Kids event by choosing and wrapping children’s gifts, serving food to families and interacting with the kids in attendance.