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Inclusion office honors 4 at Men’s and Women’s Final Fours

Najera, Page, Woodard and McGee Brown recognized for inclusion work

The NCAA inclusion group extended its arms to the local communities at the Men’s and Women’s Final Fours, honoring four individuals who have impacted the culture of inclusiveness within society and athletics in San Antonio and Columbus, Ohio.

“Honoring former student-athletes, coaches and key community contributors who are firsts in basketball or who have made a transformational impact on advancing equity and inclusion was the most rewarding way to begin both Men’s and Women’s Final Four weekends,” said Katrice Albert, NCAA executive vice president of inclusion and human resources. “The celebrations allowed us the opportunity to recognize these significant trailblazers and to touch diverse communities in our Final Four cities.”

The NCAA inclusion office honored Eduardo Najera (far left) and Rodney Page (far right) at the Men’s Final Four in San Antonio for their contributions to the game of basketball and for breaking barriers. Also joining the celebration were Katrice Albert, NCAA executive vice president of inclusion and human resources, and Oklahoma Athletics Director Joe Castiglione.

Inclusion opened the Men’s Final Four weekend in San Antonio by celebrating Eduardo Najera, a former student-athlete at Oklahoma, and Rodney Page, a former head coach at Texas. Both were recognized during the celebration at Carver Community Cultural Center for their contributions to the game of basketball and for breaking barriers.

Najera was first-team All-Big 12 Conference during his playing days at Oklahoma and was a part of the Sooners basketball team that made four consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament. Najera also is credited with being the second Mexican-born athlete to play in the NBA and the first Mexican-born athlete to be drafted when he was selected by the Houston Rockets in the second round. He played 12 years in the NBA.

Najera founded the Najera League of Basketball in Mexico, which has brought the sport to more than 30,000 boys and girls. He also has been a major supporter to the Latino community, establishing the Eduardo Najera Foundation for Latino Achievement, which provides college scholarships for outstanding Latino students facing barriers to their education.

Page was the first women’s basketball coach and the first African-American head coach of any sport at Texas. During his tenure in Austin, he created a culture of inclusion in athletics, paving the way for his teams to play in facilities where women had been barred. Page’s efforts generated new levels of support for women’s athletics.

Page also was a teacher and mentor for more than 45 years, shaping the lives of students in college as well as in the public school system at Round Rock High School in Texas. He created two mentoring groups and continues to work with high school students today. To motivate youth, he often shares stories on his struggles and how the influences of accomplished individuals helped him achieve success.

At the Women’s Final Four in Columbus, Ohio, the NCAA inclusion and law, policy and governance offices honored Lynette Woodard (second from right) and Yvette McGee Brown (second from left) for their contributions to athletics and impact on inclusion and diversity. Also in the photo are Zandria Conyers (far left), NCAA director of law, policy and governance, and Katrice Albert (far right), NCAA executive vice president of inclusion and human resources. Photo credit: Purple Star Photography

The inclusion group, along with the NCAA law, policy and governance office, also honored Lynette Woodard and Yvette McGee Brown at the King Arts Complex in Columbus during the Women’s Final Four weekend. Woodard and McGee were recognized for their contributions to the game and their impact on inclusion and diversity.

Woodard, a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and a four-time All-American at  Kansas, is one of the most heralded women to play the game. Along with being a two-time Olympian who won gold in 1984, Woodard won three consecutive Big Eight basketball championships at Kansas, scored a total of 3,649 points in her four years and worked at her alma mater in athletics administration.

Woodard broke barriers for women, becoming the first female student-athlete to be recognized with an NCAA Top V Award in 1982 and the first to play with the Harlem Globetrotters. She was the first female Jayhawk to have her jersey retired and the first female in the Kansas Athletics Hall of Fame. She also was the first athletics director for the Kansas City (Missouri) School District. She earned the Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity Award twice, which recognized her as a role model and trailblazer who promotes gender and equity through actions and examples.

McGee Brown was the first African-American female justice on the Ohio Supreme Court and a founding president of the Center for Child and Family Advocacy, which is dedicated to the treatment and prevention of child abuse and domestic violence. She served on various leadership boards at NCAA member schools and affiliates. 

McGee Brown, an avid fan and supporter of college sports, is a member of the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame and earned the Distinguished Service Award from Ohio State for her community contributions. She has earned the Medal of Merit Alumni Award from Ohio University. McGee Brown is a first-generation college graduate in her family.

The inclusion group will honor distinguished individuals next year for the Men’s Final Four in Minneapolis and for the Women’s Final Four in Tampa, Florida. Inclusion regularly hosts award receptions and celebrations throughout the year, honoring individuals and NCAA schools that promote inclusion and diversity on campus and in the community.