When Grant Hill graduated from Duke University, he left with lifelong friendships, experiences with faculty members who made an impact on his life, and four years of learning in what he calls “The Classroom of K.”
There, he picked up lessons of leadership, teamwork, passion and sacrifice. And he learned on teams led by the Blue Devils’ legendary men’s basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski.
“All of those experiences really establish a foundation I have taken with me for the rest of my life,” Hill told more than 1,000 college presidents, athletics administrators, current student-athletes and others gathered today for the keynote session of the 2017 NCAA Convention in Nashville, Tennessee. “Sports really are a microcosm of life — those values, those principles you take on with you, in whatever industry and whatever you choose to do in life. It’s a huge responsibility you all have in terms of continuing to nurture that for student-athletes.”
Before he spoke, NCAA President Mark Emmert honored Hill, who went on to a 19-year professional basketball career in the NBA and is now a broadcaster for Turner Sports, as the recipient of the NCAA President’s Gerald R. Ford Award. The award honors an individual who has provided leadership as an advocate for college sports.
Hill and his wife, Tamia, have continued to support Duke students through a $1 million donation to the university that established the Calvin Hill Scholarship Endowment Fund at the Duke Divinity School in honor of Hill’s father. Hill also created the Grant Hill Achiever Scholarships, which provide scholarships in two cities where he played for NBA teams: Orlando, Florida, and Detroit.
In 2010, former President Barack Obama named Hill to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, where he helped develop national initiatives and platforms to motivate Americans to incorporate exercise and healthy eating habits into their lives.
“The Ford Award is given to someone who has spent their whole life working and toiling in various fields, but that life has been shaped by collegiate athletics,” Emmert said while presenting the award. “This year’s Ford Award recipient is an exemplar of what we want our student-athletes to achieve going forward.”
Hill reflected on his life in sports and longtime fascination with the NCAA Men’s Final Four. After his family bought its first Betamax and used it to record the 1982 championship game, in which the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, toppled Georgetown University, Hill watched — and re-watched and re-watched — the title game.
He went on to compete in three Final Fours as a Duke Blue Devil, winning two national championships. Hill’s link to the Division I Men’s Basketball Championship became complete in 2015 when he first joined the broadcast team to call the Final Four in Indianapolis, the city in which he played in his first Final Four.
After the award presentation, Hill joined Emmert for a conversation about college sports and the state of men’s college basketball. Hill acknowledged he is glad he did not enter the NBA during this era, when many college athletes feel pressured to join the NBA draft after one season as college athletes.
“I think it’s hurting the game,” Hill said. “It weeds out older players in the NBA who can provide that mentorship that’s necessary. … I had older guys that could show me the way — how to be a professional on and off the court.”
Also at the keynote session, Bernard Franklin, the NCAA’s chief inclusion officer and executive vice president of education and community engagement, and Peggy Davis, Virginia State University’s athletics director and incoming president of the Minority Opportunities Athletic Association, presented the two organizations’ joint 2017 Award for Diversity and Inclusion to Bowling Green State University’s athletics department.
The award recognized the university’s We Are One Team program, which has brought together more than 25 different offices, departments, activist groups and student organizations and connected them to a common goal of eliminating social injustice and creating an inclusive environment through sports.
Receiving the award for the athletics department were Bowling Green President Mary Ellen Mazey, Athletics Director Bob Moosbrugger, and doctoral student Yannick Kluch, the program’s founder.