Item: The 2017-18 college athletic year concluded Saturday, with the 2018-19 season starting Sunday (July 1). Over the final week of the sports calendar year, members of the Atlantic Coast (Conference) Sports Media Association (ACSMA), and select other media who vote on awards during the course of the various sports seasons, are asked to vote on the ACC’s Anthony J. McKevlin and Mary Garber athlete of the year awards, given annually (since 1953-54 and 1990 respectively) to the most outstanding male and female athletes in the league. As an active ACSMA member, this is our fifth year voting for the award winners.
When the expansion era (2004-2014) of the storied ACC was finished (for now, at least) with the addition of Big East ex-Pats Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Louisville, joining earlier additions Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College, it brought the geographic culture of a different region into a conference set in lofty Tobacco Road-rooted tradition in basketball, and surging success in football with the state member schools copying the practices of the SEC’s best.
At the first ACC Football Kickoff event we attended in 2013, at the grand Grandover Resort just a couple of golf holes away from the conference’s headquarters in Greensboro, we remember being surprised at hearing that 70% of ACSMA membership was comprised from just two states – North Carolina and Virginia, invariably offering a particular perspective on coverage, that with the addition of new media covering the new league members would bring a “northern balance” to that perspective.
With that being said, the fact that we voted for Syracuse’s standout runner Justyn Knight as the McKevlin Award winner had no bearing on covering SU athletics. Each year we scour the bios provided by ACSMA or the ACC office, and add our own particular research to make the best decision among the annual 30 worthy candidates.
Plain and simple. Knight won two NCAA championships in 2017-18, the cross country title and indoor 5000M. That is McKevlin Award worthy.
Among the other nominees, sure, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson had a better season than when he won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore, N.C. State’s Bradley Chubb was the best defensive player in the NFL draft selected as the No. 5 overall pick, and Duke’s all-time lacrosse scoring great Justin Guterding led the Blue Devils to within a victory of the NCAA crown, but he did not win a title.
Knight won two.
As for our choice for the Garber award, it was a tad more difficult this year. Florida State softball star Jessie Warren led the Seminoles to the program’s first NCAA championship, and Boston College’s Sam Apuzzo, was the Tewaaraton Award winner for the NCAA championship game-losing Eagles.
But Notre Dame’s star forward Arike Ogunbowale had a fairy tale season. Not only did she hit the game winning shot with one second left in the semifinal win over heavy favorite No. 1 Connecticut, she then repeated the buzzer-beating feat off an inbounds play to nail the winning points against Mississippi State two nights later to give the Irish their second women’s hoop crown.
The award winners are to be announced the week of July 2.