(School Release)- After a touching display of grace and compassion at the 2014 NCAA Tournament in March, the Tennessee men's basketball team was one of four groups to receive the annual SEC Sportsmanship Award, the conference office announced Thursday.
Other teams/individuals honored with SEC Sportsmanship Awards this year were the Missouri football team, the Georgia equestrian team and the SEC's women's golf coaches.
This is the third time overall – and the second time in as many years – that a Tennessee team or individual has garnered an SEC Sportsmanship Award. The UT football team and former basketball standout Chris Lofton were similarly honored in 2013 and 2008, respectively.
This year's recipients were chosen by a vote of the SEC Directors of Athletics. Missouri football and Tennessee basketball team tied for the male award, while UGA equestrian and the women's golf coaches tied for the female honor.
"Sportsmanship, civility and social responsibility are marks of character that last a lifetime," SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said. "We are proud of these teams from Missouri, Tennessee and Georgia and the women's golf coaches of the SEC for setting an example for us all."
In the days leading up to Tennessee's NCAA Tournament game against Iowa in Dayton March 19, it was reported that Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery's 13-year-old son, Patrick, required surgery to remove a tumor from his thyroid. The surgery took place the morning of the game, and McCaffery flew to Iowa City that morning for the surgery before returning to Dayton for the game that night.
Tennessee rallied from a 12-point deficit to win in overtime. Immediately following the final buzzer, Tennessee's coaches and players refrained from extensive celebration so they could each talk to McCaffery, give him a heartfelt hug and express their sympathy. McCaffery acknowledged the support received from the Tennessee basketball team in his post-game press conference.
Missouri received acclaim for the way its football team supported and protected teammate Michael Sam during the 2013 season. Unknown to the outside world, Sam told his teammates in August preseason camp of his sexual orientation. Sam determined that he did not want to disclose that fact publicly until after the 2013 season was over. His teammates respected those wishes while they accepted and supported him throughout the season.
The 2014 SEC Equestrian Championship came down to the final ride between Georgia and South Carolina. Due to a scoring error, Georgia received the SEC championship shirts and began celebrating what was thought to be the program's first SEC title. It was soon determined that there was a scoring miscalculation due to a clerical error, and South Carolina was the correct champion of the SEC. At the awards ceremony, Georgia captains asked if they could present the South Carolina team with the shirts they had initially received.
When Auburn women's golf coach Kim Evans was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the spring of 2013, her coaching counterparts in the SEC went into action to show support, weaving a net of encouragement and care for their ailing colleague. They wore ribbons and rally socks, sported teal watches in support of ovarian cancer victims, put their teams in the colors of teal and pink for cancer awareness, and embroidered special shirts in honor of Evans. Through these efforts, the SEC coaches showed the young women playing in their programs how to support and encourage a friend in need. The three male head coaches in the SEC even shaved their heads to support Evans while her hair was thin during treatment.
Below is a list of SEC Sportsmanship Award recipients:
2014 –Missouri Football Team; Tennessee Men's Basketball Team; Georgia Equestrian Team; SEC Women's Golf Coaches
2013 –Tennessee and South Carolina Football Teams; Maho Kowase, Georgia (Tennis)
2012 – Matt Walters, Arkansas (Tennis); Joanna Mather, Florida (Tennis); Laura Eddy, Georgia (Soccer)
2011 – Louis Day, South Carolina (Track & Field); Ole Miss Softball Team
2010 – Rodney Scott, Ole Miss (Football); Sam Arbaugh, South Carolina (Softball)
2009 – Dorian Ulrey, Arkansas (Track & Field); Alabama Women's Tennis Team
2008 – Chris Lofton, Tennessee (Basketball); Jessica Yadloczky, Florida (Golf)