Iba Awards prove that good guys finish first
BY JIMMIE TRAMEL World Sports Writer
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
6/19/12 at 4:44 AM
They grow up fast: By this time next year, the Henry P. Iba Citizen Awards will be 20 years old.
Mark Rypien, the inaugural male recipient, hasn't thrown a pass in an NFL game in 11 years. He'll turn 50 in October.
Shannon Miller, the inaugural female recipient, is no longer the pixie you remember from the Olympics. She's a mother and a 35-year-old cancer survivor.
The Iba Awards have grown up, too, undergoing a 19-year maturation from a noble idea to an event responsible for bringing the best of the best - Peyton Manning, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Karl Malone, Rebecca Lobo, Ozzie Smith, Nancy Lopez - to Tulsa.
Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha is the latest to join the parade. He and softball Olympian Jessica Mendoza were honored as 2012 Iba Awards recipients during a Monday night ceremony at the Renaissance Hotel.
Mendoza, an ESPN broadcaster, could not attend because she was assigned to the College World Series. Mendoza's father, Gil, accepted the award on her behalf.
Mendoza, in an email to the Tulsa World, expressed regret that she wasn't able to attend.
Said Mendoza in the email, "When I found out ESPN was asking me to be the lead sideline analyst for the College World Series in Omaha, my first reaction was not 'yes!', it was actually 'is there any way I can still make this event?'
"If the game was not at the same exact time as the dinner, I think we could have made it work, but I believe my father's presence is just as important because of the role he and my mother played in pushing me and always providing me with the perspective to pay it forward. I am honored to be receiving this award and that my father (was) there to accept it."
The Iba Awards were created by the Rotary Club of Tulsa to recognize premier athletes who have excelled in their sport and who have shown by their actions a desire to help others.
The awards are named in memory of former Oklahoma State and U.S. Olympic basketball coach Henry Iba, who was once described by fellow icon John Wooden as "basketball's greatest friend and finest gentleman." Iba died in 1993 and the Iba Awards were launched in 1994.
Rotarian Bob Lengacher explained the intent of the awards to the Tulsa World in a 1994 interview.
"Several of us in Rotary became concerned that so much of the publicity we get from the sports world these days, other than the scores of the games, is about athletes who are great athletes, but the things they do are not all that desirable," Lengacher said.
"They get a lot of attention, the fellows on drugs and the fellows who are involved in some kind of a brawl, etc. It seemed to us that there are a lot of really great athletes who are also excellent citizens. Our young people look to two kinds of role models these days. Basically, one is in the sports world and the other is in music.
"We felt that it would be desirable to help develop some role models that were positive role models that they might look up to and see somebody who is doing the right thing."
Rypien and Miller were the first positive role models to be spotlighted by the Rotary Club of Tulsa. Emcee Curt Gowdy and keynote speaker Mike Krzyzewski helped give the first Iba Awards ceremony instant credibility. Bob Carpenter and new University of Tulsa basketball coach Danny Manning filled the emcee and speaker roles Monday night.
Iba Awards advisory board chairman Eddie Sutton, who played for Iba at OSU, said the Iba Awards keep getting bigger. In the past, he and others connected to the Iba Awards have expressed hope that perhaps the Iba Awards will be the Heisman Trophy of good-guy awards.
Even if that never happens, honoring the memory of a good man and honoring good role models is still a nice bit of business.
"As long as it is bringing awareness to the cause and to how you are trying to help people, I think it's a beautiful thing that can transcend across the country and people will hear about it," Asomugha said. "If it directs people to the work that you are doing and it allows them to get on board, the more the better."
Asomugha and Mendoza each received $15,000 donations from the Rotary Club. Mendoza's check is earmarked for the Women's Sports Foundation and Asomugha's check will go to his foundation, which helps disadvantaged youths in the U.S. and orphans and widows in Africa.
Jimmie Tramel 918-581-8389
Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, pictured Monday night in Tulsa, was honored with an Iba Award. JAMES GIBBARD / Tulsa World
Jessica Mendoza: The softball Olympian was honored with an Iba Award Monday.
Nnamdi Asomugha (left), the Iba Award male recipient, chats with Tulsa men's basketball coach Danny Manning as Ron Butler (center) looks on prior to the Henry P. Iba Citizen Athlete Awards at the Renaissance Hotel on Monday night. JAMES GIBBARD / Tulsa World