ROSEMONT, Ill., March 11, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- The Big Ten, the nation's oldest collegiate conference, commemorates the 100th anniversary of a very unique tradition – the Big Ten Medal of Honor. The conference's most exclusive award was the first of its kind in intercollegiate athletics to recognize academic and athletic excellence. As part of the celebration, the conference is launching a national campaign to pay tribute to the rich tradition established in 1915 and showcase the benefits of the student-athlete experience across its campuses.
Awarded to one male and female student-athlete from the graduating class of each member institution, the Big Ten Medal of Honor recognizes the educational emphasis placed on athletics. The Big Ten Medal of Honor places equal importance on academics and athletics and pre-dates many of the biggest national awards that focus entirely on athletics, including the Heisman Trophy and Naismith Award.
Over the past century, more than 1,300 student-athletes from Big Ten universities have earned this distinction. These individuals have translated their campus experience as student-athletes into success in all walks of life including medicine, science, politics, business and sports.
"The Big Ten Medal of Honor fulfills our promise and commitment to broad-based programs that provide students-athletes the opportunity to earn a degree from a top-tier university and compete at the highest levels athletically," said Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany. "In the coming months, we look forward to celebrating these individuals who embody the student-athlete experience and demonstrate excellence in both academics and athletics while preparing for success later in life."
Since 1896, the Big Ten has provided opportunities for students to earn a first-rate education. Ten member institutions rank in the top 31 of all public universities, and the Big Ten leads all conferences with more than 1,500 Academic All-Americans. Big Ten Medal of Honor winners embody this scholastic tradition and represent continued success following their education.
As part of the Big Ten Medal of Honor's historic anniversary, the conference is launching a 100-day campaign to help announce this year's honorees and celebrate the prominent winners of the past 99 years. The integrated effort, which begins this week and extends through June 18, includes profiling notable winners and stories each day on social channels and the conference website. Big Ten on-campus celebrations will feature past award recipients, recognition ceremonies and promotion of the award campus-wide.
The Best of the Best
Out of the more than 8,200 student-athletes at the 12 Big Ten institutions, only 24 are recognized each year with the Big Ten Medal of Honor.
Most honorees have seen tremendous success in careers outside of sports. Below is a small sampling of prominent Big Ten Medal of Honor Winners who have made significant contributions in fields as varied as medicine, science and business since graduating from a Big Ten university:
- Keith D. Nosbusch (Wisconsin, 1973, football), currently Chairman and CEO of Rockwell Automation
- Tim Gutshall (Iowa, 1979, football), a family physician that is currently Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of Wellmark
- Tim Hacker (Wisconsin, 1986, track/cross country), a senior scientist in Wisconsin's School of Medicine and director of the school's Cardiovascular Physiology Core Laboratory
- Mike Hopkins (Illinois, 1992, football), a flight engineer for the International Space Station, he's currently orbiting in space and will land back on earth later this month
- Uta (Herrmann) Wolfe (Minnesota, 1992, swimming), currently an assistant professor at St. Thomas University where her study of senses and visuo-motor control recently led to her discovery of a new multi-sensory illusion
- Jennifer Hsia (Indiana, 2001, tennis), an assistant professor and otolaryngologist at Minnesota, cares for patients with obstructive sleep apnea and sleep-disorder breathing
Other honorees feature some of today's most legendary sports figures including:
- John Wooden (Purdue, 1932, basketball), a three-time All-American as a player, led UCLA to a record 10 NCAA basketball titles as a coach and member of the Basketball Hall of Fame
- Jerry Lucas (Ohio State, 1963, basketball), a two-time National Player of the Year, seven-time NBA All-Star and member of the Basketball Hall of Fame
- Tony Dungy (Minnesota, 1977, football), ended his career as school's all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns and became the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl
- Joe Girardi (Northwestern, 1986, baseball), current New York Yankees manager who led them to the 2009 World Series title and three World Series wins as a player in the 1990s
- Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern, 1997, football), a two-time consensus All-American, will begin his ninth season as head coach at his alma mater and has guided Northwestern to five bowl games
- Drew Brees (Purdue, 2001, football), led school to Big Ten title and Rose Bowl Game as senior and the New Orleans Saints to a Super Bowl victory in 2010
To learn more about the Big Ten Medal of Honor, visit bigten.org. You can also follow the 100th anniversary celebration each day on Facebook.com/bigtenconference and on Twitter at @bigtenconf.
About the Big Ten Conference: The Big Ten Conference is an association of world-class universities whose member institutions share a common mission of research, graduate, professional and undergraduate teaching and public service. Founded in 1896, the Big Ten has sustained a comprehensive set of shared practices and policies that enforce the priority of academics in student-athletes' lives and emphasize the values of integrity, fairness and competitiveness. The broad-based athletic programs of the 12 Big Ten institutions provide in excess of $141 million in direct financial aid to more than 8,200 student-athletes playing on more than 300 teams in 43 different sports. The Big Ten sponsors 26 official conference sports, 13 for men and 13 for women, and will add men's and women's lacrosse as the 27th and 28th official sports for the 2014-15 academic year.
SOURCE The Big Ten Conference