National Awards Day - 2019 Winners
22 Honored at NAIA National Awards Day
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) announced 22 honorees with the association’s highest individual honors as part of its annual NAIA National Awards Day on September 16, 2019. Achievements of NAIA student-athletes, administrators and coaches were recognized, as well as the introduction of seven outstanding athletes and coaches who will be inducted into the 2018-19 NAIA Hall of Fame Class.
2018-19 NAIA National Award Winners:
A. O. Duer Scholarship Award: Kehley Bitzas, Culver-Stockton College; Brent Smith, Arizona Christian University
Named in honor of the NAIA’s former executive secretary for his service of 26 years to the association, this scholarship recognizes academics, character, and citizenship by junior student-athletes in any sport. Presented by Daktronics, the A.O. Duer Scholarship has been awarded to one male and one female junior athlete since 1967. Each student receives a $1,000 scholarship.
Kehley Bitzas, from Greenvale, Australia, is the goalkeeper for Culver-Stockton College women’s soccer. While excelling on the field, Bitzas has also maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA. Majoring in psychology, she has hopes of pursuing a career in occupational therapy. Bitzas has received many accolades for her prowess on the pitch, including, NAIA All-American Honorable Mention, United Soccer Coaches All-Midwest First Team, Heart of America Athletic Conference First Team, multiple conference defensive player of the week honors and holds the career record for shutouts at Culver-Stockton with 18 as a junior. Outside of her accolades on the field she is dedicated to serving others. Bitzas has taken part in causes such as Field of Dreams Uganda, the annual Kick it for Cancer game and Toys for Tots. She gives her heart and soul into athletics, service and academics. Bitzas is a Wildcat Ambassador, serving as a campus tour guide for prospective students. She is also a member of the psychology club, international student organization and pre-occupational therapy club. In addition, Bitzas belongs to three different national honor societies.
Brent Smith, from Murrieta, California, is an exemplary student-athlete and a standout baseball player at Arizona Christian University. Smith is a business administration major garnering a 3.95 GPA and is known for his work ethic and consistency on and off the field. He received NAIA All-American Honorable Mention honors and led the team in batting average, runs and stolen bases during the 2019 season. He was also awarded First Team Golden State Athletic Conference outfielder and First Team Academic All-American, while also leading his peers as a team captain. Smith is commended for his ability to balance his academics and athletics while dedicating himself to serving others in the community. He serves as a bible study leader and speaks at various venues across the Phoenix Valley about his faith. Smith exemplifies hard work, positivity and passion on and off the field.
Emil S. Liston Award: Philly Lammers, Concordia (Neb.) University; Jackson Lamb, Briar Cliff University
Presented by Daktronics, the Emil S. Liston award recognizes both academic and athletic excellence by junior student-athletes in men’s and women’s basketball. The scholarship is named in honor of the NAIA’s first executive secretary who was also a prime mover behind the men’s basketball tournament. This award has been presented annually since 1950 to one junior men’s and one junior women’s basketball student-athlete. Each student is awarded a $1,000 scholarship.
Philomena “Philly” Lammers, a women’s basketball student-athlete at Concordia University, has been a standout on the court as well as in the classroom. The Omaha, Nebraska, native has maintained a 3.86 GPA majoring in biology and physics with a minor in chemistry. Her outstanding accomplishments on the court are notable, including NAIA First Team All-American and First Team All-Conference, in each of her first three seasons on campus. Most notably, Lammers was named the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) Player of the Year after leading her team to the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship in 2019. She is on pace to become the Bulldogs’ all-time leading scorer, already having scored over 2,000 points while leading her team to a 105-8 overall record, three GPAC regular-season championships, three GPAC Tournament championships and three semifinal appearances, with one resulting in a national title. Lammers is selfless with her time, takes initiative when she sees an opportunity to contribute and listens to others on their level, which directly impacts their ability to succeed. She is resilient in her convictions, has a strong faith and an admirable work ethic. Lammers truly exemplifies what it means to be a leader and has garnered the respect and admiration of many.
Jackson Lamb, from Greenfield, Iowa, has been an outstanding student-athlete on the Briar Cliff University men’s basketball team. His dedication to his team has led them to two quarterfinal appearances during his time in the Chargers’ program. He has received numerous athletic honors, including NAIA All-American Honorable Mention, First Team All-Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC), as well as contributing as a freshman to a GPAC championship. He encourages his teammates and inspires them to perform to the best of their abilities. Lamb is the ultimate competitor and always pushes himself to be the best he can be and pushes his teammates to be the same. His dedication, work ethic, and consistency has transferred to the classroom where he is a biology, pre-med major earning a 3.9 cumulative GPA. Lamb is the ultimate competitor on the court and is active on campus, in the community, and at his church. He is an all-around outstanding player and person.
Dr. LeRoy Walker Champions of Character Award: Clay Dean, Montana Tech
Named in honor of former NAIA President and President Emeritus of the United States Olympic Committee, Dr. LeRoy Walker, this award recognizes a junior or senior student-athlete who displays the NAIA Champions of Character five core values, demonstrates outstanding academic achievement, campus and community leadership, athletic achievement and has a strong future ambition.
Named in honor of Dr. LeRoy Walker, former NAIA president and president emeritus of the United States Olympic Committee, this award recognizes a junior or senior student-athlete who displays the NAIA Champions of Character® Five Core Values, demonstrates outstanding academic achievement and models excellence in campus and community leadership.
Clay Dean, football student-athlete at Montana Tech, has exemplified what it means to be a servant leader through his work in the classroom, community and everyday life. His passion for service is evident through his involvement with multiple clubs at Montana Tech and as president of the student-athlete advisory committee. Dean believes that servant leadership has not only enabled him to help others but has allowed him to make lifelong friendships. Dean started a mentoring program for elementary students that fosters positivity in the classroom. In addition, he has organized Special Olympics activities and Montana Tech’s first athletics awards banquet. As an all-conference football player, his work ethic is unequalled. Dean is a tremendous example of unselfishness, putting the feelings and well-being of others before his own. He is recognized as a man of character because of his integrity and his service to others.
Dean has maintained a 3.99 GPA while majoring in petroleum engineering with a minor in business administration. He has been a dedicated leader in the student engineering society and has earned the respect not only of his professors but his peers as well. Dean is involved in several professional organizations and was named the “Most Outstanding Petroleum Engineering Student” in 2019. He has been on the chancellor’s academic excellence list, the dean’s list and honor roll every year while a student-athlete at Montana Tech.
NAIA Coach of Character Award: Chuck Lowitzki, Cornerstone University
The NAIA Coach of Character Award is presented annually to an NAIA head coach who is dedicated to teaching character through sport.
Chuck Lowitzki, head baseball coach at Cornerstone University, has been selected as this year’s NAIA Coach of Character. Lowitzki is in his fourth season at Cornerstone and has an overall record of 68-78-1. He implements character coaching strategies through community service projects, international mission trips and numerous team and character-building activities.
Former student-athletes say that Coach Lowitzki’s goal is to build “authentic men.” His day-to-day focus is on how he can better serve his team as he leads with transparency and models what it means to speak the truth. One of his teams’ customs is to give a “CU Baseball thank you.” This activity teaches student-athletes to notice when others are displaying excellence in their respective jobs, then the team will gather around that person and give them a standing ovation. This can happen anywhere people are exhibiting excellence, which is an incredible way to develop character in authentic men.
Lowitzki has impacted the lives of hundreds of young men he has coached and mentored. Lowitzki has coached numerous All-WHAC players, NAIA Gold Glove recipients and has had 12 athletes that have gone on to play professionally. Most recently, his team was named as one of the ABCA Team Academic Excellence Award recipients.
Lowitzki is a proud husband and father of three children.
Athletics Director of the Year: Drew Watson, Southeastern University
Southeastern University’s Drew Watson has been selected as the 2019 NAIA Athletics Director of the Year for his contributions and achievements within his institution’s athletics department and at a national level. This prestigious honor is awarded to an athletics director for their success and development within all facets of athletics administration over the course of the previous academic year.
In seven years as the athletic director at Southeastern University, Watson has significantly grown and enhanced the athletics department through his vision, execution, and ability to nurture both students and coaches. Under Watson’s leadership, the department has grown both in size and achievement, expanding from 134 student-athletes in eight sports to 430 student-athletes competing in 18 sports, and has won 29 conference titles, 22 individual conference championships, and 63 all-Americans. In the last two years, Fire teams competed in 24 national championships and won the NAIA Baseball World Series in 2018 for the first time in school history. In 2018-19 alone, Southeastern won eight conference championships, had 12 nationally ranked teams, saw 19 students named NAIA All-American, finished in the top 20 of the Learfield Director’s Cup for the second year in a row, and for the won The Sun Conference Commissioner’s Cup for the first time since joining the league in 2009.
Off the field, Watson has been instrumental in further enhancing the Southeastern athletics department through further development. Watson was an integral part of instituting a booster club focused on raising capital to support the department, has added eight full-time staff positions, and oversaw the design and building of football and wrestling facilities. Additionally, in 2018 Southeastern student-athletes logged over 7,000 hours of community service, achieved an average GPA of 3.0 (outranking the general student body) and saw nine teams achieve NAIA Scholar Team designation.
Beyond being the architect behind the Southeastern Fire’s competitive success, Watson is significantly involved at the conference and national levels. Within The Sun Conference, he is a past member of the conference’s executive committee and serves as the liaison for men’s soccer and softball. In addition, he currently serves on the NAIA Conduct and Ethics Committee, NAIA Competitive Experience Committee and the NAIA Athletic Directors Association (ADA) Board of Directors. Watson also just completed a lengthy stint serving as the chair of the task force that studied divisions in basketball.
For his leadership, Watson has been named The Sun Conference Athletic Director of the Year three times, in 2013-14, 2015-16, and 2018-19 and honored with the NACDA Under Armour Athletic Director of the Year in 2017. Locally, he was honored by the Polk County All-Sports Awards Committee as the Bernie Little Sports Executive of the Year in 2015.
Charles Morris Administrator of the Year: Ted Breidenthal, Association of Independent Institutions
The 2019 Charles Morris Administrator of the Year award winner is Ted Breidenthal of the Association of Independent Institutions. This honor, which was created in memory of the former NAIA Associate Executive Director Charles Morris, recognizes an NAIA member who has made significant contributions as an administrator of intercollegiate athletics, while also exemplifying the loyalty and enthusiasm that Mr. Morris had for the association.
Since its inception in 2008, Breidenthal has served as the commissioner of the Association of Independent Institutions (A.I.I.), helping create the association and providing oversight of conference operations for the league from the beginning. The uniqueness of the A.I.I. makes for challenging management at times, yet Breidenthal has guided the league’s institutions to becoming some of the most competitive in the NAIA. Breidenthal successfully manages a constantly changing league, and his leadership, advocacy and support for the institutions in the A.I.I. is immeasurable. Breidenthal has been a knowledgeable resource to his member schools, as many in the A.I.I. are new to the NAIA, helping develop their athletic programs and institutional presence.
The A.I.I. had developed into a fully operational conference under Breidenthal’s leadership and provides numerous student-athletes the opportunity to compete for conference championships and participation in the NAIA National Championships. The A.I.I. championships provide student-athletes with an outstanding experience and recognize their accomplishments. Although there is no conference schedule due to geographic challenges, Breidenthal has implemented a top-notch awards program for all sports, including all-conference, academic all-conference and all-tournament awards.
Breidenthal is an active member of the NAIA’s Conference Commissioners Association (CCA), also serving as the unaffiliated groupings administrator. He also represents the A.I.I. on the NAIA’s National Administrative Council (NAC) and serves on the NAIA Championship Competition Committee, where he currently acts as the vice-chair. Breidenthal is also a member of the NAIA’s National Drug Testing and Education Committee.
His contributions as a commissioner and leader have been extremely valuable to the NAIA membership. Breidenthal’s dedication and commitment are only surpassed by his character and valued friendship to many of his colleagues, as he truly reflects all that the Charles Morris Administrator of the Year Award stands for.
Wally Schwartz Faculty Athletics Representative of the Year: Dr. Edward Loeb III, Southwestern College
Dr. Edward Loeb III of Southwestern College is the 2019 Wally Schwartz Faculty Athletics Representative of the Year. This prestigious award, in honor of past vice president of NAIA Legislative Services and NAIA Hall of Famer Wally Schwartz, looks to recognize a faculty athletics representative who exemplifies the loyalty, enthusiasm and honesty that Mr. Schwartz showed on behalf of the NAIA.
Dr. Loeb began his tenure at Southwestern College in 2011 and he has continued to make a lasting impact on campus ever since. In addition to his position as the faculty athletics representative at Southwestern, he serves on numerous NAIA committees, including the Conduct and Ethics Committee, Council of Faculty Athletic Representatives and Eligibility Taskforce. Along with his service to the NAIA, he is an associate professor in the mathematics department. His passion for athletics stems from his own experience playing baseball at Bethany College.
Dr. Loeb oversees all aspects of Southwestern’s eligibility processes and is a valued member of the Governing Council of the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference. Dr. Loeb’s election to the NAIA’s National Coordinating Council and designation as chair by his colleagues is further affirmation of his service to the NAIA. Southwestern College has seen many recent changes to their athletic department and Dr. Loeb has been a reliable constant providing counsel and guidance on matters related to both academics and athletics.
Dr. Loeb is a dedicated advocate for athletics outside of Southwestern as well. He is the academic director of Builder Bound youth summer camp for disadvantaged, inner-city middle school students and was previously the director of the Winfield Youth Soccer Organization. He has been recognized as the “Southwestern College Professor of the Year” and was the 2019 commencement speaker, as voted on by the senior class.
Dr. Loeb loves to see his students succeed in and out of the classroom. His service to the KCAC conference has been exemplary and he has the respect and admiration of his peers. Dr. Loeb shares a common bond of loyalty, enthusiasm, and honesty for working with student-athletes to ensure they enjoy the intercollegiate athletic experience, honoring the legacy of Wally Schwartz.
Sports Information Director of the Year: Tyler Stevenson, Indiana Tech
The NAIA Sports Information Director of the Year is awarded annually to one SID based on accomplishments during the previous year in the areas of athletics communication, sports information, strategic communication and service to the NAIA.
The 2019 recipient of the NAIA Sports Information Director of the Year is Tyler Stevenson of Indiana Tech. For the past four years, Stevenson has led the media and communications efforts for the Warriors. Thanks to his work, the institution garnered more than 100 different article clips and coverage from local media in 2018-19.
Stevenson has worked to promote the success that Indiana Tech saw throughout the 2018-19 season, resulting in ten feature stories run on local media. Due to his work, in eight short months, Stevenson was a key contributor in the addition of over 500 new Twitter followers and nearly 800 new Facebook followers.
Despite being an office of one, Stevenson is active on campus as a member of the NAIA Student-Athlete Awards Committee, Hall of Fame Committee and the Wellness Warriors Committee. Additionally, he has served on five different search committees for head coaches, showing that his voice is an important one in the landscape of Indiana Tech Athletics.
Stevenson is a two-time recipient of the Patrick Moore-Mike Dean Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference SID of the Year award.
Former Indiana Tech SID and current women’s soccer coach Jim Lipocky said of Stevenson, “25 sports, one SID, tremendous coverage – enough said.”
Clarence "Ike" Pearson SID Award: Rich Tortorelli, Oklahoma City University
Given annually to a member of the NAIA Sports Information Directors Association (NAIA-SIDA), the Clarence “Ike” Pearson Award honors outstanding contributions to the profession. The award is named in honor of the former statistical crew chief of the NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship in Kansas City, Mo.
The 2019 recipient of the Clarence “Ike” Pearson Award is Rich Tortorelli, who has been the assistant athletic director for communications at Oklahoma City since 2005. Not only has Tortorelli served as the primary media relations contact for all of the Stars’ athletics programs, but has also been the sports information director for the Sooner Athletic Conference since July of 2018.
Throughout his 15 year career, Tortorelli has become known as one of the top professionals in the business. He served as the media relations coordinator for the NAIA Competitive Cheer & Dance Championships in addition to working in similar capacities for the Sooner Athletic Conference baseball and softball tournaments, the inaugural conference wrestling championships and multiple NAIA Baseball and Softball National Championship Opening Rounds.
Tortorelli has garnered both conference and national attention for his work. He was named the 2016-17 National Wrestling Media Association Small College Sports Information Director of the Year, the 2015-16 Sooner Athletic Conference Sports Information Director of the Year and is a three-time winner of various NAIA-Sports Information Directors Association publication contests.
Athletic Trainer of the Year: Derek Port, Campbellsville University
The NAIA Athletic Trainer of the Year recognizes an athletic trainer at an NAIA institution who has distinguished themselves as a model of the profession in personal conduct and professional service to NAIA student-athletes.
Derek Port, of Campbellsville University, has been named as the 2019 NAIA Athletic Trainer of the Year. As the director of athletic training services at Campbellsville, Port provides oversite to the healthcare delivery for nearly 800 student-athletes on three different campuses. On his main campus alone, he leads the healthcare team that provides patient care to 30 varsity teams in 20 sports.
Port’s impact in athletic training extends beyond his own campus. He has been the Mid-South Conference athletic training representative for several years and was recently awarded the Above and Beyond Award for outstanding service to the Mid-South. He coordinates the patient care for all of the Mid-South championship events. Port assumed the presidency of the NAIA Athletic Trainers’ Association (ATA) in June of 2019. As the president-elect, he was instrumental in leading the ATA through a complete governance restructuring. His professionalism and service has impacted thousands of student-athletes throughout our association.
Larry Lady Officiating Award: Jeff Pon, Men's Basketball Official
The Larry Lady Officiating Award, named in honor of the former NAIA Coordinator of Officials for basketball, football and baseball, recognizes officials of outstanding moral character, quality officiating ability and who are held in high esteem by their colleagues, administrators and athletes.
The 2019 Larry Lady Officiating Award is presented to Jeff Pon of Windermere, Florida. Pon is a men’s basketball official who officiated in the NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship three times, working the title game each year. He has been recognized as the Sun Conference and Sunshine State Conference Official of the Year for his regular-season and postseason work. Pon has also officiated in the NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Championship and works in multiple NCAA Division I conferences throughout the season.
To give back to the game of basketball, Pon volunteers his time to training officials at the University of Central Florida and the Kissimmee Park and Recreation Department. He has also served as a training clinician at various college camps and clinics. Pon demonstrates expertise in the three areas that make a great official; the accuracy of the call, the ability to communicate and proper management of the game.
His supervisors note that he demonstrates exemplary leadership qualities, discipline on and off the court, as well as commitment, talent and a desire to excel. With his humble actions and deeds, Pon truly illustrates what it means to be a Champion of Character.
2018-19 NAIA Hall of Fame Inductees
The Hall of Fame Award is the highest honor presented by the association. Nominees must have outstanding character and leadership ability, and be held in high esteem by their colleagues, former coaches and athletes. The Hall of Fame consists of an athlete and coach category for each sport and a category for general meritorious service.
Mark Campbell, Union University, Women’s Basketball – Coach
Mark Campbell begins his 21st season at the helm of the Union University (Tenn.) women’s basketball program, having compiled a record of 613-94 and a winning percentage of .867 as the head coach of the Bulldogs.
Few programs in the NAIA have seen the levels of success and consistency that Campbell brought to Union in his tenure. Under Campbell’s direction, Union advanced to the NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship in each of his 13 seasons in the NAIA, including earning four National Championship red banners (2005, 2006, 2009, 2010).
The Bulldogs finished as the NAIA Division I National Runner-Up in both 2011 and 2012, while also compiling nine total appearances in the semifinals. They also won 11 TranSouth Conference regular-season titles and nine TranSouth Conference Tournament championships with Campbell at the helm.
Campbell was named the TranSouth Conference Coach of the Year six times and was awarded the Phyllis Holmes NAIA National Coach of the Year four times, including earning NAIA-WBCA National Coach of the Year honors twice (2004, 2008). Under Campbell, the Bulldogs have garnered four NAIA National Players of the Year and three NAIA National Championship Most Valuable Player honors.
Since making the transition to NCAA Division II in 2012-13, Campbell continued his success at Union, winning the Gulf South Conference (GSC) regular-season title five times, including two GSC Tournament championships. His Bulldog teams have qualified for the NCAA Division II National Championship four times, including one trip to the Sweet Sixteen, one appearance in the Elite Eight, while advancing to the national semifinals in 2018. On January 10, 2019, Campbell made college basketball history, becoming the fastest coach at any level, both men and women, to win 600 career games.
Bill Cronin, Georgetown College, Football – Coach
Bill Cronin enters his 23rd season as the head coach of the Georgetown College (Ky.) football program, has built a resume that rivals the best in the NAIA coaching ranks.
Cronin has developed one of the most dominating programs in the recent history of NAIA Football, as the Tigers have assembled an impressive overall record of 199-56 (.780) in his 22 seasons at the helm. His 199 wins at Georgetown rank third all-time in the NAIA coaching ranks. Cronin has led Georgetown College to 15 NAIA Football postseason appearances, including two NAIA National Championship red banners (2000, 2001) and two NAIA National Runner-Up finishes (1999, 2002).
Under the direction of Cronin, the Tigers have won 14 Mid-South Conference championships, including nine consecutive from 1998-2006, for one of the most dominating runs in NAIA football history.
Cronin has been named the Mid-South Conference Coach of the Year eight times, including earning NAIA National Coach of the Year honors in both 2000 and 2001, as well as being named the AFCA Region Coach of the Year two times.
Under Cronin, the Tigers have produced nine Mid-South Conference Players of the Year and four NAIA National Players of the Year. Georgetown College has produced a total of 26 NAIA All-American selections since Cronin’s arrival in 1997, including 29 first-team honorees.
In addition to his tremendous success on the football field, Cronin has been an invaluable member of both the NAIA Football Coaches Association and the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA). He served as the president of the NAIA Football Coaches Association in both 2007 and 2008 and became the first NAIA coach to be named to the AFCA Board of Trustees, a position he has held since 2007. In 2018, Cronin became the first-ever NAIA coach to serve as the president of the American Football Coaches Association. He has been instrumental in advocating the NAIA as a recognized member of the AFCA and has been an active member of numerous AFCA committees and boards throughout his career.
Scott Morrissey, University of Rio Grande, Men’s Soccer – Coach
Scott Morrissey enters his 31st season as the head coach of the Rio Grande University (Ohio) men’s soccer program, having built one of the most dominant programs in the history of the NAIA. In his 30 seasons leading the RedStorm, Morrissey has compiled an impressive record of 480-120-34 (.760). His 480 victories rank third all-time in the NAIA, while his .760 winning percentage is the second-best among active NAIA coaches.
Since 2001, Morrissey has led the University of Rio Grande to 18 consecutive NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship appearances, including two NAIA National Championship red banners (2003, 2015) and two NAIA National Runner-Up finishes (2008, 2016). The RedStorm advanced to the NAIA semifinals on six occasions, while also making 10 appearances in the quarterfinals.
Under the direction of Morrissey, the RedStorm have won 18 conference championships, including 10-straight from 1998-2007, for one of the most dominating runs in NAIA men’s soccer history. The RedStorm have been a fixture in the NAIA rankings under Morrissey, having appeared in 118 consecutive top-25 polls, which is the second-most all-time, and also churned out an unbelievable 112-game regular-season unbeaten streak from October 21, 2000, to September 16, 2006.
Morrissey has been named the River States Conference Coach of the Year 11 times, including earning NAIA National Coach of the Year honors in both 2003 and 2015. He has produced a total of six NAIA National Championship Most Valuable Players (two Championship MVPs, three Defensive MVPs, and one Offensive MVP), in addition to one NAIA National Player of the Year (William Paulino, 2015). The University of Rio Grande has produced a total of 58 NAIA All-American selections since Morrissey’s arrival in 1989, including 29 first-team honorees.
In addition to his tremendous success on the soccer pitch, Morrissey has been an active member of the NAIA Men’s Soccer Coaches Association, serving on the NAIA All-American Selection Committee, functioning as a national rater and also as the Major League Soccer coordinator for the NAIA.
Before joining the coaching ranks, Morrissey was an outstanding soccer student-athlete at Tiffin University from 1985-88, earning conference player of the year honors in 1988, and was also a two-time NAIA All-American (1987, 1988). He is a member of both the Tiffin University Athletic Hall of Fame as a student-athlete and the University of Rio Grande Athletic Hall of Fame as a coach. Morrissey, who also serves as assistant director of athletics and director of compliance at Rio Grande, currently resides in Gallipolis, Ohio, and has two daughters, Allison and Samantha, and one son, Brenen.
Keith Veale, Mount Vernon Nazarene University, Baseball – Coach
Keith Veale begins his 31st season as the skipper of the Mount Vernon Nazarene University (Ohio) baseball program, having amassed an overall record of 1,016-525 (.659), and is one of just seven active NAIA coaches with over 1,000 career wins. In his 30 seasons leading the Cougars, he has posted 30 or more wins 22 times, while topping the 40-win plateau six times. In 1996, Veale set an NAIA record for the best winning percentage in a season, posting a record of 43-3, for an impressive .935 winning percentage.
Veale has led the Cougars to 10 regular-season conference championships between the American Mideast Conference (eight) and the Crossroads League (two), while also taking home conference tournament titles two times each in both the AMC Tournament (2010, 2011) and the Crossroads League Tournament (2012, 2014). He had six-straight appearances in the NAIA National Championship Opening Round from 2010-2015, while earning a berth to the NAIA World Series twice (1997, 2004).
Veale is a nine-time conference Coach of the Year (seven in the American Mideast Conference, twice in the Crossroads League), and won the NAIA Regional Coach of the Year award three times (1996, 1997, 2007). He has also led the Cougars to five NCCAA National Championships during his tenure and was named NCCAA Coach of the Year six times.
Under Veale, Mount Vernon Nazarene University has produced 12 NAIA All-Americans, one NAIA National Player of the Year (Andy Heimbach, 1999), has had eight players selected in the MLB Amateur Draft, while a total of 14 total student-athletes have played professional baseball.
Since coming to Mount Vernon Nazarene after graduation, and in addition to coaching baseball, he has served as the volleyball coach (1983), men’s soccer coach (1988), softball coach (1987-1989), campus intramural director (1979-1988) and athletics director (2014-2017). Veale was inducted into the Cougar Wall of Fame in October 2007, and also continues as an assistant professor of physical education at MVNU. He currently resides in Mount Vernon with his wife, Toni, and have two grown children, Elyia and Kodi.
Nick Dodson, Shorter University, Men’s Track & Field/Cross Country – Athlete
A native of Thomasville, Georgia, Nick Dodson was the first-ever signee in Shorter University track and field history and went on to become one of the most decorated athletes ever to don a Hawks uniform.
At Shorter, Dodson became the first-ever athlete to become a four-time Mid-South Conference champion in the 400-meter hurdles. In his four years, he was a 10-time Mid-South Conference champion in three different events. He remains the record-holder for both Shorter University and the Mid-South Conference in the 400-meter hurdles, running his fastest race at a clip of 50.84. During his career at Shorter, he also holds school records in the indoor 200-meters, indoor and outdoor 4x400-meter relay, 4x100-meter relay and the indoor distance medley relay. In addition to his individual accomplishments, Dodson also led the Hawks to four-straight Mid-South Conference team championships (2008-11).
Nationally, Dodson was the NAIA National Champion in the 400-meter hurdles in 2011, while also finishing as the national runner-up in the event in his other three seasons (2008-10). He was an 11-time NAIA All-American in five different events, while also being named a two-time NAIA Champions of Character Award recipient. Dodson led the Shorter University men’s track and field team to both the 2011 NAIA Indoor and Outdoor National Championships, winning the team titles at both championships in just the fifth year as a program.
While at Shorter, Dodson was involved in numerous other campus initiatives, including serving as a Fellowship of Christian Athletes Huddle Leader, a resident assistant, and intramural program coordinator. In 2011, Dodson was also named the Shorter University Male Athlete of the Year. Upon graduation from Shorter, he also qualified for the 2012 United States Olympic Trials in the 400-meter hurdles.
Following his standout career as a student-athlete, Dodson moved into the coaching ranks, with stops at Florida Institute of Technology, Brewton-Parker College and Loyola University New Orleans, before starting the Southeastern University men’s and women’s track and field program in 2019.
In the inaugural season at Southeastern, a group of mostly freshman won both the men's and women's Sun Conference titles, sending multiple student-athletes to both the Indoor and Outdoor NAIA National Championships. Dodson earned Sun Conference Coach of the Year honors on both the men's and women's side during the program’s first season and was also named the South Region Women's Coach of the Year. Dodson currently resides in Lakeland, Florida, with his wife Latasha.
Ross Wurdeman, Concordia (Neb.) University – Athlete
A native of Columbus, Nebraska, and a two-sport athlete at Concordia University, Ross Wurdeman was a standout on both the football field and the baseball diamond. Named to the NAIA All-Decade team of the 2000s, Wurdeman ended his playing career at Concordia as the Bulldogs’ record-holder in receptions (168), yards (2,458) and touchdowns (24).
Wurdeman twice garnered NAIA First Team All-America honors (2000, 2001) and was also a two-time first-team All-GPAC (2000, 2001) selection. As a senior, Wurdeman snagged 48 passes for 647 yards and seven touchdowns in leading the Bulldogs to a 10-2 record, co-GPAC title and berth in the NAIA playoffs. The 2001 team’s ten wins are the most in Concordia football history. During Wurdeman's four-year career, Concordia posted a combined record of 26-15.
On the baseball diamond, Wurdeman’s 22 career home runs rank as the second-most in program history. In his four years in a Bulldog uniform, Wurdeman batted .254 (103-for-405) and enjoyed his best season as a sophomore when he hit .343 (42-for-119) with nine home runs and 29 RBIs while slugging .655, earning honorable mention all-conference.
Wurdeman currently resides in his hometown of Columbus, Nebraska, with his wife Jill, and four daughters – Libby, Abby, Lauren and Nora. He works at Cornerstone Bank and is a member of the Columbus Leadership Alumni and the Columbus Chamber of Commerce and is licensed with the Nebraska Department of Insurance. An active member of the Immanuel Lutheran Church, Wurdeman has served his church as part of the finance committee and mission team and as a youth group leader and on the trustee committee.
Stan Harrison, Tennessee Wesleyan University – Meritorious Service
Stan Harrison has been a mainstay on the campus of Tennessee Wesleyan University for over 35 years, serving in numerous roles in both coaching and athletic administration. He started his career in 1982 as the head coach of the Bulldogs’ women’s basketball team, compiling over 500 wins and guiding Tennessee Wesleyan to nine conference championships and seven NAIA National Championship appearances in 24 years on the sideline. Harrison also spent time coaching the Bulldogs’ men’s and women’s tennis, baseball and women’s golf teams.
Aside from his coaching duties, Harrison has served in many administrator roles at the institutional, conference and national level. At Tennessee Wesleyan, he has existed as the dean of students, director of athletics, vice president of enrollment services and interim president. Harrison has also served on the Council of Affiliated Conferences and Independents (1998-2000), a member of the NAIA’s Council of Athletic Administrators (2000-08), chairing the CAA from 2006-08, a member of the NAIA’s National Coordinating Committee (2006-08) and served as the first-ever chair of the NAIA’s National Administrative Council in 2008-09 when the governance structure transitioned from the CAA to the NAC. He also served on the transition and implementation committee, chairing the subcommittee on national championships and served on the Champions of Character® Committee, which helped develop the host management manual.
Harrison has received many awards for his success as an athletic administrator, including being named the NAIA Athletics Director of the Year, Region XII Athletics Director of the Year and NACDA Southeast Region AD of the Year in 2003 and earned the Charles Morris Administrator of the Year Award in 2009.
Harrison has been an important member in helping shape and guide the membership in important decisions and changes and his loyalty to Tennessee Wesleyan University and the NAIA have made him one of the most respected coaches and administrators in the NAIA throughout his tenure.
Currently, Harrison resides in Athens, Tennessee, where he serves as the head coach of the Tennessee Wesleyan women’s golf team, a role he has enjoyed since 2006. He and his wife Debbie have two children, Chris and Jennifer, and eight grandchildren.
Conference Commissioners Association Champions of Character® Team Award
The Conference Commissioners Association (CCA) Champions of Character Team Award is given annually to one men’s and one women’s team for their exemplary character on the field, on campus and in the community. This year’s award winners are Midland University men’s basketball and Park University softball.
Midland University Men’s Basketball
The Warriors, led by head coach Oliver Drake, put the association’s core values of Integrity, Respect, Responsibility, Sportsmanship and Servant Leadership into action in a number of ways during the 2018-19 academic year.
After major flooding impacted the Fremont area, the men’s basketball team aided in the cleanup efforts. Additionally, the Warriors organized and executed a campus clean-up event and a free youth basketball camp for the city and surrounding community.
Working in conjunction with Team IMPACT, a national nonprofit that connects children facing serious and chronic illnesses with local college athletics teams, Midland added Colton Humphrey to their roster in January. The 12-year old from Blair, Neb., was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at birth and has endured more than 50 surgeries in his lifetime.
The basketball team attended the Keys to Independence event, where they were guest servers for the LifeHouse nonprofit organization, which serves the homeless and less fortunate in the community. Midland also participated in the Howard Elementary Read Across America program.
Park University Softball
During the 2018-19 academic year, the Park University softball program completed 278 hours of community service in the Kansas City area. The team served the community through service projects with the Platte County Senior Service, KC Pet Project and Millhouse Thunder Softball.
The Park softball team displayed the association’s core values through the completion of yard work and household chores for senior citizens, cleaning kennels and aiding in animal shelter responsibilities, and providing teachable moments and discussions about Champions of Character to youth softball players.
Outside of the team events, many of the Pirate softball players are involved in community organizations, including animal shelters, soup kitchens, after school programs, Special Olympics and many more.
The Hall of Fame inductees will be recognized throughout the year at their respective NAIA National Championships, national coaches’ association meetings or at the 77th NAIA National Convention. More detailed information about each inductee will be released prior to these ceremonies. View the complete list of NAIA Hall of Famers.