Apr 11, 2014
by (Photos) Zach Thomas, ‘00
Athletic Director Jud Damon wins NCAA’s prestigious award for sportsmanship By Tom Iacuzio, ‘06 Photos by Zach Thomas, ‘00
When Jud Damon took over as athletic director of Flagler College in 2009, he began an effort to solidify the college’s sports teams on a foundation of sportsmanship and integrity.
Nearly four years later, those efforts earned him the 2013 NCAA Bob Frederick Sportsmanship Award.
“I was stunned and incredibly grateful,” said Damon about winning the award. “I think there are two types of people in the world: the grateful and the entitled. I try very hard to be the former.”
The Frederick Award is given to one person each year across the entire NCAA and honors a coach, administrator or staff member who possesses a demonstrated history of sportsmanship. The award was named for former University of Kansas Athletic Director Bob Frederick.
The award is the culmination of a very intentional plan to incorporate sportsmanship into the philosophy of the Flagler Athletics Department — a concept that mirrors the man who instills it.
“For me personally, how I operate philosophically is based on how I operate as a person,” said Damon, who served as an athletic director at Georgia College and State University, Savannah College of Art and Design and Trinity International University before coming to Flagler. “It’s an outgrowth of my own convictions as an athlete, coach or athletic director. If you approach it from the standpoint of nothing but wins and losses then the whole thing is pretty shallow.”
Damon and his team of coaches and staff members sat down and over time created what they believed should be the “core covenants” of the Flagler athletics program: accountability, integrity, professionalism, sportsmanship and teamwork.
Under Damon, sports teams are asked to make a conscious and tangible effort to improve and innovate sportsmanship on an almost daily basis. Coaches are even asked to submit a sportsmanship plan every year on how they intend to do that.
For example, the men’s soccer team has been known to invite the opposing team out for pizzas after the game, and the women’s basketball team has begun honoring the opposing team’s players on Flagler Senior Night.
Teams have also been active in the St. Augustine community and surrounding area, volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, Make-A-Wish, Think Pink and The National Marathon to Fight Breast Cancer in Jacksonville.
Under his leadership, student-athletes are also asked to read a sportsmanship pledge before every game.
“It’s important to have a culture of respect among NCAA institutions because that will create game environments and experiences that are enriching for everyone involved — fans, student-athletes, coaches, staff — everyone,” said Damon. “Anyone with enough resources can build a winning team, but we want to do things on a deeper level.”
Assistant Athletics Director Ryan Erlacher witnesses Damon’s commitment to sportsmanship on a daily basis, and that’s what led him to nominate Damon for the NCAA award.
“The way he leads our department and student-athletes is truly inspiring,” said Erlacher. “I have never seen an administrator care for the students as much as he does. He is always trying to find a way to challenge them and help them grow as citizens.”
Since Damon took over in 2009, Flagler has experienced NCAA Regional tournament wins, NCAA Division II Final Four appearances, numerous Peach Belt Conference Sportsmanship Awards, three PBC Institution of the Year Awards, conference championships and many other honors.
Damon says this proves one thing: winning and sportsmanship are not, and should not be, mutually exclusive.
“There’s no reason a coach or athlete cannot play very hard to win in a sportsmanlike manner,” said Damon. “I think what you see on television in the way athletes behave, whether in professional sports or in college, it’s a lot of ‘me me me.’ We’re just not going to have that as part of our program.”
While Damon says he is thrilled to be recognized with his award, the greater joy comes from the fact that other schools are noticing.
“We keep winning all these team sportsmanship awards in the conference, and they are voted on by athletes and coaches around the Peach Belt,” said Damon. “There are 14 total schools in the Peach Belt Conference, so to finish in the top three in any sport is amazing. We’ve finished in the top three in 10 of our 13 sports, including six first place finishes.”
The college that wins the most team awards wins the Peach Belt Conference Institution of the Year award, an honor Flagler has taken each of the last three years.
Team Sportsmanship Awards for 2013-14 are being announced, and Flagler has already been honored as a winner in volleyball. The award is the 17th overall in the five-year history of Flagler in the Peach Belt — a number that is far and away the most of any school in the conference.
“Don’t think we’re doing it for awards,” said Damon. “The honor is great, but if there were no award, we’d still be running our program the same way.”
Damon said it’s important to remember that this concentration on sportsmanship does not deter them from their desire to win.
“We do want to win championships; don’t mistake that,” he said. “I think the more competitive our teams get, the more championships we win, and as we continue to win sportsmanship awards, that will be real validation for our program.”
Making history in the Peach Belt
Flagler College has won the Peach Belt Conference’s Institution of the Year Sportsmanship Award for three consecutive years — the only school to earn the award in consecutive seasons.
The award is given annually to the institution displaying the best overall sportsmanship for the season.
Flagler earned team sportsmanship awards in three sports in 2012-13: softball, women’s golf and women’s basketball. Each team award is voted on by other teams who competed in that sport. The Saints have taken 17 team sportsmanship awards in the last three years — more than any other school in the conference.