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Sunday, January 13, 2008
Donovan, Roberts, Blackledge, Glenn among honorees

Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The NCAA ads reminding everyone that college athletes turn pro in something other than sports seemingly are everywhere. Anne Donovan, former coach of the WNBA's Seattle Storm and coach of the 2008 USA women's basketball team, said it's a message all should preach.

"What I love about their messaging is it's not about the Candace Parkers of the world," Donovan said Sunday.

"It's about the swimmer that doesn't get the recognition or the wrestler who doesn't get a full scholarship. It's a considerable message the NCAA presents about what this is about. It's one more opportunity you have as a young person and what you're going to make of it."

Donovan was among the former athletes being honored Sunday at the NCAA convention. Donovan was among seven being honored on the 25th anniversary of finishing their college eligibility, a group including broadcasters Robin Roberts, Bob Woodruff and Todd Blackledge of ABC and Dot Richardson.

Former U.S. Sen. John Glenn was being given the 2008 Theodore Roosevelt Award, the NCAA's highest honor.

The 2008 Award of Valor went posthumously to 1st Lt. Emily Perez, a track athlete at Army killed in Iraq on Sept. 12, 2006, and Marine Major Doug Zembiec, a wrestler at the Naval Academy killed in Iraq in May 2007.

Donovan said the awards help drive home the point that education is what matters even though she essentially stayed in her sport after college.

"It's nice to see 25 years later you fast-forward and you see people that have supreme achievements in all different careers that were given an opportunity through athletics, not necessarily to be the end of all of what they do," she said.

The other Silver Anniversary award winners included Theresa Andrews, a three-time NCAA champion swimmer at Florida who now is a vice president at Bank of America; and Cormac Carney, a wide receiver from UCLA currently a U.S. District judge.

Richardson, a three-time All-America shortstop at UCLA, won two Olympic gold medals. Now she is director and medical director at the USA Triathlon National Training Center and vice chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.

Woodruff still holds Colgate's career record with 184 goals and points in a single season (82). The ABC News anchor, seriously hurt by a roadside bomb in Iraq on Jan. 29. 2006, did not attend because he was on assignment.

Roberts, who played basketball at Southeastern Louisiana, is back at her job as co-anchor of ABC's "Good Morning America" as she recovers from breast cancer. Donovan won the 1983 Naismith Trophy as the national player of the year and led Old Dominion to a national title while also winning two Olympic gold medals.

When Donovan played, turning pro early wasn't a concept anyone entertained. Now players like Parker at Tennessee are asked repeatedly if they will leave college for the WNBA.

"It's only natural to have that conversation. It's a competitive question," Donovan said.

The biggest influences on athletes on the value of education remains family and most attitudes are set before getting to college, according to Donovan.

"It's in all of our interests to keep pushing athletes to see the big picture, and that's sometimes very difficult. But all we can do is continue to put it before them," she said.