Southeastern Oklahoma State University has been awarded the 2012 NCAA Division II Game Environment Award of Excellence for the Great American Conference. Only 12 of the 300 NCAA Division II institutions in the United States and Canada were selected for recognition.
“This award demonstrates the commitment that Southeastern has in serving its community, in this case, through the Intercollegiate Athletics Department,'' said Southeastern president Larry Minks. “Beyond success on the playing field, we want to provide a positive and enjoyable atmosphere for our fans at our many athletic events. We also emphasize to our student-athletes the importance of being a good role model and encourage them to be involved in our local schools. I congratulate Keith Baxter and his entire staff on the outstanding recognition.''
Led by Southeastern's Junior Captain Program, Southeastern's positive game environment initiatives were submitted for evaluation to the NCAA DII's 'Ideas That Work' collaborative website.
“The SE Junior Captain Program is another great example of the power athletics has to unify," said Baxter, Director of Intercollegiate Athletics. “Durant's TRUE BLUE initiative is helping celebrate and emphasize the Unity in our CommUNITY. The entire department of SE Athletics – from our student-athletes to our coaches and staff – are all honored to be a part of that greater movement."
The Game Environment Award of Excellence recognizes athletic programs that strive to encourage and engage the campus community, alumni, fans and local community to participate in athletic events, in a positive manner that makes the game enjoyable for the athletes participating and the fans attending.
"We strongly believe in the NCAA Division II positive game environment initiative," Baxter continued. "This recognition from the NCAA is further proof of something else we strongly believe - Southeastern's game environment is the best DII game experience in the region."
The NCAA recognizes a conference Game Environment initiative award winner each year. In 2012, Southeastern was one of twelve winners in all of DIvision II and one of only two winners in the NCAA DII South Central Region with no winner from the Lone Star Conference and Central Missouri winning both the MIAA conference award and the national award for their Get Out The Red street fair.
Southeastern's Junior Captain Program recognizes Durant students for extraordinary achievement. Chosen by Durant public school teachers and administrators, the students are recognized on several occasions during game week.
First, Junior Captains are announced and honored at their respective schools before each home game. Southeastern student-athletes and cheerleaders make appearances at local elementary schools as a part of those presentations. They engage with classes about the meaning of student-athlete, putting their academic pursuits first, doing the right thing at school and in the community - emphasizing that being both a good student and a good citizen affords them the opportunity to compete athletically.
On game day, Junior Captains join team on the field for pregame coin toss and get honored by name at a first quarter. They are challenged to pump up the crowed during their media time out presentation.
Baxter first shared the idea with his senior leadership team when he rejoined the department as the A.D. in the summer of 2008.
“It's been a win-win for everyone involved,” said Luke Willman, Director of External Athletic Operations. "The local youth love the opportunity to meet and interact with student-athletes in the classroom and on game day, local schools and parents appreciate the chance to recognize them in the school and then at a high profile event, student-athletes appreciate the chance to talk to youth about the balance of being an NCAA DII student-athlete, and we've even discovered the Cheerleaders appreciate the opportunity to connect with female youth in the male-dominated sport of football."
“There are a lot of people involved in a project of this magnitude,” concluded Baxter. “Thank you to everyone involved for making the Junior Captain Program a success.”
Special thanks go to Durant Independent School District for their partnership in the program, Durant Intermediate School Principal Tod Harrison, Washington Irving Elementary Principal Katy Pruitt, Robert E. Lee Elementary Principal Jan Chaffin, Northwest Heights Elementary Principal Carrie Gosnell, Southeastern student-athletes and cheerleaders for volunteering their time in local schools, MediaStream and the Durant Democrat for publicizing the promotion with photos, Associate A.D. Cherrie Wilmoth leading school presentations including the scheduling the student-athletes and cheerleaders, Dan Hoke for his game day pictures, Jason Hicks for producing certificates, and Luke Willman for writing releases, coordinating the game day activities and submitting our game environment initiatives to the NCAA for consideration.
As a conference winner, Southeastern Oklahoma State University also receives a $500 award.
"We hope to use the money to expand our game enviroment initiatives in the future," said Willman.