Juan Villa / The Collegian
The Fresno State athletics department held its first annual Night of Champions Gala on Monday to honor student-athletes for their accomplishments on and off the field.
The video montage-filled gala at Fresnoâ€™s Saroyan Theatre honored student-athletes in a variety of areas including academics, athletic accomplishments and community service.
Fresno State President John D. Welty began the night with thanks to the athletes.
â€œYou have represented your university extremely well,â€ he said. â€œWe are a university on the rise, a university on its way to becoming a top-10 engaged university in this country.â€
Many of the awards were separately created years ago, but the gala brought them all together.
Juan Villa / The Collegian
Coach Adrian Wiggins and the womenâ€™s basketball team took home the Athletics Director Community Service Award.
The award was given to the team that was extremely active in the community.
Fresno State womenâ€™s volleyball was the runner-up for the award.
The Western Athletic Conference (WAC) also recognized 105 Fresno State student-athletes who had averaged a 3.2 GPA and above for the past two semesters and were eligible to compete.
Eight seniors received the Victory Award, an award for the student-athletes who lettered the past two of three years, completed eligibility and achieved a cumulative 3.5 GPA.
Erica Henry from womenâ€™s basketball and Steve Susdorf received the George Ilg award.
This award was created for two seniors who excelled in the classroom, in the community and in their sport.
The Harold Haak scholarship honored two Fresno State lettering juniors who have been on the Deanâ€™s List for two consecutive semesters and will be eligible to compete next year.
Business administration finance major Moses Harris from football won the award for the men, while kinesiology major and hammer thrower Grace Wiesmann won the award for the women.
The WAC also recognized 94 student-athletes with Academic All-WAC Recognition for athletes who posted a minimum 3.2 GPA and lettered the past year.
Fresno State also gave the Paul Schechter Courage Award for a student-athlete who overcame a physical challenge.
This year, the Fresno State athletics department honored two people, one student and one coach.
Ahijah Lane was recognized for recovering from his devastating knee injury during a preseason scrimmage.
Football Defensive Coordinator Dan Brown was honored for triumphing over brain cancer during the football season.
Coach Pat Hill gave a video congratulations and thanks to Dan Brown for his inspiration.
â€œHeâ€™s winning, just like he always has, heâ€™s a winner and a special person,â€ Hill said. â€œThe 2007 Fresno State Bulldog football team all played with Brown in their hearts.â€
The Student-Athlete Advisory Council named Bulldog Spirit Award Hali Coppin of womenâ€™s golf and Frank Sanders of menâ€™s track and field as this yearâ€™s winners.
The winners were selected by their teammates.
Henry, a winner of the George Ilg award gave a speech to her peers, describing her Fresno State experience.
Henry talked about her decision to come to Fresno State and how the Stacy Johnson-Klein trial affected her.
â€œTierre [Wilson] and I took the role of becoming leaders,â€ Henry said. â€œCoach Wiggins didnâ€™t think we could handle it at first, so we had to sit him down and talk him into giving us a chance.â€
Henry then went on to talk about the frustration of losing the first six games of the 2007 regular season and the elation of fighting back and winning the WAC championship to gain the first-ever NCAA tournament appearance for the program.
The gala also honored the WAC championship teams and the individual WAC champions.
Marcus Riley from the Fresno State football team was also scheduled to speak, but was unable to because he was at the Green Bay Packersâ€™ mini-camp.
Tyrone Bradley from the 1983 NIT Fresno State basketball championship team was the keynote speaker.
He directly addressed the athletes, telling them to get involved in their communities and to not forget about where they came from.
â€œDonâ€™t lose contact, and always come back and say hello,â€ he said. â€œThe university has grown a lot but it still has a long way to go.â€
Bradley emphasized community involvement and told the student-athletes to always remember where they came from.
The Fresno State athletics department said that Athlete of the Year would not be named until summer because some of the sports, such as softball and baseball, are not finished.
Morgan Melloh from softball and Tanner Scheppers from baseball were nominated along with seven other student-athletes.
Finally, the newly-created Bulldog of the Year award was announced.
Katie Nenneker of the equestrian team won for the women and kicker Clint Stitser of the football team won the award for the men.
â€œAs you all know, our scholarships and opportunities are all supported by the community,â€ Stitser said. â€œAnd the least we could do is excel in the classroom and off the field.
â€œIâ€™m really proud to be a Bulldog and Iâ€™m going to represent the rest of my life.â€