Tag Archives: Lacy-Smith Award

Winning Lacy-Smith Award ‘Puts Me In The Company Of My Idols,’ Michael Wilbon Says

Left to right: George Solomon, Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser. (Photo: Steven Dilsizian)

Left to right: George Solomon, Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser. (Photo: Steven Dilsizian)

By Steven Dilsizian
For The Povich Center
May 9, 2018

WASHINGTON — Michael Wilbon, a sportswriter and co-host of ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption,” was filled with emotion after becoming the fourth winner of the Sam Lacy-Wendell Smith Award at a luncheon Sunday at Nationals Park in Washington.

“Overwhelming. It’s overwhelming to me,” Wilbon said of winning the award.

Many of Wilbon’s family members, colleagues, and friends gathered at the stadium to watch the longtime sports columnist graciously accept an award named after the two late African American journalists who were Wilbon’s role models.

“It puts me in the company of my idols,” Wilbon said. “These guys [Lacy and Smith] didn’t want to hear about what couldn’t be done … they helped integrate baseball.”

The Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism at the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism presents the Lacy-Smith Award annually to a journalist who utilizes their platform to focus on improving racial and gender equality in sports. Throughout his career, Wilbon has never shied from shedding light on inequalities in sports and improving the social discourse.

While Wilbon has won numerous other awards, this one, he said, was different.

“I’m proud of other awards I’ve gotten, but when you are put in a certain company, your behavior ought to be scrutinized,” Wilbon said. “Does he live up to the bar that they [Lacy and Smith] set? The accountability that is involved is overwhelming.”

Lacy and Smith were pioneers in the sports journalism field. Lacy was the first African American accepted into the Baseball Writers Association of America, while Smith was writing for a major daily newspaper during a time when African Americans rarely had such opportunities. Both Lacy and Smith were recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors with the Red Smith Award for their distinguished careers in sports journalism.

Lacy and Smith were able to make strides during their time in the field of sports journalism and spent their entire careers campaigning for racial equality in sports, including pushing for years for the integration of Major League Baseball and covering Jackie Robinson’s first year in the major leagues in 1947.

Wilbon, who has worked in sports journalism for almost 40 years, said there are still societal changes that need to be made.

“I think there are some tough times on the horizon because we now have a world in which exclusion is becoming trendy,” Wilbon explained.

Wilbon grew up in Chicago and attended Northwestern University. He had two summer internships at The Washington Post before being hired full-time in 1980. He currently works for ESPN and ABC — he co-hosts “Pardon the Interruption,” covers the NBA and writes columns for The Undefeated.

His longtime colleague at The Post and ESPN, Tony Kornheiser, presented the award to Wilbon.

“If you’re quicker, if you’re sharper, if you’re smarter … you’re going to get the job, that’s how it works,” Kornheiser said. “That leads me to presenting this award to my friend Mike Wilbon of almost 40 years now, who’s quicker and smarter and sharper than the other guy.”

Kevin Blackistone, a sports columnist at The Post and Merrill College professor, has known Wilbon since 1977, when they tattended Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism.

“Mike deserves [the award] because like Smith and Lacy, he’s very much been a pioneer in terms of the way we cover sports and the way we think about sports,” Blackistone said. “He’s not afraid to talk about the importance of race and sports.”

Blackistone also spoke at the luncheon, as did Lynn and David Povich, children of the late Shirley Povich; Lucy A. Dalglish, dean of Merrill College; Jackie Lewis, vice president for university relations for the University of Maryland; and Damion Thomas, curator of sports at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Another one of Wilbon’s Northwestern classmates, USA TODAY sports columnist Christine Brennan, said Wilbon is more than deserving of the award.

“To see this today, this is a culmination of everything that Mike lives and breathes,” Brennan said. “For him, this has never been a job.”

It was difficult for Brennan to distill Wilbon and his accomplishments into one word, but she described her friend and colleague as simply “spectacular.”

Wilbon joins Claire Smith, James Brown and William Rhoden as a winner of the Lacy-Smith Award. Wilbon has a simple message to the future winners: “We have a responsibility to live up to the behavior, the conduct, the passion, the intellect, the ability to discern … we have to live up to the bar [Lacy and Smith] set.”

“Michael Wilbon is cut from the same mold as Sam Lacy and Wendell Smith,” said George Solomon, director of the Povich Center. “They spoke up for what they perceived was right for sports and the country. So does Mike Wilbon.”

Povich Center Presents Lacy-Smith, Distinguished Terrapin Awards

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (Nov. 16) – The Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism honored former New York Times sports columnist Bill Rhoden with this year’s Lacy-Smith Award. Named for two pioneering African-American sports journalists, Sam Lacy and Wendell Smith, Rhoden is the third winner of the prestigious award. Previous winners were James Brown (2015) and Claire Smith (2014).

The award is just one of many presented during this year’s Povich Center Awards Luncheon Wednesday. The event is traditionally held the afternoon prior to the Povich Symposium.

Other award winners include:

  • Susan Fornoff ’79 and Jimmy Roberts ’79 are this year’s “Distinguished Terrapin” award winners.
  • Alan Bubes and Brit Kirwan – Special Recognition
  • Monica McNutt – Rising Star

The Povich Center also recognized four “All-Star Students” including Justin Meyer, Michael Stern, Kofie Yeboah and Callie Caplan.

Maury Povich with Bill Rhoden and George Solomon.

Maury Povich with Bill Rhoden and George Solomon.

Lacy-Smith Award Winner
Bill Rhoden, who retired from The Times this past July, spent a career writing about race, inclusion and justice, just as the late sportswriters Sam Lacy and Wendell Smith, for whom the award is named.

  • After growing up in Chicago, Rhoden attended and graduated from Morgan State University in Baltimore, went to work at the Baltimore Afro-American where he was mentored by Sam Lacy, the newspaper’s sports editor.
  • He later worked four years at Ebony Magazine and three years at The Baltimore Sun before joining The New York Times in 1981 as a copy editor on the Sunday Week in Review section.
  • Rhoden has also written a number of books, including the widely acclaimed “Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall and Redemption of the Black Athlete” and accumulated countless television and film credits.

Watch the video. Introduction by Maury Povich:



Special Recognition

Kevin Blackistone with Brit Kirwan and George Solomon.

Kevin Blackistone with Brit Kirwan and George Solomon.

Brit Kirwan is a nationally recognized authority on critical issues shaping the higher education landscape. Prior to his 13 years as chancellor of the University System of Maryland, Kirwan served as president of Ohio State University for four years and president of the University of Maryland, College Park for 10 years.

  • He was also a member of the University of Maryland faculty for 24 years. Kirwan chairs the National Research Council Board of Higher Education and Workforce and co-chairs the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.
  • He also serves on the Business-Higher Education Forum. He is a member of the boards of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, Greater Baltimore Committee, Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore, Maryland Business Roundtable for Education, and other organizations.
  • Kirwan received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Kentucky and his master’s and doctoral degrees in mathematics from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
Alan Bubes with Maury Povich.

Alan Bubes with Maury Povich.

Alan Bubes is a native Washingtonian. Alan attended High School at Sidwell Friends and received a B.S. from Georgia Tech. He has spent the last 30 years as President and CEO of Linens of the Week, one of the largest Linen Suppliers to the Food Service Industry in the country until the recent sale of his business.

  • Bubes is a lifelong follower of sports in the Washington area, where he has been an avid fan and supporter. Alan is active in many charities with a special interest in sports, education and children in the city.
  • He also is a supporter of the Landon School, St. Andrew’s School, the Lab School where his three children Nathan, Elizabeth and Andrew attended.
  • Alan is married to Nancy Taylor Bubes, a well-known community leader and realtor in the Washington D.C. area. He supports the Shirley Povich Sports Journalism Summer Camp.

Distinguished Terrapins

Susan Fornoff ’79 with Emeritus Professor Maureen Beasley.

Susan Fornoff ’79 with Emeritus Professor Maureen Beasley.

Susan Fornoff ’79 started her illustrious sports journalism career as sports editor of The Diamondback. She then worked at the Baltimore News American and was part of the original sports staff at USA Today until1985. She was hired by the Sacramento Bee to cover the Oakland A’s.

  • In 1986, she became known as “The Rat Lady” after a player sent her a gift-wrapped rat to bring attention to what he considered to be the injustice of women entering the clubhouse; that backfired, ultimately costing him his job and motivating her to join three other women sportswriters in forming the Association for Women in Sports Media in 1987.
  • The baseball writing experience inspired her to write a memoir called “Lady in the Locker Room. After the success of the book she went on to work in media relations for World Cup Soccer, the San Francisco Examiner and then Chronicle  as news copy desk editor, sports copy desk editor, golf writer, real estate section staffer, features copy editor, home-and-garden reporter, general feature writer, and, finally, travel editor.
  • In 2010, she founded GottaGoGolf as a media company for women who play golf for fun. She lives in Littleton, Colo. where she offers writing services, content marketing, thought leadership and custom publishing for PR professionals.

Sue Kopen Katcef with Jimmy Roberts ’79 and George Solomon.

Jimmy Roberts ’79 began his journalism career as a writer for his high school newspaper and later graduated from the University of Maryland. Roberts is a 13-time Emmy Award-winning broadcaster and writer known most recently for his work on NBC and Golf Channel as an essayist, interviewer, feature reporter and studio host.

  • He is a fixture on NBC and Golf Channel’s coverage of the PGA TOUR and other high-profile golf events, including the Ryder Cup. Roberts joined NBC Sports Group in May 2000 after a long career at ABC and ESPN in which he won 11 Sports Emmy Awards.
  • In 2009, Harper Collins published Roberts’ first book, Breaking the Slump, which deals with how some of the best golfers to ever play the game dug themselves out of dry spells.
  • Roberts served as an Olympic correspondent during the 2016 Rio Olympics. Rio was his 16th Olympic assignment. He lives in the New York area with his wife, Sandra, and their three sons.

Past award winners are

Bonnie Bernstein (Campus Insiders Vice President of Content and Brand Development), Scott Van Pelt (ESPN commentator and Reporter), Tim Brant (WJLA-TV Vice President of Sports), Christy Winters-Scott (former Maryland women’s basketball player and Big Ten Network, Washington Mystics and Wizards analyst), Chick Hernandez (Anchor/Reporter/Host Comcast SportsNet/NBC Sports), Tina Cervasio (Sports Broadcaster) and Ike Richman (Vice President of Public Relations at Comcast Spectacor).

George Solomon with Monica McNutt.

George Solomon with Monica McNutt M.J. ’13.

Rising Star

Monica McNutt M.J. ’13 of The American Sports Network is the 2016 “Rising Star” awardee, an award created by the Povich Center to honor a young alum who is progressing and succeeding in the sports journalism field.

  • McNutt is the second recipient of the award. McNutt, a native of the DMV area, started her journalism career while an undergraduate at Georgetown University writing a blog for The Washington Post on life as a student-athlete.
  • After her stellar basketball career at Georgetown ended, she decided to pursue journalism full-time and enrolled in the Master’s program at Philip Merrill College.
  • After graduating in 2013, McNutt was a sports reporter for News Chanel 8 in Washington D.C. covering local sports. She is now a reporter/anchor for the American Sports Network located in West Palm Beach, Florida.


All-Star Students

Merrill students Justin Meyer, Kofi Yeboa, Michael Stern, Callie Caplan.

Merrill students Justin Meyer ’17, Kofi Yeboa ’17, Michael Stern ’17 and Callie Caplan’17.


Callie Caplan ’17 spent her time at Merrill College working her way up the ranks at The Diamondback, Maryland’s independent student-newspaper. During her senior year, Caplan is both a sports editor and a senior staff writer. She was the recipient of the AWSM internship in the Summer of 2016 when she worked at USA Today. She also covers high school sports for The Washington Post.

Justin Meyer ’17 is the Editor in Chief of The Left Bench the co-business director as well as a broadcaster of WUMC Sports. He has written for The Columbus Dispatch and Testudo Times.

Michael Stern ’17 is the Business Director of the Left Bench and the Sports Director of WUMC Sports. He is also a multimedia reporter for the Capital News Service. He has previously worked for USA Today, NBC News and WTOP.

Kofie Yeboa’ 17 is the Director of Personnel at The Left Bench, an assistant editor at ESPN’s The Undefeated. He has previously written for The Huffington Post, USA Today Sports and ESPNU and interned at D.C. United.

Beth Mechum

About the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism:

The Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism is based at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism. The Povich Center is a resource for journalists, academics and the public who want to explore the complex role of sports in society. The Center is led by its director, George Solomon, who was assistant managing editor for sports at the Washington Post from 1975-2003.