Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Southern Sports Awards

-published in the Davidsonian, December 6, 2006-

On Wednesday night, the Southern sports culture and all of its fanfare will descend upon Davidson College. The Lincoln Financial Southern Sports Awards are hosting the annual taping of their awards show in the Duke Family Performance Hall. For Davidson College, the event represents an incredible opportunity for regional and national exposure. For the athletes and performers, it represents the opportunity to gather with their peers and celebrate their achievements.
This year will represent only second ever presentation of the Southern Sports Awards and it aims to begin creating a niche in the end-of-year awards schedule. Last year, the show was held in Atlanta, GA on the week after Thanksgiving. While the presentation went off without a hitch, the producers came away realizing that they wanted more of an energetic audience.
“We really aimed to create a collegiate feel in this year’s show,” said co-executive producer Ken Neal. “We hope that students will wear their Davidson gear and be excited throughout the show.”
Neal represents one of the main reasons that this year’s show is being held at Davidson College. A Davidson grad from 1987, Neal owns his own sports production company in Charlotte and pushed the small liberal arts college as a prime venue.
For Davidson, the show will be an incredible opportunity to showcase not only the academic but athletic prowess of one of the nation’s smallest Division I schools.
One video piece will feature some of the famous Davidson men’s basketball coaches of the past including current George Mason coach Jim Larranaga, former UNC coach Matt Doherty, former Maryland coach Lefty Driesell, and even NBA coach Larry Brown. The Southern Coach of the Year award will which will be presented by current Davidson coach Bob McKillop.
There will also be several commercial lead-ins that will feature the Davidson campus and students.
Aiming to capture the full aura of Southern Sports, the show will feature a traditions section to pay homage to the South’s passionate and crazy fans, tailgating, mascots, and stadium traditions.
This year’s show will be co-hosted by political pundit and avid Southern sports fan, James Carville. He will be joined by Southern comedian Jon Reep, who gained national press for his famous line in Dodge truck commercials: “that thing got a hemi?”
Although not all of the presenters and award winners will be revealed before the show, Neal did say that fans could expect a fair share of star power. Along with local NASCAR personalities, Davidson students can expect to see former boxer Evander Holyfield, former SNL star Finesse Mitchell, musical performers Chris Doughtry, Monica, Rodney Atkins, and Bubba Sparxx, and a couple of Carolina Panther players.
“If you come to the show expecting star power and quality musical performances, you will not leave disappointed,” said Neal. “However, I think that students will be most impressed by the visual setup of the show. It should be unlike anything they have ever seen done on campus.”
Despite the looming presence of exams and final projects, the Davidson community has already shown that it is willing to support such a high-profile endeavor. Several weeks ago, students camped out in the freezing night just to get tickets to the live taping. Many people were astonished that tickets went so quickly and opted to attend one of the two run-through sessions on Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon. The Union Board received over 350 faculty and staff requests for an alotted 60 tickets.
“I have been really impressed with the support of the community for this event,” said Neal. “If we had a 2,000 seat venue in the Union, we could have easily sold it out.”
Although the anticipation for the event has greatly increased in the last few days to the construction in the Union and the rumors of attending stars, Davidson students have been encouraged to appreciate their proximity to the event and not harass the presenters and nominees.
“We really have very little in place to keep the student body away from the body of celebrities for this event. We are trusting that Davidson students will act maturely and ensure the success of the event.”
The awards show will be shown in its entirety on various Southern cities over the next two Saturdays. Charlotte, NC will air the show December 9, 2006 at 8 p.m. on WJZY.

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