Beyond the ACCtion: The Epitome of CLASS

Sept. 27, 2012

Nominees for the Senior CLASS Award in four Division I fall sports were announced earlier this month. The lists of deserving candidates have much in common with their predecessors from previous years.

Accomplished student-athletes are in abundance, and the Atlantic Coast Conference is well represented among the best of the best.

CJ Costabile

Twelve ACC student-athletes – two from volleyball, four from football and three apiece from men’s and women’s soccer – are among those under consideration in their respective sports for the award, which ranks among the most prestigious in all of college sports.

“To be nominated alone for this award is really an honor,” said CJ Costabile, the former Duke men’s lacrosse All-American who earned a Senior CLASS Award last spring. “But to actually win the award is surreal. To be recognized athletically, academically and for character is really a tremendous honor.”

An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School, the Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.

To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence - community, classroom, character and competition.

The nominees for the Football Senior CLASS Award include Clemson safety Rashard Hall, Florida State kicker Dustin Hopkins, Duke quarterback Sean Renfree and Georgia Tech offensive guard Omoregie Uzzi.

Middle blockers Andrea Beck of Wake Forest and Christiana Gray of Duke are among the candidates for the Volleyball Senior CLASS Award.

Among the student-athletes on the Senior CLASS Award Women's Soccer list are North Carolina midfielder Amber Brooks, Duke goalkeeper Tara Campbell and Virginia forward Caroline Miller. Duke goalkeeper James Belshaw, North Carolina goalkeeper Scott Goodwin and Maryland defender Taylor Kemp are among the 30 candidates on the men's list.

Each of the 30 candidate classes will be narrowed to 10 finalists midway through the regular season, and those 10 names will be placed on the official ballot in their respective sports. Ballots will be distributed through a nationwide voting system to media, coaches and fans, who will select one candidate in each sport who best exemplifies excellence in the four “C”s of community, classroom, character and competition.

The Senior CLASS Award winners will then be announced at season’s end in conjunction with the football bowl game season and the NCAA Championships in the other three sports.

Classroom achievements abound when it comes to the ACC Senior CLASS contingent. Several of the nominees own grade point averages at or approaching 4.0. Some, such as Clemson’s Hall, earned their undergraduate degrees in less than four years. Almost all have earned national and conference recognition for their academic achievements, and most of those are repeat honorees.

But ACC athletes are at the forefront when it comes to “community” and “character” as well.

James Ramsey

Duke’s Gray, for example, volunteers at both a retirement center and in a Durham classroom. She has been at the forefront of the “Digs For the Cure” program, which raises money for breast cancer research, as well as “Pennies for Points,” which benefits multiple sclerosis research. Maryland’s Kemp is an active member in his university’s reading program and is a volunteer for Relay For Life, a community fundraising walk for the American Cancer Society.

The ACC Senior CLASS bios are filled with similar stories, all a part of what makes being an award nominee something special.

“As far as amateur athletics is concerned, there is always something more than what you are doing between the lines," said former Florida State baseball All-America outfielder James Ramsey, who declined to sign a professional contract after his junior year, returned to school and wound up a 2012 Senior CLASS Award winner.

"Coming back for my senior year was more than a baseball decision,” Ramsey said. “When you throw in the things off the field, it is a tremendous honor to be recognized as the most outstanding senior on and off the field.”

It’s a feeling additional ACC student-athletes could be sharing in the months ahead.