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Feb. 21, 2013
ST. LOUIS (USBWA) - Oakland University's women's basketball coach Beckie Francis and Boston College sports information director Dick Kelley have been selected as female and male recipients respectively of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association's Most Courageous Award.
The award is presented annually by the USBWA to honor male and female athletes, coaches, officials or administrators in college athletics who have demonstrated extraordinary courage while facing adversity in life.
The women's most courageous award is named in honor of Pat Summitt, the former Tennessee coach who received the award last year after revealing she was suffering from early onset dementia.
For Francis, courage is baring a long-held and painful secret. For Kelley, it's persevering with day-to-day chores while suffering from a debilitating disease.
Last fall, Francis publicly disclosed that her now-deceased father had sexually abused her from the time she was 4 years old until she was in the seventh grade.
Francis had told her story to her players and fellow church parishioners before deciding to go public with her experience, partly, she said, because of the attention the scandal surrounding the accusations against Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant football coach.
"It's not easy to talk about," she said during an interview with the Associated Press. "It's something I tried to hold back and hide because I was afraid of what people would think. But since I have let it go, I am happier than I have ever been. I'm totally free.
"I am humbled to receive this award," said Francis. "I broke down in tears when I was informed the USBWA was recognizing me for coming forward. I told people, 'This organization really gets it.'"
Boston College's Kelley was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig's disease, in 2011. It's an incurable disease that affects movement and speech and eventually causes death.
Although confined to a wheelchair and in declining health, Kelley has a viable and vibrant presence on campus and in BC's athletics department and its basketball program.
"I am overwhelmed and very grateful for this amazing honor," wrote Kelley when told he was named a most courageous recipient. "I have never sought recognition but rather did what I did because I loved my job and everyone I had the privilege of working with."
Francis will be presented with her most courageous award at the women's NCAA Final Four in New Orleans. Kelley will receive his at BC's home game against Virginia on March 3.
In addition, the USBWA will make a donation to the Care House of Oakland Co. (Mich.) on behalf of Francis and to Compassionate Care ALS in West Falmouth, Mass. on behalf of Kelley.
The U.S. Basketball Writers Association was formed in 1956 at the urging of then-NCAA Executive Director Walter Byers. With some 900 members worldwide, it is one of the most influential organizations in college basketball. It has selected a women's All-America team since the 1996-97 season. For more information on the USBWA and its award programs, contact executive director Joe Mitch at 314-795-6821.