NCAA Awards Onnie Willis Rogers Today's Top VIII Award

Dec. 19, 2003

The NCAA Honors Committee has awarded former UCLA gymnast Onnie Willis Rogers with the NCAA Today's Top VIII Award. The Today's Top VIII Award winners are a group of distinguished student-athletes from the 2003 calendar year who will be recognized for their academic and athletics achievement, character and leadership at the 39th annual NCAA Honors Dinner on January 11 at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee.

Rogers was the 2002-03 Honda Sports Award winner as the nation's top female collegiate gymnast after leading UCLA to the 2003 NCAA, Regional and Pac-10 titles. The 2003 Pac-10 Gymnast of the Year finished her collegiate career with three NCAA team titles (2003, 2001, 2000), three Pac-10 titles (2003, 2002, 2000) and four regional titles, as well as the 2001 NCAA all-around co-championship and the 2002 Pac-10 all-around and bars titles. She earned a UCLA school record 16 All-America honors in her career.

Rogers is a 2003 NCAA postgraduate scholarship winner and the 2003 recipient of the UCLA Gymnastics Jill Andrews award as the student-athlete who best represents integrity in all aspects of her life. She won the Arthur Ashe Sports Scholar award in 2002 and 2003 and was named to the Pacific-10 all-academic first team in addition to being named as a National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches Scholastic All-American three times.

Since 1999, Rogers has been a UCLA gymnastics team mentor, trained to address athletics, academic or personal issues of teammates. She also has participated in the 'I'm Going to College' program by giving tours to inner-city children and escorting them to sporting events. She was a volunteer for the Bruins for Relief effort, which gathered donations at football games to provide scholarship money for children of September 11 victims, and she served as a camp counselor at the UCLA Unicamp for underprivileged youth.

Rogers is the ninth Bruin to receive this award and the second in as many years (softball star Stacey Nuveman won in 2002-03). She is only the first UCLA gymnast ever to earn Top VIII honors.

In addition to Rogers, the other Today's Top VIII recipients are Alice (Duesing) Nightingale, Lake Superior State University, basketball; Andrew Hilliard, University of St. Thomas (Minnesota), football and track and field; Craig Krenzel, Ohio State University, football; Theresa Kulikowski, University of Utah, gymnastics; Kara Lawson, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, basketball; Eli Manning, University of Mississippi, football; and Kristin Sterner, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, gymnastics.

Two of the honorees were the 2003 NCAA Woman of the Year finalists from Tennessee and Alabama, and five of the Top VIII were recipients of NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships. In addition to their athletics accomplishments, the NCAA Today's Top VIII recipients have earned numerous academic honors, volunteered countless hours to community projects and served as role models for their academic institutions and to their peers.

This year's selections include: the 2003 Division II Scholar-Athlete of the Year, the 2003 Academic all-American of the Year for men's track and field, a three-time Big Ten Conference all-academic team selection, the 1999 and 2000 national collegiate women's gymnastics all-around champion, the 2003 College Sports Television Network player of the year, the 2003 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award winner as the top senior quarterback, the Southeastern Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Year, and a member of the gymnastics national championship team in 2001 and 2003.

The NCAA Today's Top VIII honorees are selected by the NCAA Honors Committee, comprised of eight athletics administrators at member institutions and nationally distinguished citizens who are former student-athletes. The members of the NCAA Honors Committee are: Harry Carson, president, Harry Carson, Inc.; Cedric W. Dempsey, president emeritus, National Collegiate Athletics Association; Clyde Doughty Jr., athletics director, New York Institute of Technology; Jo Ann Harper, athletics director, Dartmouth College; Susan Hartmann, professor of history, Ohio State University; Karen L. Johnson, director of institutional research, Alfred University; John Naber, president, Naber and Associates, Inc.; and Valerie Richardson, assistant commissioner, West Coast Conference.

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