New York, NY—On Thursday night at the University Club in mid-town Manhattan, Fairfield University held its annual Tip-Off Reception. The proximity of the university to New York City and the large number of students, student-athletes, faculty, staff and administration from New York made the site of the event extremely appropriate and convenient.
The special highlight of the salute to the forthcoming college basketball season was the presentation of the inaugural Stags Lifetime Achievement Award: Leader of the Herd to two renowned and respected college basketball writers, Jim (OC) O’Connell and Dick “Hoops’ Weiss for long and meritorious service to college basketball.
Both writers have been writing intelligently on college basketball since the 1970’s; both are former presidents of the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) and have been inducted into its Hall of Fame; both have also been enshrined in the sportswriters’ wing of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as recipients of the Curt Gowdy Award.
O’Connell is a native of Brooklyn who graduated from St. John’s University in Queens in 1976, and in that same year obtained the position as Sports Information Director (SID) at Fordham University in the Bronx. Since 1978, he has worked for the Associated Press, whose headquarters are in Manhattan, and has been its national basketball writer since 1987.
It was at Fordham that OC’s life changed. He met his future at Fordham. , Anne Gregory, the greatest female basketball player in the college’s history. The attachment to the university remains strong for the couple as both of their sons, James, now a special education teacher in the public school system of New York City, and Andrew, graduated from Fordham. Andrew is currently Assistant SID at Fordham.
Weiss graduated from Temple University in 1969 and remained in Philadelphia for more than 20 years as a college basketball and football writer at the Philadelphia Daily News. He worked for more than two decades as a celebrated columnist at the New York Daily News. He is presently working in collaboration on two forthcoming basketball volumes.
Interestingly, each was introduces by a Fordham grad, “Hoops” by Adam Berkowitz, a former colleague on the Daily News and “OC” by Knicks telecaster Mike Breen. Of all the words of praise uttered the one most meaningful by Breen included, “I never met a man or a writer with more integrity than Jim O’Connell.”
Another New York native, the Fairfield Athletic Director, Gene Doris, who was born in Brooklyn, raised in Queens and educated in the Bronx at Fordham University, glowingly gave tribute to the honorees, “They have served their profession in exemplary fashion with style and grace that is a model for aspiring sports writers and for student-athletes as they prepare for their post-college careers.” That neither award winner is directly connected to Fairfield University demonstrates the honesty of the selection process and the worthiness of the recipients.
Both honorees responded with characteristic modesty and gave much praise to those who have aided them throughout the years including the members of their immediate families that were present.
After the ceremony ended and dinner was eaten, a trio of WFAN broadcasters, Bob Huessler, Mark Malusis and Rich Ackerman held a Fan Forum.
The program closed with a season preview by Fairfield’s men’s basketball coach Sydney Johnson and women’s basketball coach Joe Fager. Both were optimistic as both teams finished the 2012-13 season with a winning mark that qualified them for post-season play.
An announcement was made earlier in the evening that earns Fairfield’s athletic program more credit than its teams’ winning records. Fairfield University’s student-athletes achieved a 97% GSR (Graduation Success Rate), the 12th highest in the nation. When the wins and losses are distant memories, the student life will be changed for the better by his/her degree from Fairfield.