UNC celebrates student-athletes in new format


Football’s Jonathan Cooper spoke to the crowd via pre-recorded video after winning an award. Cooper could not be in attendance because he was recently drafted by the Arizona Cardinals.

North Carolina’s national titles, ACC Championships, regular season titles, post-season appearances, and record-breaking resumes of its teams and coaches filled Jones Angell’s script for more than two hours.

No, Angell did not talk for two hours straight, his conversation was interrupted by the recognition and exhibition of the Tar Heel individual and team accomplishments and by the talents of athletes who do more than just compete.

The inaugural Rammy’s Awards, UNC athletics new take on an end-of-the-year awards dinner and banquet, highlighted North Carolina’s most outstanding teams, players and students.

But the Rammy’s are a new format that incorporated athlete’s other talents with a look back at what they’ve accomplished throughout the year.

“We thought this was a way to make an awards banquet and celebrate success and get a lot more students involved,” athletics director Bubba Cunningham said. “We had a lot of input from staff and the students and we just thought we had an event we thought we could make better.”

“I’ll tell you, the students did a great job coming up with ideas and concepts and I just thought it was a lot of fun.”

The Rammy’s recognized this year’s traditional awards, but this year athletes were also recognized through voting for a variety of superlative awards including Most Outstanding Newcomer, Best Championship Performance and Best Record-Breaking Performance.

Student-athlete presenters handed out Rammy Awards to the women’s soccer NCAA championship team for Most Outstanding Team, to Crystal Dunn for Female Athlete of the Year, and Jonathan Cooper via video for Male Athlete of the year.

“I thought it was phenomenal,” track and field senior Marisa Dobbins said. “Everyone involved did a great job and I thought the department did a great job of putting on a show that was very similar to an ESPYs or Grammys.”

Dobbins contributed to the national awards show feel by performing an acoustic mash-up of songs with baseball’s Benton Moss.

The goal of the performance, they said, was to pick songs their peers would enjoy.

But Moss, who also performed a piano solo, said the format of night was about giving UNC athletes the right kind of attention in memorable ways.

“Not only are the student athletes (paying more attention this way),” he said. “But given what’s gone on with the university, it’s good for all the athletes who are doing the right thing, all of us who really are real student…athletes… to get highlighted.”

“I think that’s great for the athletic department is a winning university in academics, and I think that the university is a winning university in athletes and we just have to highlight the combination when it works.”

Celebrating student-athletes in a non-traditional format is something Cunningham did in his time at Tulsa, but bringing this type of celebration to Tar Heel territory is something driven and encouraged by the student-athlete’s enthusiasm, he said.

For Angell, who traditionally hosts “these types of things,” reading from a performance stage for an awards show was a first.

But he looks forward to hosting and reading from prompter for years to come.

“Traditionally I’m the one who’s lucky enough to do this,” he said. “But what kind of made this cool was all the student athletes. They were awesome, and so cool to help us out and calm under pressure. And that really made it fun.”

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