CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - UNC Athletics celebrated a year's worth of outstanding performances on and off the field at the second-annual Rammy Awards Monday evening. Student-athletes from all 28 Carolina varsity squads joined with coaches, athletics staff, Rams Club members, the UNC Marching Tar Heels band, members of the spirit squads and other supporters to pack Memorial Hall for the two-hour show.
"What a great evening celebrating our student-athletes and their accomplishments over the past year, " UNC Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham said. "There were plenty of light moments - I know everyone had fun walking the blue carpet, and the videos and performances were outstanding - but we're serious about recognizing our student-athletes for the amazing things they do. We're very proud of them and pleased to once again provide an outstanding event to highlight their successes."
Emceed by Jones Angell, the Voice of the Tar Heels, the Rammys paid tribute to superlative performances in athletics, academics and service. Members of the Student-Athlete Advisory Council served as presenters, introducing highlights and announcing awards.
At the top of the show, two UNC alums checked in from the ESPN studios in Bristol, Conn. SportCenter anchor Stuart Scott and ESPN President John Skipper taped a segment to kick off the evening, with Skipper presenting the first Rammy of the night to Scott.
Sprinkled between the awards presentations and videos were several music and dance performances. Student-athletes performing for the crowd were Hillary Fuller from women's basketball (clog dancing), Rosie Wood from field hockey (singing), Benton Moss from baseball (guitar and singing), and a song and dance routine by The Throwbacks, a group made up of Ashley Bone and Sara Buchholz from softball, Jackie Chang from women's golf, Chaniel Nelson from volleyball, Jackson Simmons from men's basketball, and Jarrod James, Allen Champagne and Darius Lipford from football.
For the first time, UNC presented an Ultimate Team Award, to student-athletes who excel in all areas. The winners of one of Carolina's longstanding honors, the Mildred McCaskill Award, were dubbed captains of the team. Winning that honor were Meredith Hoover (women's swimming and diving) and Ryan Creighton (men's lacrosse). Also honored as members of the Ultimate Team were Michelle Ikoma (gymnastics), Kelly McFarlane (women's soccer), James Hurst (football) and Kareem Martin (football).
Another traditional award is the John Lotz Award, recognizes a student-athlete who best exemplifies the spirit of the late John Lotz, who served as UNC's Assistant Athletic Director of Campus and Community Relations and also was an assistant basketball coach for the Tar Heels. Winners have succeeded under adverse circumstances, overcoming difficulties while maintaining a positive attitude. This year's recipients were Alex Gianino (men's swimming and diving) and Kat Nigro (women's soccer).
The ACC Top Six for Service Award is given each year to six student-athletes or teams at each conference school to recognize those who excel in service. Winners were softball's Lori Spingola and Ashley Bone for their project Champions for Change; Kelly McFarlane (women's soccer); Zoe Skinner (women's lacrosse); participants in the Tar Heel Navigators leadership mentoring program; members of the football team; and the entire women's lacrosse team.
For the second year, Rammy Awards were handed out in a variety of categories. Winners were selected by voting from a panel of student-athletes, coaches and staff members. Winners for 2013-14 were:
Male - 4x400-meter relay team, men's track and field; Female - Jovana Bjelica, volleyball
Ryan Switzer, football
Men's basketball for the win at No. 1 Michigan State
Athletes of the Year:
Team of the Year: Women's Lacrosse (2013)
Women's lacrosse, which won its first NCAA title in 2013, was the big winner with four Rammys. The awards cover the entire year since the last Rammys (held last year on April 29) and thus include outstanding performances from the end of the 2013 spring seasons.
In text message voting by the audience, the gymnastics team won the "Minute to Win It" video contest between teams. Other highlights were the "Happy" video, which included dancing by UNC's head coaches and Marcus Paige playing the Pharrell Williams role, and the annual all-sports highlight video. Following Cunningham's presentation of an honorary Rammy to Chancellor Carol Folt, the evening's finale was the debut of this year's music video, to Space Jam.