BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The Texas A&M men's basketball team and support staff and South Carolina women's basketball player Aleighsa Welch are recipients of the eighth-annual Southeastern Conference Sportsmanship Awards, the league office announced Thursday. The two honorees were selected by a vote of the SEC's 14 Directors of Athletics.
"Sportsmanship and generosity are characteristics of student-athletes all across the SEC and these award winners are examples of the many acts of kindness that take place in college athletics," said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. "We are proud of the Aggie basketball program and Aleighsa Welch for representing the SEC in the manner in which they do."
The Texas A&M men's basketball team and support staff earned the men's SEC Sportsmanship Award after the compassion displayed to the Auburn men's basketball team when student-athlete Antoine Mason's father passed away on the day of a game.
Anthony Mason, the father of Auburn's Antoine Mason, passed away on the morning of Feb. 27, 2015. Antoine was in New York with his father at the time of his death while the Auburn team was in College Station, Texas, to play Texas A&M that night. Auburn's equipment staff contacted Matt Watson of Texas A&M's equipment staff for help with adding a ribbon to the team's jerseys in honor of Mason only several hours before tip-off. Watson obtained the jerseys, had a black ribbon affixed to them via an external vendor and returned the jerseys to the locker room before the Auburn team arrived at the arena. Texas A&M then held a moment of silence prior to the game for Auburn and the Mason family.
Welch, a senior women's basketball student-athlete and a three-time team captain at South Carolina, is the recipient of the women's SEC Sportsmanship Award after the compassion and comfort she provided to two injured opposing players during conference games this season.
The first occurrence came at Alabama when a Crimson Tide player crashed into a cameraman near the basket and had to be placed on a stretcher. Welch, who had to be taken to the hospital on a stretcher after a similar collision just six days earlier, ran to the opposing end of the court to give encouragement. In her team's next game against Kentucky, an opposing player suffered a severe ankle injury. Welch left the bench as soon as the medical staff had stabilized the injury to offer the opposing player comfort and support. She also sought out Kentucky head coach Matthew Mitchell to further express her concern after the game.
Below is a list of all-time SEC Sportsmanship Award recipients:
2015 - Texas A&M Men's Basketball Team and Support Staff; Aleighsa Welch, South Carolina (Basketball)
2014 - University of Missouri Football Team; Tennessee Men's Basketball Team; University of Georgia Equestrian Team; SEC Women's Golf Coaches
2013 - University of Tennessee and University of South Carolina Football Teams; Maho Kowase, Georgia (Tennis)
2012 - Matt Walters, Arkansas (Tennis); Joanna Mather, Florida (Tennis); Laura Eddy, Georgia (Soccer)
2011 - Louis Day, South Carolina (Track & Field); Ole Miss Softball Team
2010 - Rodney Scott, Ole Miss (Football); Sam Arbaugh, South Carolina (Softball)
2009 - Dorian Ulrey, Arkansas (Track & Field); Alabama Women's Tennis Team
2008 - Chris Lofton, Tennessee (Basketball); Jessica Yadloczky, Florida (Golf)