Athletics Director Robert L. Scalise will receive the National Football Foundation’s John L. Toner Award for excellence in athletic administration and dedication to college athletics on Dec. 4 at the Foundation’s Annual Awards Dinner.
Scalise, who wrote he was surprised by the May 9 announcement of the award, will share this year’s award with Yale Athletic Director Thomas Beckett.
Scalise wrote in an emailed statement that, despite the longstanding rivalry between Harvard and Yale, he feels honored to receive the prestigious award alongside Beckett, an old friend.
“It’s a tremendous honor to receive the John L. Toner Award, and this recognition is a credit to the extraordinary student-athletes, coaches and staff who make Harvard Athletics such a special place,” Scalise wrote. “Yale may be our great rival, but Tom Beckett is a true friend and partner. I am so proud to receive this award alongside him.”
In an email, Foundation President and CEO Steven Hatchell said the Foundation decided to give the award to both directors because both men seek to help student athletes balance academic and athletic commitments in their respective programs.
“The NFF Awards Committee decided to simultaneously honor Bob Scalise and Tom Beckett because while they remain on opposing sides of one of the classic rivalries in all of college football, they stand together in their commitment to the scholar-athlete ideal,” Hatchell wrote.
“We felt honoring Bob and Tom together presented a unique opportunity to highlight how classic foes on the field can be committed to the same values that transcend athletic competition,” he added.
Harvard football head coach Tim Murphy wrote in an email that Scalise has had a positive impact on Harvard’s football team during his tenure as Athletics Director.
“Though we were coming off a perfect season and had already established a championship caliber program when Bob came on board 16 years ago, there is no question that his coaching experience, professionalism, creativity and motivational ability helped us build an even better, more consistent program” Murphy wrote.
Though Harvard’s athletics teams have seen athletic success under Scalise, in recent years he and his department have also faced a number of challenges including allegations of Title IX violations, investigations into team culture, and a series of high-profile incidents involving the men’s cross country and soccer teams.
Last spring Harvard Athletics launched a cultural review of the department in consultation with the National Consortium for Academics and Sports. Following months of interviews and team meetings, Scalise announced a series of new programs within the Athletics Department including revamped sexual assault prevention trainings and new conflict resolution and unconscious bias trainings. The department also instituted a new “protocol for receiving and acting on complaints of gender inequities.”
Some of Scalise’s peers said they are excited to see him receive recognition for both the impact he’s had on Harvard’s football team as well as on the larger Athletics Department. Senior Associate Director of Athletics Nathan T. Fry wrote in an email that he is “thrilled” to see Scalise receive recognition for his leadership.
“His commitment to the pursuit of excellence in Ivy League football, his dedication to the principles of the Ivy League, and his forward-thinking leadership of our department makes him a tremendous selection for this award by the National Football Foundation,” Fry wrote.
—Staff writer Madeleine R. Nakada can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @maddynakada.
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