The Atlantic Coast Conference named its Male and Female Athlete of the Year winners on Tuesday. Virginia men’s tennis player Jarmere Jenkins won the men’s honor, and North Carolina women’s soccer stud Crystal Dunn took home the women’s award.
Both have impressive track records in athletics and in the classroom. Both are positive role models who are respected within their respective university communities. Both are nationally renowned in the sport they represent.
So what, exactly, is the big deal here?
The answer is simple. Neither of these athletes is the best in the country at what they do. Both are among the best college athletes in the United States, but they cannot stand up when standing side-by-side with professionals.
Brianna Rollins can.
The Clemson sprinter extraordinaire was left out of the blueblood banquet of sorts despite having one of the most impressive athletic seasons in the history of the university, in any sport. Seriously, what she accomplished this season is virtually unparalleled in female athletics.
Rollins is a three-time NCAA champion, which is—amazingly—among the more pedestrian accomplishments of her Clemson tenure. At the national collegiate outdoor track and field meet, she set the NCAA record in the 100 hurdles, which is her specialty, with a time of 12.39 seconds.
But Rollins went one step further. At the 2013 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, she broke the American record in the 100 hurdles with a time of 12.26 seconds. To put this into perspective, the record she broke was set 13 years ago—an eternity and a half by track and field standards—by former Olympian Gail Devers.
But apparently these achievements weren’t enough to convince a group of ACC media she deserved the nod from her own conference. Just imagine being the best at what you do in the United States but not being good enough to be the best athlete in your own conference.
It’s not like Dunn is a chump in her own right. She is getting a shot with the U.S. National Team and is one of the most decorated players in women’s soccer today. She even got an invite to the ESPYs.
But Rollins is already on the American national team as a future participant in the 2013 World Championships in Moscow. Her spot is secure since, lest we forget, she’s the fastest in the nation in the 100 hurdles.
Let’s call this what it is: The Triangle media selected one of their own, while a world class Clemson Tiger got the shaft. It’s nothing new, but it is incredibly frustrating. This is the way the world works in the ACC.
If you don’t believe me, answer this question: If Rollins wore baby blue, would she be accepting this award? And if Dunn were a Clemson alum, would her accomplishments still merit the award over Rollins?
Food for thought.