LAS VEGAS (June 27, 2022) – The National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) and the Fiesta Bowl announced The Ohio State University (OSU) as the winner of the 2022 Community Service Award today during the 2022 NACDA & Affiliates Convention. Ohio State received the award for its Buckeyes Care and LiFEsports initiatives.
The Community Service Award will be formally presented to Ohio State on Saturday, Sept. 24 during its Big Ten football matchup against Wisconsin at Ohio Stadium in Columbus.
“We are extremely honored to be the 2021-22 recipient of the NACDA Community Service Award,” said Gene Smith, Senior Vice President and Wolfe Foundation Endowed Athletics Director. “Ohio State student-athletes, coaches staff and our pillar partners truly are making an impact in central Ohio and beyond, and I want to thank NACDA and the Fiesta Bowl for recognizing our commitment and presenting us with this important award.”
Now in its sixth year, the Fiesta Bowl Community Service award was designed to recognize NACDA member institutions in Division I honoring exceptional athletics departments that make volunteerism and community service a way of life. A five-person committee consisting of athletics directors across the country and representatives from the Fiesta Bowl and NACDA aided in selecting Ohio State as this year’s award winner. The OSU athletics department will receive a trophy from the Fiesta Bowl for permanent display on campus.
“Ohio State’s LiFEsports camps and Buckeyes Care programs both support the direct needs of the community and are directly aligned with the Fiesta Bowl’s pillars of serving through youth, sports and education,” said Fiesta Bowl Board Chair Randal Norton. “We know Gene Smith is committed to positive youth development, fostering a caring community and instilling an inclusive culture that enables student-athletes to give back to the community and help those in need.”
“We are thrilled to partner with the Fiesta Bowl and recognize NACDA Past President Gene Smith and his hardworking staff and student-athletes at Ohio State with the Community Service Award this year,” said NACDA Chief Executive Officer Bob Vecchione. “Ohio State is NACDA’s neighbor to the south, and we know firsthand that the Buckeyes are synonymous with leadership, success, and pouring into to their community that supports them on a local and regional scale. The positive impact these programs have had sets a great example for the holistic development of student-athletes across the country.”
The four pillars of the Buckeyes Care program are fitness, wellness, education and public service. Through Buckeyes Care, the department was able to make an impact in all four pillars through its various programs. Programs include The 2nd and 7 Foundation that promotes reading by providing free books and positive role models to kids and the Mid-Ohio Food Collective which is a food bank that covers 20 counties, 10,000 square miles, and serves 170,000 meals each day.
The primary community initiative is the LiFEsports Initiative. From 1968 to 2008, Ohio State Athletics supported the National Youth Sports Program (NYSP) which at its height operated on 200 colleges and university across the nation. When the federal funding was eliminated for NYSP in 2007, the Ohio State athletics department decided to finance the camp, rebrand the program, identify University partners and find support from community organizations across Central Ohio.
Through LiFEsports, Ohio State was one of the few schools to continue the NYSP program. Today, LiFEsports is not just one camp but six camps operating across the city of Columbus. This work is done in partnership between Ohio State Athletics, College of Social Work, Extension, and the Department of Recreational Sports. LiFEsports has addressed the ever-changing needs of the Ohio State community’s youth and the field of sport-based positive youth development. The LiFEsports mission is “to prepare youth for life and leadership through sport.”
The program consists of three pillars. The first pillar, outreach, is the core of LiFEsports which provides quality sport based positive youth development programming. Pillar two is teaching and learning that prepares and trains tomorrow’s sports based positive youth development workforces. The third pillar, which separates Ohio State from other initiatives, is research. This allows OSU to utilize data to improve programming, demonstrate success, and become the national leader on impacting youth through sport.