Jack Nicklaus receives Wooden Cup Award for excellence on and off the field

An emotional Jack Nicklaus gives his speech after accepting the professional Wooden Cup, and after hearing the amazing stories of and speeches from the five collegiate finalists for the Coach John Wooden Citizenship Cup.

An emotional Jack Nicklaus gives his speech after accepting the professional Wooden Cup, and after hearing the amazing stories of and speeches from the five collegiate finalists for the Coach John Wooden Citizenship Cup.

Jack Nicklaus, the player, the designer, the philanthropist, and the good-will ambassador, was recognized with the Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup Award in the Professional category at a dinner on Tuesday night at the Atlanta History Center. The Wooden Cup awards were established in 2005 to recognize two athletes, one collegiate and one professional, not for athletic superiority—but for achieving the highest standards of character, leadership, and citizenship. NBC Sports Broadcaster Dan Hicks served as the evening’s Master of Ceremonies.

The Golden Bear has supported many charities throughout his competitive career, with the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation front and center since its establishment in 2004. The Foundation was formed to provide access to world-class healthcare for all children and support innovative programs focused on diagnosis, treatment and prevention of childhood illness. The Foundation has funded the establishment of two Miami Children’s Hospital Nicklaus Centers near the Nicklaus home in South Florida, and has grown to extend its reach to support other likeminded programs across the United States.

Collegiate nominations for the Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup Award were solicited from all colleges and universities and from all divisions. Brigetta Barrett, University of Arizona, Track and Field; Nathanael Franks, University of Arkansas, Track and Field; Meghan Lyons, University of North Carolina, Field Hockey; Andrea Mingo, Purdue University, Basketball; and Eric Soza, University of Texas at San Antonio, Football, were the five finalists selected. And while each athlete was recognized for his or her incredible achievements and contributions, Franks came away with the Wooden Cup, as voted by approximately 100 people from around the country.

Jack Nicklaus with fellow Coach John Wooden Citizenship Cup award winner Nathanael Franks, a decathlete from the University of Arkansas. Franks won the award in the collegiate category, while Nicklaus won in the professional category. Photo courtesy Duane Stork.

Jack Nicklaus with fellow Coach John Wooden Citizenship Cup award winner Nathanael Franks, a decathlete from the University of Arkansas. Franks won the award in the collegiate category, while Nicklaus won in the professional category. Photo courtesy Duane Stork.

Franks, a University of Arkansas MBA student, competes as a redshirt sophomore decathlete. While a Congress-Bundestag CBYX exchange student, he was handpicked to play a trumpet solo of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, the European Anthem, at the German Chancellery. The leadership development component of his Alexander Hamilton Friends Association scholarship facilitated a week in Guatemala for Franks to team mentor sixth grade students. He studied Arabic and volunteered at two adventure camps run by the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development. Franks was commissioned by the Governor of Arkansas as a Good Will Ambassador. His interest in people and languages is further shown as a core leader of the 200 member International Culture Team which represents over 50 countries and provides global education for more than 7500 Fayetteville area residents. Once a month he helps children with special needs and their families at a local rEcess – a 99balloons.org respite outreach which is expanding nationwide and overseas.

The Wooden Cup is named for Coach John Wooden, one of the greatest coaches and most admired role models in the history of collegiate sports. The award is put on by Athletes for a Better World, an organization whose mission is to use sports to develop character, teamwork, and citizenship through commitment to an athletic Code of Living that applies to life, and to create a movement that will play a significant role in the transformation of individuals, sports, and society.

In winning the Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup Award in the Professional category, Jack Nicklaus joins past professional recipients Mia Hamm, Soccer; Andrea Jaeger, Tennis; John Lynch, Football; Peyton Manning, Football; Dikembe Mutombo, Basketball; Cal Ripken, Jr., Baseball; John Smoltz, Baseball; and Pat Summitt, Basketball Coach.