GCAC caps 2022-2023 campaign with year-end honors

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NEW ORLEANS –  Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Commissioner Dr. Kiki Baker Barnes recently announced the 2023 End of Year Awards.

Philander Smith College takes home the 2023 Thomas Howell Cup, the conference all-sports award. The Thomas Howell Cup is named for the GCAC’s first commissioner Dr. Thomas Howell, who served the conference for more than three decades. The Howell Cup is awarded annually to the member institution that accumulates the greatest number of points in competition that year in all sports (men’s and women’s) sponsored by the conference and NAIA. Points are derived through regular season standings for volleyball, basketball, and baseball and the conference championship for cross country and outdoor track and field.

The Panthers captured second place in the regular season in men’s basketball, volleyball, women’s cross country, and women’s outdoor track and field, while winning the men’s cross country title, tallying 40 points on the year.

Philander Smith’s Howell Cup run got off to a hot start as they won the men’s cross country championship in Decatur, Ala. A few weeks later, first-year head coach and former two-time GCAC Player of the Year Kayla Black led the Lady Panthers volleyball team to its first conference championship title. The Lady Panthers earned an automatic bid in the NAIA championship tournament. Philander Smith went on to place second in the 2023 Hope Credit Union GCAC Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships, and after a great finish to their season, Lady Panthers Basketball earned the program’s first ever at-large berth to the NAIA championship tournament.

“2022-2023 was an exciting year for our conference,” said GCAC Commissioner Dr. Kiki Baker Barnes. “Our conference was revived in so many ways, and the level of competition showed the GCAC is definitely on the rise.”

Dillard University Bleu Devils narrowly missed a share of this year’s Cup, scoring 39 points during the 2022-2023 campaign. Dillard was not short on making history this year. Under the tutelage of Nile Legania, Lady Bleu Devils Cross Country won their second consecutive conference title and sent five runners to nationals. Men’s and women’s outdoor track and field followed, winning their third and second consecutive conference titles, respectively.

“The Howell Cup is a special honor,” Baker Barnes stated. “It honors the trailblazing leadership of our first commissioner, Dr. Thomas Howell, and undoubtedly creates a spirit of excellence on the court, field, and track. As we grow our membership, fans can expect the Howell Cup race to be even more intense.”

GCAC Distinguished Member Awards were also announced. The awards, given annually, are voted on by respective GCAC council members. Points are based on peer-to-peer rankings of each council member and the administrator with the most points is awarded the honor. All conference honorees are nominated for the NAIA award. The national award recipient is announced publicly during NAIA National Awards Day in September and will be presented with a certificate and recognized at an annual function in conjunction with the NAIA National Convention.

The 2023 GCAC Distinguished Member Awardees are as follows:

Athletic Director of the Year
Keith Barnes, Tougaloo College

Faculty Athletic Representative of the Year
Alvin Carter, Tougaloo College

Sports Information Director of the Year
Andrew Glover, Wiley College

Athletic Trainer of the Year
Nia Stewart, Dillard University

“Great competition begins with great leadership,” said Baker Barnes. “Our administrators work tirelessly to ensure our student-athletes excel in the classroom and their sport and receive the recognition they deserve. I thank each of them for their dedication and service to our conference.”

Rounding out this year’s awards is the Commissioner’s Honor Roll. Student-athletes qualify by being at least a sophomore and having a grade point average of 3.0 or higher in the semester their sport season ends.

Dillard leads the pack with 115 student-athletes on this year’s honor roll. Tougaloo followed with 55 student-athletes and Wiley with 52.

The Commissioner’s Honor Roll list can be viewed here.

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