April 20, 2016

By Melissa Deatsch
Oakland volleyball player

Oakland University Athletics has strived this year to maintain its newly defined Ethos. The Ethos vows that the organization will provide a first-class experience for student-athletes and "promote an environment that fosters success in the classroom, in competition and in the community."

The Black and Gold Awards did just that.

The evening was certainly a first-class experience. With the event hosted at Fox Theatre in Detroit, the Golden Grizzlies dressed their best for the celebration. Nikki Flynn, freestyle swimmer and Hollie L. Lepley award recipient, thought the venue was perfect for the BGAs.

"The venue was fantastic," Flynn said. "It made us feel like more than just student-athletes."

Videos rivaling the quality of nationally televised awards shows such as the Grammys or the Oscars introduced the nominees for each award. Additional scripted videos featuring student-athletes, coaches and administrators with the tagline "THIS IS OAKLAND" played in between some awards. Flynn noted those videos as one of her favorite parts of the event.

People on the outside often times don't know the aspects of student-athlete life outside of athletic performance. The Black and Gold Awards was a great opportunity to make sure the success and hard work of the student-athletes in those areas don't go unnoticed.

With awards like the Community Service Award, Top Academic Team and Individual and the Black and Gold Spirit Award, the event continued to fulfill the organization's Ethos. However, this came at a price as many of the student-athletes made complaints on the length of the event.

"Three hours was a little excessive," men's golfer Jacob Johnson noted. "I'm not sure what (I would've cut) though."

It's hard for the student-athletes to pinpoint what they would've cut to make the event shorter. With 18 teams, over 320 student-athletes and a variety of achievements to acknowledge, the event exceeded three hours with 29 awards given away.

Also making the event longer this year was the addition of the Hall of Honor induction. The current student-athletes were given advice from former student-athletes in an onstage interview with the three individuals in this year's Hall of Honor class. The addition was a unique experience for the student-athletes to see the success that can follow a career at Oakland.

The audience engagement throughout the awards created a family-like atmosphere. Cheers came from various audience members when a teammate or friend was nominated and Courage Award and Most Inspirational recipients Ayrton Kasemets and Max Hooper were met with standing ovations.

Overall, the event was met with a positive response from student-athletes. An athletic department with so many accomplishments to celebrate deserves a top-notch end-of-the-year awards show and that's exactly what the Golden Grizzlies got.

"I thought it was a wonderful event that encapsulated what it means to be a student-athlete really well, with humor and an emphasis on family," Flynn said.

Senior track thrower and Black and Gold Spirit Award recipient Gino Vitella said the event was an emotional experience.

"It was a spectacular event and to be a part of it was an emotional experience," Vitella said. "It was awesome to see the growth from last year, and from my freshman year where we just had the banquet in the O'rena."

To the seniors, it was a final farewell and to the returning athletes it was a celebration of another year gone. But no matter their class, everyone walked out of the Fox Theatre on Monday night a proud Golden Grizzly.


Golden Grizzlies Photo Galleries