Yesterday, I was honored to receive the Mel Greenberg Media Award at the 2016 Women’s Final Four in Indianapolis, with all of my immediate family in attendance. Sherri Coale, the head coach of the University of Oklahoma, for whom I have a great deal of respect and admiration, surprised me by joining in the presentation of the award after Mel Greenberg introduced me.
Today, I have great empathy for anyone who has received an award and had a short period of time to make acceptance remarks. There wasn’t any music cuing me to get off stage, but I was the first award recipient of six during a 30-minute period and knew I needed to be brief and I didn’t get to say everything I wanted. So, I’ll say it here…
First, I want to thank the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and Mel Greenberg for this incredible honor. The first WBCA Convention I attended was in 1991, the event where Mel Greenberg received the inaugural award that would eventually bear his name. At that convention, I remember looking around and feeling like I didn’t belong. I shared that sentiment with my head coach, Angela Beck – I was a graduate assistant at the University of Nebraska at the time. She reminded me that it is not about where you’re from, but where you are going.
Thank you so much for this special recognition to join the legendary list of former recipients & to be voted upon by them. I am truly honored and humbled.
I actually share common roots with Sherri Coale who is being inducted in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame this year as we both played college basketball at the NAIA level.
Sometimes, it’s incredible to me that I have had the opportunities that I have in my career, because when it comes down to it, I’m just Brenda VanLengen from Roseland, Nebraska, who played college basketball at Kearney State College, an NAIA School at the time.
However, I’ve always been an advocate for opportunities for girls and women, basketball is my passion and I’ve always loved crafting stories and education and explaining. I feel very blessed that this has become my life’s work to describe the stories and strategies of women’s basketball.
I realize I would not be here had it not been for so many people along the way laying the foundation for me:
- Ann Meyers, Robin Roberts, Mimi Griffin and others, including Carol Stiff, who were the pioneers who elevated women’s basketball on television
Or had it not been for the people believing in me and giving me the opportunities I have had:
- Jim Carmichael and Steve Alvis at Nebraska Educational Television
- Mike Anastassiou and Kurt Deichert at Fox Sports Southwest and Dru Hancock at the Big 12 Conference
- Tina Thornton and Chris Farrow at ESPN and NCAA Productions
- Many over the years at CSTV, Big Ten Network, Pac-12 Network, other regional and local networks
- And most recently Pat Lowry at the SEC Network
There are so many people that have dedicated their lives to lifting up women’s basketball and we have so many different platforms now through which to promote women’s basketball. I know there are leaders that are passionate about WBB — at TV networks, Internet sites, traditional media venues. We all need to work together. Many of those people are being squeezed by corporate decisions and we must, as a group, continue to work together to raise the profile of women’s basketball — to tell the amazing stories of the athletes, the coaches, the programs.
I like to explain my work as describing the stories and strategies of women’s basketball. There will never be a shortage of those. I’m especially appreciative of the strong leaders in conference offices like Dru Hancock, Leslie Claybrook, Chris Dawson and others who demand their TV partners give air time to women’s basketball in addition to their football packages.
I have an amazing family and I’m so grateful they traveled to Indy to join me today. I want to thank:
- KaCee and Elliott — who endure me being gone 4-5 nights per week during this 5-month stretch of the college women’s basketball season — and the support and encouragement they provide to follow my passion
- My Mom & Dad — who watch every one of my games and have been so supportive of my dreams, throughout my life
- And to Neil, Audrey & Angie who are raising my niece and nephews to love and appreciate sports — men’s and women’s — and who send me great pictures and messages related to their athletic endeavors.
- I love that my nephew Dax snap-chatted me when my call of a play on SEC Network was showcased on Sports Center one night
- My sister recently posted a picture of my nephew Jack watching me on television one afternoon
I’ll wrap-up with this..
A couple of years ago, a seemingly well-intentioned friend asked me, “Does it bother you that you’ve dedicated your life to something that not many people care about?” After I picked him up off the floor after I decked him 🙂 I said, “No, it doesn’t bother me, because I care … and there are a lot of people that care about the athletes, coaches and programs involved in women’s basketball.
I’m proud to be one of the members of the media who is passionate about continuing to elevate the profile of women’s basketball and draw more people to it.
I appreciate very much being recognized for the passion I have.