Sun Belt Conference honors schools and student athletes

From the Sun Belt Conference

The Sun Belt Conference honored the academic and athletic achievements of its schools and student-athletes on Tuesday night during the conference's annual spring meetings in Sandestin, Florida.

The 2011 Vic Bubas Cup, given to the school gaining the most cumulative points in the league's 19 sponsored sports, was presented to Middle Tennessee. Middle Tennessee also won the Bubas Cup in 2001, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010. The Blue Raiders have won the Bubas Cup more times than any other school since joining the league.

The 2011 Sun Belt Conference Graduation Rate Award was also handed out Tuesday night with Denver winning the annual award for the 10th time in 11 years. DU is currently graduating student-athletes with a 71% success rate.

The Sun Belt Conference also recognized the significant accomplishments of six athletes at its annual Tuesday evening Honors Banquet. The conference announced UALR's Solomon Bozeman and Chastity Reeds as the Sun Belt Student-Athletes of the Year, FIU's Ciprian Mejia and North Texas' Delia Covo as Sporting Behavior Award winners, and WKU's Matt Rice and Louisiana-Monroe's Claire Clark as winners of the Postgraduate Scholarship Awards (biographies of the six athletes are below).

The Sun Belt Conference's annual meetings include the senior staff of the conference office along with each member school's Chief Executive Officer, Faculty Athletic Representative, Athletic Director, Senior Woman Administrator, Head Football Coach, Head Men's Basketball Coach and Head Women's Basketball Coach. The meetings conclude Wednesday morning.


The Post-Graduate Scholarship Award is given in recognition of superior academic achievement. The winners receive a check for $3,500 for use toward their future education.

Ms. Claire Clark

Female Postgraduate Scholarship Recipient



Over the past four years as a student-athlete at ULM, Ms. Claire Clark has consistently delivered straight sets and straight A's.

Clark posted a cumulative 4.0 GPA and recently graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science degree. She was recently described by ULM's Head of the Department of Kinesiology as "the top Kinesiology major of the last ten years."

Her academic achievements include being named to the ULM President's List every semester since she began her time on the Monroe campus, as well as being named to the Sun Belt Conference's Commissioner's List and being honored as an Academic All-American.

As standout tennis player for the Warhawks, Clark put together one of the most impressive careers in Sun Belt Conference history. She was a three time All-Sun Belt Conference singles player and this past season also earned the honor of being named to the All-Sun Belt Conference doubles list with her teammate Monica Winkel.

The ULM Female Scholar Athlete of the Year will turn her attention to the medical field as she begins her pursuit of a master's in Physician Assistant Studies.

Mr. James Rice

Male Postgraduate Scholarship Recipient

Western Kentucky University


Mr. James Matthew Rice was recently described by WKU Director of Athletics Ross Bjork as "the embodiment of what all student-athletes should aspire to be." His statement is certainly no exaggeration as Rice has been in the top of his field in both mechanical engineering and collegiate baseball.

Rice, an All-Sun Belt Conference selection and Academic All-American, passed on the fame and fortune of going pro last season despite being drafted by the New York Yankees. In returning for his senior season, Rice has maintained a batting average over .350 for the season while leading the Sun Belt Conference in runs batted in.

Off the field, Rice was recently named the WKU Male Scholar Athlete of the Year and has an unblemished classroom record of straight A's as a Mechanical Engineering Major and a Math Minor.

Recently a professor in the WKU Department of Engineering described Rice as being in the "top 1% of his peers for academic capabilities."

The Sporting Behavior Award is based on outstanding leadership and achievement in the classroom, on the field of play and in the community.

Ms. Delia Covo

Female Sporting Behavior Award

North Texas


Ms. Delia Covo has certainly made a splash while at North Texas.

As a standout diver for the Mean Green Covo holds the school record in the three-meter dive, is a five-time Sun Belt Conference Diver of the week honoree and an NCAA Zone qualifier.

Away from the pool, Covo has "dived" into helping her community and campus while also putting up high scores in the classroom. Her community service work includes programs like the Salvation Army, the CANstruction Food Drive, WFAA Santa's Helpers Toy Drive and a school supply drive. Additionally, she has put in numerous hours as an academic aide and tutor.

Despite taking time off for volunteering around the Denton community, Covo has maintained a 3.71 cumulative GPA and has been named to the North Texas President's List and Dean's List as well as the Sun Belt Conference Commissioner's List.

Mean Green Head Coach Joe Dykstra recently recalled what his impression of Covo was when he was recruiting her, saying "I could see how great of teammate she was going to be, how hard she was going to work, and most importantly, how much better she was going to make everyone around her, peers and coaches included."

Mr. Ciprian Mejia, Jr.

Male Sporting Behavior Award


Cross Country/Track and Field

Mr. Ciprian Mejia, Jr. was recently described by FIU Head Coach Track and Field Coach Eric Campbell as someone who "has shown exemplary character, unquestioned integrity and unmatched dedication to serve his community."

Mejia is a founder of M Power – which brings FIU student-athletes together with local elementary and middle school boys in an effort to enhance self-esteem and recognize potential. In addition to M Power, Mejia is involved with the Relay for Life Team, the FIU NCAA Certification Gender Equity Committee, the KOOL Kids Foundation, the Academy of Leaders (AOL) and the Big Brother/Big Sister program.

In 2010, Mejia also got his first taste of administrative work in collegiate athletics having worked as an intern in the FIU Athletics Marketing Department.

The distance runner for FIU has certainly gone the extra mile for community service programs in the greater Miami area.

The highest honor given by the Sun Belt Conference is the Student-Athlete of the Year award, which is based on outstanding leadership, achievement and character.

Ms. Chastity Reed

Female Student-Athlete of the Year



One of the most prolific scorers in Sun Belt Conference history, Ms. Chastity Reed helped lead the UALR women's basketball team to four 20-win seasons, four Sun Belt West Division Championships, four consecutive postseason berths, back-to-back NCAA Tournament berths and the first Sun Belt Conference Women's Basketball Tournament Championship in team history.

A proud New Orleans native, Reed fought with grit and determination to overcome obstacles after Hurricane Katrina and make it as a Division I student-athlete. Her hard work translated to success on the basketball court and it strangely looked all too easy for the 6-1 forward as she glided down the court or floated seemingly forever in the air when taking a jump shot.

Reed was the 2010-11 Sun Belt Women's Basketball Player of the Year and an All-American Selection by the Associated Press. She was drafted 25th overall in the 2011 WNBA Draft by the Tulsa Shock.

"Chastity Reed has earned all of her accolades and awards because of the work ethic she brings to the court and classroom everyday," said UALR Senior Woman Administrator Andrea Nunez of Reed.

Mr. Solomon Bozeman

Male Student-Athlete of the Year



The one word that continuously rings out when describing Mr. Solomon Bozeman is leader.

Bozeman brought his leadership trait to the national stage this year in being named the Sun Belt Conference's Men's Basketball Player of the Year and an Associated Press All-American. And in one moment Bozeman catapulted UALR to a place the Trojans hadn't been in 21 years and showed a national TV audience what a leader he is. His dramatic three-pointer with 1.5 seconds remaining lifted UALR to its first ever Sun Belt Tournament title and the school's first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1990.

"Solomon is a proven leader in his sport as well as in the classroom. His classmates and fellow student-athletes have nothing but high praise for him. It is evident that he brings excellent character and integrity to the game of basketball,' said UALR Faculty Athletic Representative Dr. David Briscoe.

Bozeman received his undergraduate degree in May 2010 and is currently pursuing a master's degree which he is on course to receive in May 2012.