ATHENS, Ga. — In his introduction as commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, Greg Sankey identified three pillars he wanted the league to be known for producing – scholars, champions and leaders. During the 2022-23 academic year, the University of Georgia enjoyed great success in each facet.
Most visibly, the Bulldogs’ second straight national championship in football sparked Georgia to finish No. 7 in the annual Learfield Directors’ Cup. UGA is one of nine schools in the nation to post top-25 finishes in the all-sports standings every year in the 2000s. Georgia also swept SEC Championships in men’s and women’s tennis and captured five individual national titles last season.
Equally impressive were the results of Georgia’s scholars and leaders.
Callie Dickinson led a long list of high-level academic achievements by UGA’s student-athletes during the 2022-23 school year. The swimmer from Virginia Beach, Va., was the female recipient of the SEC’s Boyd McWhorter Scholarship, the highest academic honor the conference presents. Dickinson, who also was nominated for NCAA Woman of the Year, became UGA’s league-leading 11th recipient of the honor since its inception in 1986.
Dickson and sprinter Matthew Boling were awarded NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships, adding to a long list of Georgia student-athletes to earn that assistance. Bulldogs have earned 94 postgraduate scholarships from the NCAA, and Georgia has had at least one scholarship recipient in 48 of the last 50 years.
Wesley John of UGA’s cross country and track & field teams also won the NCAA’s Jim McKay Graduate Scholarship, which is awarded to college athletes who demonstrate achievement in sports communications or public relations.
Boling and Emily Blecher of the Georgia equestrian program were two of only 75 UGA students chosen for induction into the Blue Key National Honor Society. Blue Key is a premier honor society that recognizes college students at senior institutions of higher education for balanced and all-around excellence in scholarship, leadership, and service. Founded in 1926, the UGA chapter of Blue Key is the second oldest in the nation.
Braelen Bridges of Georgia’s men’s basketball team was named a finalist for the Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar Award. The Atlanta native became UGA’s eighth finalist in the 14-year history of the award, which is given to students of color who have maintained a cumulative grade-point average of at least 3.5, are at least sophomores academically and have been active on their campuses or in their communities.
From a leadership perspective, Bulldog student-athletes were able to move the forefront of several facets within intercollegiate athletics.
Five representatives from UGA – Dwight Allen, baseball; De’Mauri Flournoy, women’s basketballl; Gracie O’Neal, track & field; Noah Thomasson, men’s basketball; and Jalon Walker, football – took part in the SEC’s Student-Athlete Leadership Council. The two-day event allowed representatives from all 14 league schools to engage on topics such mental health and personal and professional development.
Georgia also had eight student-athletes – Flournoy; Naya Howard; gymnastics; Danielle Lewin, soccer; Lauren Swoopes, soccer; Thomasson; Walker; and Joyelle Washington, soccer – attend the Black Student-Athlete Summit. The four-day event included more than 1,200 student-athletes, professionals and influencers in college athletices hosted on the campus of the University of Southern California.
In addition, Croix Bethune from soccer and Mai Nirundorn from women’s tennis both attended the NIL Summit in Atlanta. The event brought together student-athletes from across the nation to share ideas and collaborate with influencers on concepts regarding the usage of name, image and likeness.
The Atlanta Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America honored golfer Caterina Don, wide receiver Kearis Jackson and soccer standout Cecily Stoute as recipients of the organization’s “Peach of an Athlete” award. That trio was among 10 collegiate student-athletes from the state of Georgia or a college or university in Georgia who have distinguished themselves by their character, scholastic achievement, academic excellence and community service – characteristics taught every day in the Scouting program.