NCAA - Robin Roberts, the successful broadcaster and former women's college basketball player who helped bring the Women's Final Four to a national television audience, was honored Friday by NCAA President Mark Emmert as the recipient of the Gerald R. Ford Award.
Roberts joined the awards presentation live via videoconference from the set of "Good Morning America," where just hours earlier she had wrapped up filming the daily morning news show.
Emmert presented the award at the 2018 NCAA Convention in Indianapolis, where more than 1,000 people gathered for the awards presentation at the Association Luncheon.
"It's so competitive right now in the world," Roberts said. "I'm so glad the NCAA provides that (a quality education) to some students who otherwise would not be on a college campus, and to support those men and women throughout their entire playing career into the world. And I'm so grateful that I had the opportunity, and want to share that with others, too — to realize what a privilege it is to be a student-athlete."
At the event, Roberts shared her belief that college sports is an avenue for shaping young people and provides them an education. She also reaffirmed her excitement for college sports and her reputation as a fan, flashing an "L" hand gesture and offering a "Lion up!" cheer in reverence for her alma mater, the Southeastern Louisiana Lions.
The Ford Award winner is selected annually by the NCAA president and is named in recognition of Gerald Ford, the 38th U.S. president and a member of two national championship football teams at Michigan. The award was established in 2004 by then-NCAA President Myles Brand to honor individuals who have demonstrated significant leadership as advocates for intercollegiate athletics throughout their careers.
Roberts joined the awards presentation live via video conference from the set of "Good Morning America," where just hours earlier she had wrapped up filming the daily morning news show.
During a career that has spanned 30 years, Roberts also has worked as a sportscaster for ESPN's "SportsCenter" and "NFL PrimeTime." She began contributing to "Good Morning America" in 1995 and became co-anchor of the show in 2005.
She explained how a vital lesson learned as a power forward and center on the Southeastern Louisiana women's basketball team has proved useful elsewhere in life.
"Proximity is power," Roberts said. "Every coach I've ever had has stressed to me that it's position, position, position. You can hope and pray all you want — and I'm a very spiritual person — but if you don't put yourself in position to make the basket, you don't put yourself in position for good things to happen to you. It kind of clicked with me that I was always doing that in sports. I was always worrying about my positioning. I had to do the same thing off the court."
In a prepared video about her career and accomplishments that aired at the luncheon, Roberts noted that even her battles with breast cancer and, later, the bone marrow disorder myelodysplastic syndrome had their roots in what she learned through competing on the basketball court.
Roberts underwent a bone marrow transplant and has since partnered with Be the Match to raise awareness about the need for more bone marrow donors. She has been recognized by organizations such as the Susan G. Komen Foundation for her work to raise awareness during her battle with cancer, and in 2013, she received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at ESPN's ESPY Awards.
"I'm an athlete. I took my fight public because I'm an athlete at heart," Roberts said. "I'm not scared. I wanted to show people that even if you're shaking in your boots, and there were many times that I was shaking, I took the shot. I was going to make it a teachable moment. I absolutely approached it with the same tenacity that I did when I stepped out on the basketball court."
Calling herself a "proud product of Title IX," Roberts also offered advice to the more than 100 college athletes gathered at the NCAA Convention.