University Park, Pa. — The 1946 and '47 Penn State football teams will be recognized with the "Heroes Amongst Us" Award, presented by the National Consortium for Academics and Sports.
The "Heroes Amongst Us" Award is among six Giant Steps Award winners the NCAS will recognize at its 23rd Annual Awards dinner. The event is Tuesday, Oct. 12, in Orlando, Fla.
Led by its president, Richard Lapchick, the National Consortium for Academics and Sports is dedicated to creating a better society by focusing on educational attainment and using the power and appeal of sports to positively affect social change.
Also highlighting the NCAS award winners are 2010 Hall of Fame Inductees Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa, and 1968 U.S. Olympic track and field athletes John Carlos and Tommie Smith.
The 1946 and '47 Penn State teams are being recognized for the bond and togetherness among teammates during a time of tension and prejudices. Led by Coach Bob Higgins, the Nittany Lions made two important and memorable decisions to help further the cause of civil rights.
In 1946, the Nittany Lions unanimously voted not to play their Nov. 29 regular season finale at Miami (Fla.) after Miami officials requested that Penn State not bring its two African-American players, Dennie Hoggard and Wally Triplett, on the trip.
The 1947 Nittany Lions were one of the nation's premier squads, posting six shutouts en route to a 9-0 regular season, becoming the first Penn State team to win nine games. Penn State won its first Lambert Trophy as the top team in the East, was No. 4 in the final Associated Poll and earned a berth in the Cotton Bowl against No. 3 SMU, led by All-American Doak Walker.
But, after accepting the Jan. 1 Cotton Bowl bid, the Nittany Lions soon learned that none of the Dallas hotels permitted African-Americans to stay in their facilities, so the Penn State team chose to find other accommodations. The Nittany Lions were able to make arrangements to stay as a team at a Naval Air Station 14 miles from Dallas that included guarded fences, bunk beds and a mess hall. Hoggard and Triplett became the first African-Americans to play in the Cotton Bowl as Penn State rallied from a 13-0 deficit to tie the game at 13-13, but each team missed a PAT attempt and the game ended in a tie.
The NCAS Giant Steps Awards Banquet has taken place annually since 1988. In conjunction with National Student-Athlete Day, Giant Steps Awards are given in the categories of courageous student-athletes, coaches, civic leaders, athletic administrators, parents and teachers. Giant Steps Awards honors individuals and teams who demonstrate the meaning of the day by using sport as a vehicle for positive social change, bring awareness to social issues and help student-athletes achieve a balance between academics and sports.
Information from the Penn State Football Encyclopedia was used in this story.