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Sullivan Award Announcement to Be Made Monday

February 22, 1987|Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde could add another piece of hardware to his collection Monday night when the Sullivan Award is presented to the nation's top amateur athlete.

The University of Miami quarterback is among 10 finalists for the award given each year since 1930 by the Amateur Athletic Union to the individual voted the top amateur athlete in the past year.

Joining the 6-foot-3, 218-pound Testaverde on the list of finalists is Navy basketball star David Robinson and six athletes who either set a world records or won a major international competition in 1986. The group includes wrestler Bruce Baumgarter, the first American heavyweight to win a world championship; University of California swimmer Matt Biondi, who set world marks in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle, and 1986 world champion women's figure skater Debi Thomas.

Biondi, men's volleyballer Charles "Karch" Kiraly and Cheryl Miller, the former women's basketball star at Southern California, are each finalists for the second consecutive year.

The other finalists are Jackie Joyner, who set a women's world record in the grueling, two-day, seven-event heptathlon during last year's Goodwill Games; swimmer Betsy Mitchell, the holder of the world record in the 200-meter backstroke and the 1986 world champion in the 100-meter backstroke; and Kristie Phillips, who defeated athletes from 19 countries in becoming the youngest gymnast to have won the American Cup.

Finalists from track and field have won the award 33 times, including last year when it was presented to distance runner Joan Benoit Samuelson. She will attend the dinner at the Indiana Roof theater to present the trophy to this year's winner.

The award was established in 1930 to honor James E. Sullivan, a founder and past president of the AAU. Athletes are nominated by a group of amateur sports governing bodies, U.S. Olympic Committee officials and past winners. The winner is then selected in national voting by more than 2,000 people, including members of the news media.

Robinson, 21, topped the nation in rebounding last season, averaging 13 a game, as he led the Midshipmen to the fourth round of the NCAA tournament before losing to eventual runner-up Duke. However, the 7-foot-1 center was not expected to attend the award presentation since he is in the process of completing his senior season at Navy. However, Navy Coach Pete Herrmann decided to allow him to attend even though the Midshipmen are in the process of completing their regular season.

"We think it's a very, very prestigious award," Herrmann said in announcing that Robinson would make the trip here. "We feel that the trip is definitely worthwhile for David and his family and for the U.S. Naval Academy.

Testaverde, 23, led Miami to an 11-1 season. The Hurricanes were ranked No. 1 in the nation before losing the Fiesta Bowl to Penn State in a showdown between the undefeated teams for the mythical national championship. Testaverde, expected to be the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, was the nation's passing efficiency leader, completing 175 of 276 passes (63.4 percent) for 2,557 yards and 26 touchdowns in 1986.

His career totals were 413 completions in 674 attempts for 6,058 yards and 48 touchdowns.

History isn't on the side of Testaverde or Robinson. The only times a football player received the award was when Felix "Doc" Blanchard and Arnold Tucker, who both played for Army, won in 1945 and 1946. The only basketball players to receive the Sullivan are Bill Bradley of Princeton for 1965 and Bill Walton of UCLA for 1973.

Only seven women have won the award, including sprinter Wilma Rudolph, who is being honored this year in recognition of the 25th anniversary of her selection.

Athletes from California have won the award 21 times. New York has the second highest number of winners with five.

Previously the award was presented in the athlete's hometown, but this is the ninth year the winner is being announced at a banquet here. A capacity crowd of 1,000 is expected at the dinner.

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