UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- A trio of current and former Penn State student-athletes and coaches are among the nominees for the prestigious 2012 Dapper Dan Charities Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year, presented to the figures from the Pittsburgh area who have made the most outstanding accomplishment in sports in the past year.
Nittany Lion football head coach Bill O’Brien is among six nominees for the Dapper Dan Sportsman of the Year and the only coach among the nominees. Penn State women’s soccer standout Taylor Schram (Canonsburg) and former Nittany Lion women’s volleyball All-American and 2012 Olympic silver medalist Christa Harmotto (Aliquippa) are among four nominees for Dapper Dan Sportswoman of the Year. Harmotto also was a nominee for the 2008 Dapper Dan Sportswoman of the Year.
Fan voting will be used in helping select the winner of this year's award. Fans can go to http://old.post-gazette.com/dapperdan/ballot/ to access the fan voting, which ends at 12 p.m. Friday (Dec. 21).
The recipients and other Dapper Dan award winners will honored at the 77th annual Dapper Dan Dinner & Sports Auction, presented by BNY Mellon, on Feb. 6, at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh. Proceeds benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania youth and sports education programs.
Named Penn State's 15th head football coach on Jan. 6, O'Brien led the Nittany Lions to victories in eight of their final 10 games, earning an 8-4 overall record and a 6-2 mark in the Big Ten, with the only losses coming to division winners Ohio State and Nebraska. In its final game, Penn State beat eventual Big Ten Champion Wisconsin, 24-21, in overtime. O'Brien's eight wins are the most by a first-year Penn State coach in the 126 years of the program.
O'Brien was selected the ESPN National Coach of the Year and the Big Ten’s Dave McClain Coach of the Year (media) and the Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year (coaches). In his first year as a head coach, O’Brien is a finalist for Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year and the Maxwell Football Club's Collegiate Coach of the Year. A native of Andover, Mass., and a Brown University graduate, he also is on the Watch List for the Bear Bryant National Coach of the Year and was a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year (FWAA).
Joining O’Brien as the nominees for the Dapper Dan Sportsman of the Year are Pitt defensive lineman Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh Pirates All-Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin and Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Heath Miller and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Schram is coming off a stellar season, as she helped lead the Penn State women’s soccer program to the NCAA Championship match for the first time in program history. The Canon-McMillan High School product was a big part of the Nittany Lion attack, tallying 11 points on five goals and an assist while splitting time between being a midfielder and forward throughout the season. Trailing 1-0 in the national championship match against North Carolina, Schram scored in the 18th minute to tie the game up at 1. The junior netted two goals Oct. 14 in a 2-1 victory at Iowa.
Schram joined her teammate, Maya Hayes, on the U.S. U-20 World Cup team this year, as the U.S. defeated Germany in the finals Sept. 8 by a count of 1-0 to win the World Cup. Hayes and Schram were among a total of 21 players that were selected to the 2012 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup team.
Harmotto has been a member of the U.S. Women’s National Team since 2009 after graduating from Penn State. She led the Nittany Lions to two of their four consecutive NCAA titles (2007-10) as a starting middle hitter. She was a four-time American Volleyball Coaches Association All-American and helped Penn State to four Big Ten titles during her career. She also excelled off the court and was the 2008 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American of the Year.
In 2012, Harmotto helped the U.S. Women to a gold medal at the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball World Grand Prix with the squad finishing undefeated at 14-0. Harmotto started in 10 matches and averaged 3.23 points, 1.31 blocks and 1.74 kills per set. She was selected to the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team, which won the silver medal in London. Harmotto started all eight matches at the Olympics, averaging 1.73 points, 1.23 kills and 0.42 blocks per set, while converting 51.6 percent of attacks with a .387 hitting efficiency.
Harmotto and Schram are joined as the Dapper Dan Sportswoman of the Year nominees by WNBA standout Swin Cash and Olympic diver Cassidy Krug.
Former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno was the Dapper Dan Sportsman of the Year in 1982 and 1998. Former Nittany Lion football players Dick Hoak (1968) and Franco Harris (1977) also earned the Dapper Dan honor.
Selected since 1999, former Lady Lion basketball standouts Suzie McConnell-Serio (1999) and Kelly Mazzante (2003) have been selected the Dapper Dan Sportswoman of the Year, as was Penn State’s undefeated and NCAA Championship women’s volleyball team in 2009.
Tickets for the Dapper Dan Dinner can be purchased by visiting www.post-gazette.com/dapperdan or by calling 412-263-3850. A cocktail reception and silent auction begins at 6 p.m., followed by the dinner and awards ceremony at 7 p.m.
The Dapper Dan Dinner and Sports Auction is the largest fundraising event of the year for Dapper Dan Charities, which is a division of PG Charities -- the charitable arm of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Proceeds will benefit the youth sports leagues at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania.