MERCED - UC Merced has renamed its male athlete award after U.S. soccer icon and retired Los Angeles Galaxy star Cobi Jones, who currently serves as assistant coach for the team. Jones has made significant contributions to the UC Merced as a member of the Chancellor's Blue Ribbon Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics , which earlier this week released its recommendations for the creation of an intercollegiate sports program at the public research university.
The Cobi Jones Male Athlete of the Year award will be presented annually to a UC Merced student-athlete who:
"When thinking of the professional athlete who best exemplifies the criteria for this award, Cobi Jones was first in our minds," said David Dunham, director of recreation and athletics at UC Merced. "His selfless gift of time and energy in helping us to develop a strategic athletics plan and guidance in creating a summer youth soccer camp show that he is a mentor to both scholars and athletes."
A 2002 UCLA Hall of Fame honoree, Jones has consistently served as an ambassador for the Los Angeles Galaxy and U.S. soccer. He has been an active participant in the Galaxy's outreach efforts, visiting schools, hospitals and working with public officials. He was just inducted into the CAL South Hall of Fame and works tirelessly with America SCORES, the U.S. Soccer Foundation and AYSO. Outside of the soccer world, Jones is working with Let Them Play, a national nonprofit focused on giving every child the opportunity to play organized sports, and Heart of L.A., which offers inner-city youth programs in academics, arts and athletics.
The winner of this year's Cobi Jones Male Athlete of the Year award is baseball player Michael Oliveira of Hilmar, Calif.
The bioengineering major led the charge to create an athletics program at UC Merced shortly after enrolling as a freshman in 2005. The baseball club team , which he helped to create in 2007, was the first sports team on campus.
"He's a solid baseball player who's also focused on academics, Dunham said of the 22-year-old graduating senior . "He has really been the driving force behind Bobcat baseball."
No slouch in the classroom, Oliveira was also a finalist in the university's annual student research poster competition , which took place early this month.
Oliveira received his athletics award at the Spring Leadership Awards Banquet on Friday, April 24. Though Jones' coaching schedule didn't allow for him to attend the awards banquet, he recorded congratulatory remarks when he was on campus Wednesday for the release of the Blue Ribbon Commission's report.
"Athletes are not one-dimensional individuals," Jones said. "The best of the best are those who work hard, play hard and devote their time to making a positive difference in the world around them."
The Golden Bobcats' current athletics program revolves around club sports, which include: archery, badminton, baseball, dance, cheer, lacrosse, soccer, softball, table tennis, tennis, volleyball and ultimate Frisbee.
For information: athletics.ucmerced.edu