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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)


Former SEC commissioner Roy Kramer received the Robert R. Neyland Award on Saturday morning.

"I want to thank you for this award," Kramer said in his speech accepting the award at the East Tennessee Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame brunch at The Foundry. "I'm truly honored."

The Neyland Award is for contributions to college football and has been presented annually by Knoxville Quarterback Club since 1967.

Before leading the SEC, Kramer was AD at Vanderbilt and coach at Central Michigan.

"The game teaches so many things," Kramer said. "The lessons of toughness, teamwork, and striving for success are taught better on the football field than in any classroom."

Kramer began quickly expanding and growing the SEC in 1990 by overseeing the addition of Arkansas and South Carolina in his first year. During his 13 years serving as commissioner, the SEC won 81 national championships.

Revenue for the conference grew as well. During his final year leading the SEC in 2001-02, a then league-record $95.7 million was distributed among the member institutions. Kramer also negotiated broadcasting rights for multi-sport contracts with CBS and ESPN.

During his speech, Kramer expressed concern over the future of football and growing concern over health risks associated with playing the sport.

"I'm concerned that it survives on college campuses where their games will never be on television and will be played in front of less than 10,000 fans," Kramer said. "I'm even more concerned about games on Friday night."

"This nation wasn't built on softness or avoiding risks," he added. "It was built on dreams."

Dr. Jerry Punch was also honored during the ceremony with the Lindsey Nelson Broadcasting Award.

"When I got the word that I was going to win this, I was incredibly humbled and appreciative," Punch said.

Punch began covering NASCAR for the Motor Racing Network in 1980, and four years later began his career with ESPN covering NASCAR and college football and basketball.

"I'm so proud to receive this, not only because Lindsey Nelson was hero of mine," Punch said. "But I look at the people who have won this award, 20 people have won this award, and I've had the privilege of working with 12 of them."

The Distinguished American Award was presented to Dr. Bill Youmans, former UT team doctor.

Mark Alewine is a freelance contributor.

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April 22, 2018


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