CSC concludes its week-long salute to 2023 Special Awards winners by recognizing two national figures in collegiate athletics with two of its premier annual awards. Jeff Rubin, LEARFIELD Executive Vice President of Digital and President & Founder of SIDEARM Sports, will receive the Keith Jackson Eternal Flame Award. Basketball analyst and Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer Debbie Antonelli will receive the Jake Wade Award (media honor).
College Sports Communicators concluds its weeklong announcement of its 2023 Special Awards on Thursday by recognizing two distinguished national figures in the collegiate sports world.
Jeff Rubin, LEARFIELD executive vice president of digital and president and founder of SIDEARM Sports and an industry leader on sports technology, innovation and leadership, is the 2023 recipient of the prestigious Keith Jackson Eternal Flame Award.
The Jackson Award is presented to an individual who has made a lasting contribution to intercollegiate athletics, has demonstrated a long and consistent commitment to excellence, and has been a loyal supporter of CSC and its mission.
Renowned Hall of Fame sports analyst Debbie Antonelli is recipient of the 2023 Jake Wade Award (media award). In her three-plus decade career as a television and radio sports analyst, Antonelli, a Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer, has covered college women’s and men’s basketball and professional basketball (WNBA) for ESPN, CBS Sports, Fox Sports and Westwood One, among others.
The Jake Wade Award has been presented annually since 1958 to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution in the media to intercollegiate athletics.
Since founding SIDEARM Sports as a website developer in 2001, Rubin has dedicated his digital media career to developing technology and digital innovations and building partnerships and brands at all levels of college athletics. SIDEARM operates as part of LEARFIELD and is recognized as the nation’s leading digital fan engagement provider, serving more than 1,500 partners across North America.
As a digital engagement platform and a leader in digital fan engagement, SIDEARM powers the official websittes, mobile applications, and digital fan engagement technology for their parttners. LEARFIELD is a media, data and technology services leaders in intercollegiate athletics with a 50-year legacy.
The team at SIDEARM provides the technology platform that powers the official CSC and Academic All-America websites.
Throughout his career, Rubin has been a strong advocate for CSC and its members. He also has been a featured speaker at numerous CSC conventions on the topics of leadership, digital strategy and social media. When Rubin began SIDEARM Sports, his first two clients were Syracuse University and CSC (then known as CoSIDA).
“Jeff Rubin is an extraordinary leader and a huge advocate for College Sports Communicators, aligning with CSC’s mission to enhance the value of communications and college athletic visibility through his leadership and close work with our members and their colleagues,” said CSC President Jessica Poole, deputy athletics director and chief operating officer at Chicago State University. “As he and his colleagues have developed SIDEARM Sports into a national leader in the digital space, Jeff is so deserving to be recognized with one of our highest honors, the Keith Jackson Eternal Flame Award.”
Additionally, Rubin has educated, mentored and empowered students and young professionals as a Syracuse University Professor of Practice in information technology.
“I am deeply honored and humbled to be the 2023 recipient of the Keith Jackson Eternal Flame Award,” said Rubin. “This recognition is truly a privilege, and I am grateful to be included in such an incredible group. I want to extend my heartfelt appreciation to both the incredible team that surrounds me daily and the entire CSC community for their friendship, support and encouragement over the past 20-plus years. Their unwavering support and selfless dedication to college athletics lays the foundation for the difference we are making together in the industry.”
“Jeff’s support for CSC and the sports communications profession has been tremendous over the years,” said Erik Christianson, CSC executive director. “Thanks to Jeff’s innovation and strategic leadership, he and SIDEARM have helped shape the digital landscape for college athletics, and in turn, helped tell the stories of college sports. It is our honor to recognize Jeff Rubin with this year’s Keith Jackson Eternal Flame Award.”
A North Carolina State women’s basketball alumna, current national broadcaster Debbie Antonelli was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame (in Knoxville, Tenn.) in 2022. She was a three-year starter for the ACC champion NC State basketball team, coached by legendary head coach Kay Yow. Since graduating, she has turned her attention to sports marketing/branding and broadcasting. Antonelli has been a pioneering media member as an on air female analyst for multiple networks, covering both women’s and men’s basketball.
“The Jake Wade Award is given to honor those individuals who have achieved excellence in the field of sportscasting and reporting, and Debbie Antonelli has been a long-time role model for young professionals, male and female, in the broadcasting field,” noted Poole. “She has a deep passion for telling the stories of college basketball student-athletes and those in the professional WNBA ranks. Her thoroughness and preparation for her broadcasts is second to none. She is a friend to so many CSC members, past and present. We congratulate her and are thrilled to honor her with the Jake Wade Award.”
Antonelli is the winner of two Emmy Awards and one Gracie Award for her work in broadcasting basketball. She also was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 2021.
“Debbie Antonelli has built established trusted relationships with CSC members, athletic administrators, coaches and student-athletes through her years of award-winning work in college basketball,” said Christianson. “She is a huge ambassador for the game of collegiate basketball. Her keen analysis, storytelling and passion for the game and the student-athletes comes through on every broadcast. We are proud to honor her with CSC’s Jake Wade Award.”
“I am so honored to receive the Jake Wade Award. It is a prestigious award selected by my peers in sports communications,” Antonelli noted. “I am grateful to have a 35 year basketball career broadcasting the game I love. Thank you to so many along my path that have guided, mentored and worked alongside me on this incredible ride.”
A closer look at the individuals honored today:
KEITH JACKSON ETERNAL FLAME AWARD
Jeff Rubin – LEARFIELD, Executive Vice President of Digital
SIDEARM Sports President & Founder
Professor at Syracuse University
Jeff Rubin currently serves as both president and founder of SIDEARM Sports, a company he founded in 2001, as well as executive vice president of Digital at LEARFIELD. In his LEARFIELD role, he is responsible for strategic planning, negotiation, partnerships, technology innovation/initiatives, and accountability for revenue growth.
Rubin continues to be extremely involved in providing direct oversight into SIDEARM’s daily operations and business and technology direction and initiatives.
He started the company in 1996 as Internet Consulting Services Inc. (ICS). From 1996 to 2000, ICS did work for hire for partners ranging from National Geographic, to SONY Music, to academic websites, to local Syracuse companies. As the dotcom bubble burst, new opportunities presented themselves at Syracuse University Athletics, and Rubin built his first athletic website. A few years later, ICS rebranded as SIDEARM Sports, with SIDEARM serving as an acronym for its core function: Sports Information Distribution Engine with Archive and Records Management.
In July 2014, LEARFIELD acquired SIDEARM Sports.
Now in its 23rd year, SIDEARM works with over 1,500 partners across the United States and Canada, partners ranging from college athletics to United States Olympic Sports to the National Women’s Soccer League. This includes the majority of NCAA programs and Power Five athletic departments. The SIDEARM Sports staff is comprised of 100-plus designers, developers, project managers and customer support members, many of whom worked in college athletics, particularly in athletic communications conference and campus roles, before coming to SIDEARM.
In 2022, SIDEARM launched SIDEARM NextGen, the latest version of their revolutionary technology that provides a new, innovative approach to fans’ digital journeys.
Rubin is an alumnus of Syracuse University’s iSchool (School of Information Studies) and currently is a Professor of Practice. He teaches over 200 students a semester in the popular IST195 course. IST195 gives students a general overview of the information age and the many different career paths students may pursue. He also is a special advisor on digital transformation to Kent Syerud, the Chancellor at Syracuse University.
At Syracuse, Rubin also serves on the Board of Advisors at the iSchool as well as the Falk School of Sport Management. He is a member of Syracuse University Athletics Director John Wildhack’s external affairs committee. Active with the Jim & Juli Boeheim Foundation, Rubin also has served on numerous boards within Central New York.
Jeff and his wife Jennifer reside in Manlius, N.Y. with their two teenage sons, Nathan and Benjamin.
Keith Jackson Eternal Flame Award
Presented to an individual who, or an organization which, has made a lasting contribution to intercollegiate athletics, has demonstrated a long and consistent commitment to excellence and has been a loyal supporter of CSC and its mission. Voted on by the CSC Board only when worthy candidates are nominated.
JAKE WADE AWARD (Media award)
Debbie Antonelli – Basketball Analyst for ESPN, CBS and Westwood One
Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer (Class of 2022)
As a national basketball analyst, Debbie Antontelli averages 60-80 college basketball game broadcasts a season. As a former player, marketing executive and broadcaster, the Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer has been a major influencer in the women’s college basketball circles.
She has served as an analyst for ESPN, CBS, Raycom and Westwood One, Fox Sports Net, Big Ten Network and NBATV, also covering games on the ACC Network, Longhorn Network and SEC Network. She has broadcast WNBA games since the league’s inception in 1996.
In 2017, Antonelli became the first woman in nearly 22 years to call an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game when she worked NCAA Division I first-round championship games.
Antonelli has extensive and direct involvement with – and connection to – the College Sports Communicators association. Last year, she served as emcee of CSC’s An All-Star Night of Honors presented by ESPN during the June convention in Las Vegas. And, one of her proudest moments took place earlier this week (on February 21, 2023) when her son, NCAA Division II Emory & Henry College junior guard Patrick Antonelli, was named to the CSC Academic All-District® Men’s Basketball Team.
Among her honors, Antonelli received the 2007 Mel Greenberg Award, given by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) to the professional who has best displayed commitment to advancing the role of the media in promoting women’s basketball.
The North Carolina State University graduate was a three-year starter on legendary Hall of Famer Kay Yow’s conference championship basketball teams. NC State participated in the NCAA Tournament in each of Antonelli’s four years, making two Sweet 16 appearances. Antonelli was part of the historic 1984-85 squad which was the last team to sweep the ACC regular season and ACC Tournament titles.
After graduation, Antonelli embarked on a career in sports marketing and spent the first eight years of her career in college athletic departments. She was a former director of athletic marketing at Kentucky and also served as directory of athletic marketing at The Ohio State University. With the Buckeyes, Antonelli worked to get women’s basketball games aired on local television and was also the play-by-play voice for five years.
In addition to her television and radio work, Antonelli also has developed a media training workshop for men’s and women’s basketball teams, teaching skills in an interactive, role playing manner while helping the programs and individual student-athletes build their brands.
Among her numerous philanthropic endeavors and community involvement, Debbie is a lifetime Board member of the non-profit Kay Yow Cancer Fund, with other board service for the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, Naismith Trophy Award boards and Village Vision, Inc.
She hosts a fundraiser for Special Olympics called 24Hours Nothing But Net (24HoursNBN.com). The event is a 24 hour free throw shooting marathon to raise money and awareness. Debbie’s motivation is her Special Olympic Athlete, son Frankie who is a young adult living with Down Syndrome and a recent graduate of the ClemsonLife Program. Antonelli is also a national spokesperson and parent advocate for Special Education.
Antonelli and her husband, Frank Antonelli, are the parents of three boys – Joey, Frankie and Patrick. They reside in Mount Pleasant, S.C.
Jake Wade Award
Presented annually to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution in the media to the field of intercollegiate athletics. Voted on by the Special Awards Committee. Nominee must be a member of the media.
Honoree information complied by Barb Kowal, CSC Director of Professional Development and External Affairs.