Spartan of the year:Amy Fouty Chief Guru of Turfgrass Management at Michigan State Fouty is the Michael Jordan of her profession. There is no on in the nation as good as her. When MSU booked U2 to come in they budgeted for as many as three fields to replace the one that would be destroyed by the concert.
Fouty took a ton of heat from the usual bureaucracy when she ordered the new turf from out west, but she held to her guns. She got the field and the temperature went off the thermometer. Day and night she literally babied the field hoping it would be OK when the season started.
Conventional wisdom is that the field would be OK only in the best conditions and bad in the worst and that it would be replaced, perhaps twice. She had the worst conditions. When high temps hit you canâ€™t water as much or you literally steam the grass.
I once went to the stadium to see her to get an update and she was on the ground inspecting the field. She was on the ground as in on all fours on the grass. Amazingly with her efforts it was the best field in modern times at MSU and it wonâ€™t have to be replaced, saving Hollis well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
She wonâ€™t take the credit, she gives it to her great staff, but to have given the Spartan Nation the best field in modern times and saved a ton of money is an amazing job. She didnâ€™t have to sacrifice time with her family like she did, she didnâ€™t have to love that field like a newborn, but when you are the best you donâ€™t care about the time clock and it showed. Fouty may never hoist a Heisman, or be named a Big Ten athlete of the year or week, but she was our pick for Spartan of the year.
Assistant of the year:Pat Narduzzi, Defensive Coordinator in Football Back-to-back 11 win seasons led by his defense and spurning offers to be a head coach and defensive coordinator led to a big raise for the nationâ€™s best defensive coordinator. His ability to be very tough and demanding mixed with a beloved father figure make Narduzzi a rare and valuable commodity. He is loyal to Dantonio and is a great evaluator of talent. MSU athletics runs on football and Narduzzi is the second biggest reason for the resurgence behind Dantonio.
Male Athlete of the Year:Joel Foreman, G, Football A captain on the football team, Foreman made an amazing sacrifice when he gave up a shot at the consecutive starts and career starts record to let his teammate Arthur Ray, Jr. start ahead of him. That one act of selflessness set the tone of 2011 for the football program and earned him nationwide respect. One NFL scout told me, â€œYou canâ€™t teach that, but when we are picking and it is between Foreman and another player, if they are equal or close, donâ€™t think we wonâ€™t remember that.â€
Female Athlete of the Year:LyKendra Johnson F, Womanâ€™s Basketball Johnson was a dominating force that led the Spartans to a Big Ten title. A tough player who plays with no fear and grit, Johnson leads from the front. What makes Johnson special is that she is not only a great player, but is a fine young lady.
Coach of the Year:Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll, Womanâ€™s Golf Led the Spartans to a Big Ten title and continued her own amazing golf career. How many coaches can challenge a recruit at their own sport and kick their butt. Stacy is as tough as any MSU coach, but has credibility because she works as hard as she asks her team to.
Play of the Year:Mark Hollis hiring Anastos MSU had to fix the hockey program. Hollis named Tom Anastos to the job. The former MSU star player and then commissioner of the CCHA is revered around the planet in the world of hockey, but many shook their heads. Anastos has done nothing short of an amazing job in rebuilding the program and that moment was clearly the play of the year.
Unsung Moment/Person of the year:Not raising ticket prices for Spartan football after a Big Ten title. With the Michigan economy in the tank AD Mark Hollis resisted conventional wisdom and pressure to hold the line on ticket prices. From a Michigan middle class family, Hollis makes every decision from that perspective and as badly as his department needed the funds and the pressures around him he stood firm. It was an unsung moment for the Spartan Nation in 2011.
Worst Play/Moment of the Year:Thousands of empty seats at MSU home football games. I have no issue with people that have to pick between needs and tickets picking their family needs, but for thousands of seats to be empty for more than one game that were purchased is a disgrace. Hollis and Dantonio have given Spartan Nation the program they clamored for, now the fans need to act among the elite and either use their seats or make sure they get used.