Mike Mahon, sports information director at Drake University, has been named recipient of the Sam Skinner Award by the Track and Field Writers of America.
The award honors the memory of Sam Skinner, a longtime San Francisco-based journalist, and is presented to an individual who has shown exemplary cooperation with the media in track and field.
Mahon becomes the first college sports information director to ever receive the award. He has served as the sports information director at Drake since October of 1988 and is media coordinator for the Drake Relays. He has served as a U.S. Olympic Committee press officer for U.S. track and field teams at the 1992, 1996 and 2004 Olympics as well as the 1991, 1999 and 2003 Pan American Games.
Past recipients of the Sam Skinner award include Mel Rosen head coach of 1992 U.S. Olympic men's team; Butch Reynolds (1993), former world record holder in 400; Jackie Joyner-Kersee (1994), Olympic gold medalist in heptathlon; Roger Kingdom (1998), two-time Olympic 110 hurdles gold medalist; Stacy Dragila (2001), Olympic women's pole vault medalist; and John McDonnell (2003), Arkansas head men's track and field coach.
Skinner integrated Northern California press boxes as one of the first African American sportscasters, became confidant for many of the most recognized names in sports and broke the biggest Olympic stories of his generation.
"Sam was one of the biggest people in sports," USA Today columnist Tom Weir once wrote.
Yet, it was Skinner's style as an interviewer and press box presence that has been the lasting impression since his death in January 1996.
As a result, Sam Skinner was to sports press conferences what United Press Internationals' Helen Thomas was to the White House press corps. Merely a raise of the hand would command the attention of even the most prominent of speakers. Sam, with his trademark extended microphone, became the confident to the likes of Muhammad Ali, Kareem-Abdul Jabbar, John Madden, Martina Navratilova, Carl Lewis, Al Davis, and many more.
Skinner was known for being the first to report the Israeli hostage situation during the 1972 Olympics in Munich, and the first to learn of the Ben Johnson-steroids incident during the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul.
But it was his role in two other Olympics that is the most telling: During the Mexico City Games in 1968, athletes behind the Black Power Movement chose Skinner as the only reporter with whom they would speak. During the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles, Carl Lewis refused to speak with the media-except Sam Skinner-while he captured four gold medals. True to form, Skinner shared tapes of his Lewis interviews with the other journalist gathered from around the world.