In 2007, Sonny Vaccaro ended his decades-long career as a sport marketing executive with Nike, Adidas, and Reebok. During his career, Mr. Vaccaro helped create a “grass-roots” youth basketball system that was and remains at the epicenter of the multi-billion-dollar college sport industry. Since that time, Mr. Vaccaro’s impact on college sport has changed from an involvement with high school, college and professional coaches and players to a personal quest to fundamentally change college sport. His relentless championing of the rights of high school and college athletes has taken the form of his speaking on college campuses across the country, granting interviews and providing context for countless journalists, historians, documentary filmmakers, congressional staffers, college sport reformers, and convincing several lawyers to file lawsuits against the NCAA. In short, Mr. Vaccaro has had an unmistakable impact on college sport and the cause of college athletes’ rights and empowerment. He continues to speak truth to power and hold those who deny college athletes their fundamental rights up for public scrutiny.
The Sonny Vaccaro Impact Award award honors individuals who have made a positive impact on college sport by advocating or defending college athletes’ fundamental civil and human rights. The recipients of this award have chosen to take the same path as Mr. Vaccaro and question the NCAA and the big-time college-sport hegemony.