NEW ALBANY, Ind. – Approximately 300 people attended the 2017 Champions Dinner presented by Republic Bank, which brought in $68,000 from donations, ticket sales and sponsorships.
The fifth-annual event was held August 5 at Huber's Orchard and Winery's Plantation Hall in Starlight, Ind.
"After five years of the Champions Dinner, I can say for certain that Southern Indiana has some of the most generous and supportive people in the country," Director of Athletics Joe Glover said. "Once again, this event broke fundraising records for our department and I am so grateful to everyone that stepped up to support our student-athletes."
Funds raised from the dinner support athletic scholarships at IU Southeast. Currently, over 80% of NAIA institutions give more athletic aid to their student-athletes per year than IU Southeast. It would cost approximately $900,000 to fully fund athletic scholarships to the NAIA maximum thresholds this upcoming year. Currently, IU Southeast grants approximately $150,000 in athletic aid per year.
Former Director of Athletics and Men's Basketball Coach Jim Morris presented the Jim Morris Champions of Character award for the fifth-straight year.
Josh Beams was this year's recipient of this prestigious award. Beams holds many leadership roles on campus. He is in his second year as one of the Grenadiers' two River States Conference Association of Student Athletes representatives. He is also a league representative at the national level. Earlier this year, Beams was elected President of the IU Southeast Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
Members of the 1998-99 women's basketball team, the first women's basketball team to make a NAIA Tournament appearance, were recognized during the event with head coach Robin Farris.
Longtime volleyball and women's basketball assistant coach Bernie Merkel was honored with the Grenadier Gratitude award.
Merkel was a former men's basketball student-athlete and assistant coach at IU Southeast from 1992-2012. He graduated from IU Southeast in 1982.
As women's basketball assistant coach under Robin Farris, Merkel helped guide the Grenadiers to 12 regular season KIAC titles, six KIAC Tournament championships and seven NAIA Tournament appearances. The team won over 350 games during his time as an assistant. He added more than 300 wins as a volleyball assistant as well.
Demetrius Stanton was recognized as the Male Athlete of the Year and Hannah Barker was honored as the Female Athlete of the Year.
Stanton, a junior guard from Louisville, Ky., was a NAIA All-American selection in 2016-17 and River States Conference First Team honoree. He helped lead the Grenadiers to the championship game of the River States Conference Men's Basketball Tournament. The Grenadiers advanced to the NAIA Men's Basketball National Tournament for the first time since 2014.
Hannah Barker, a senior setter from Seymour, Ind., ranked second in the conference with 1,173 assists and 9.5 assists per set. For her efforts, Barker was named a RSC All-Conference First Team selection.
The Grenadiers finished with a 23-14 record and were 12-4 in conference play.
Barker ranks No. 5 in school history with 2,406 assists.
Former Jeffersonville High School tennis coach Mark Reilly was recognized with the Distinguished Athletic Alumni award. Reilly and doubles partner Danny Boesing were the first Grenadiers to compete at the national tournament level for IU Southeast. As head tennis coach at Jeffersonville, Reilly won 33 sectionals, 7 regionals, 3 semistate titles, and made two final four appearances. He was inducted to the Indiana High School Tennis Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2016.