Two University of Oklahoma coaches received the Lee Allan Smith Spirit of Oklahoma Award at the Oklahoma Christian University’s 2014 Associates Gala. Sherri Coale, the head women’s basketball coach at OU, and Jan Ross, an assistant coach for the Sooners, were the first OC alumni to receive the award, which honors individuals who have devoted themselves to the betterment of Oklahoma.
In addition to speeches from Coale and Ross, the event featured engaging panel discussions with OC students and alumni.
Coale was an Academic All-American at Oklahoma Christian who graduated summa cum laude in 1987 after serving as team captain for three conference championship teams. Ross graduated from Oklahoma Christian in 1986 after a decorated career; she was an NAIA honorable mention All-America, All-District IV and All-Sooner Athletic Conference selection in addition to earning NAIA Scholar-Athlete and Who’s Who honors for the Lady Eagles.
Together, Coale and Ross helped resurrect the OU women’s basketball program and turn it into a national power. Since they joined forces in Norman in 1996, the Sooners have won 10 Big 12 championships (six regular season, four tournament) and made nine Sweet 16 appearances, including a trip to the 2002 NCAA national championship game and back-to-back NCAA Final Four appearances in 2009 and 2010.
Their program also is known for its academic excellence and for giving back to the community, including service as volunteer mentors and teachers’ aides at local elementary schools. In 2011, the Sooners earned the United Nations NGO Positive Peace Award after taking a mission trip to Haiti following a 7.0-magnitude earthquake.
The Lee Allan Smith Award is named for an OC friend who is a tireless proponent of Oklahoma City and the state of Oklahoma. Previous winners include Oklahoma City mayors Mick Cornett, Kirk Humphreys and Ron Norick, former Oklahoma governors and first ladies George and Donna Nigh, Frank and Cathy Keating, and Brad and Kim Henry, and Oklahoma City weathermen Gary England, Damon Lane and Mike Morgan.