In the Tribune-Herald sports department, we participate in a lot of cool, long-standing traditions.

Throughout the year, we choose several all-Big 12 teams in a variety of sports. After every high school football season, we select one team to be the recipient of the Jinx Tucker Trophy, based upon, among other things, the team’s fan support, improvement throughout the season and ability to overcome adversity.

And then there’s the Super Centex football team, which is believed to be the oldest all-area squad of any newspaper in the state.

Like I said, we’re blessed with plenty of grand traditions. But just like at the buffet table, we’ve always got room for one more.

It’s in that spirit that we’re proud to introduce the inaugural Tribune-Herald Sportsman of the Year award.

Obviously, the idea of selecting a Sportsman of the Year isn’t exactly a novel concept. Both Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News have been presenting such awards for decades, and I’d be lying if I said those honors didn’t provide the inspiration and even the framework for our own.

But what is unique about the Trib Sportsman of the Year is that it localizes the concept. This honor will be presented annually to someone who made a significant impact on sports in Central Texas over the calendar year, and who did so while personifying a spirit of character and sportsmanship.

Essentially, we’ll be giving this award to your friends and neighbors, Central Texas. We’re talking about athletes, coaches and administrators from Baylor, McLennan Community College and area high schools. Professional and amateur athletes who make their homes in Waco will be eligible as well.

We’re even leaving room for those “local boy makes good” type stories, for Central Texas athletes who have gone on to grand achievements elsewhere in the country and world. For instance, if we’d had this award in 2006, an obvious choice would have been LaDainian Tomlinson, then of the San Diego Chargers. All LT did that year was run for 1,815 yards and an NFL-record 31 touchdowns while being named the NFL MVP, Walter Payton Man of the Year and the ESPY winner for Male Athlete of the Year.

Incidentally, the Trib’s Sportsman of the Year honor isn’t a boys club, either. When — not if, but when — we name a female coach, athlete or administrator as the winner of the award, she will be known as the Sportswoman of the Year. But it would’ve sounded somewhat clumsy had we designated the award the “Sportsperson of the Year.”

As mentioned before, with this achievement, character matters. The Sportsman — or Woman — of the Year should be someone who carries himself with the utmost integrity. You won’t find our honoree’s name in the police blotter. He or she should be someone who exudes both class and competitiveness, and who embraces the importance of community service.

This year’s inaugural winner was a natural selection — Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw. Anyone who knows Ian knows that he’s a man of faith and conviction, not to mention a tireless worker for his coaches and the Baylor athletic department alike. Not only did he oversee one of the most successful years in Baylor sports history, but he also provided steady direction and leadership to the school during the Big 12’s realignment crisis last summer.

Will every Sportsman of the Year choice be that clear-cut? I imagine not. Undoubtedly there will be times where we as a sports staff debate and argue over a number of choices before settling on our consensus. But that’s part of the fun, too.

When all was said and done, I only had one question about this year’s Sportsman of the Year:

I wonder if Ian knows about the “tradition” of the Sportsman of the Year buying the sports staff lunch?

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