June 16, 1998
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Football/track's Brian Alford (Oak Park, Mich., H.S.) and basketball's Stephanie White-McCarty (West Lebanon, Ind., Seeger Memorial H.S.) have been selected as Purdue's Male and Female Athletes-of-the-Year for the 1997-98 academic year. They will have their names placed in nomination, along with athletes from the other conference schools, in voting for the Big Ten Athletes-of-the-Year.
Alford and White-McCarty were chosen by a committee of Purdue Athletic Department administrators from a field of Most Valuable Players from each team. The awards are sponsored by WLFI-TV and Twin City Dodge-Chrysler-Plymouth.
Alford, a senior, actually excelled in two sports this past year. He earned first team All-America honors as a football wide receiver and won two Big Ten track championships. An inspirational comeback story from academic ineligibility at the end of his junior football season, Brian helped both squads to great success. The football team enjoyed the nation's second-best turnaround to post a 9-3 record, second-place Big Ten tie, final ranking of 15th in both national polls (Purdue's highest since 1979) and a victory in the Alamo Bowl. The track team placed third in the Big Ten Indoor Championships, its best standing since 1989.
Alford set numerous football records in addition to winning the league's 55- and 200-meter dash track titles. The grid tri-captain recently was a third round draft choice of the NFL's New York Giants.
The two-time football team MVP and first team All-Big Ten selection became Purdue's all-time leader in pass receiving yards (3,029) and touchdown catches (31); both statistics are fourth-best in conference history. He set the Boilers' single-season mark for most receiving yards (1,228, fourth-best in Big Ten records) in 1997, snaring 63 passes (19.5 yards per catch) for 10 TD's. Alford twice set the school record for most receiving yards in a single game with 209 at Toledo, followed by 215 at Minnesota. He helped Purdue lead the Big Ten in passing and total offense, and rank seventh in the NCAA in total offense, 13th in passing and 22nd in scoring.
But, Alford's greatest accomplishment may have been away from the field of competition. Here, in his own words delivered as the student responder for his class at one of Purdue's commencement ceremonies on May 17, Brian told a crowd of 6,000: "In January of 1997 I sat at home an ex-Boilermaker. I had been stripped of the opportunity to receive my degree. I had been stripped of being able to participate on the football field. As I sat at home and looked at every single 'F', those failures on my report card immediately became symbols of faith. I proceeded to write down 17 goals that would guide me to be a Purdue graduate. I had faith from that point on that no matter how big the mountain or the obstacle, that I would reach this day."
Because of his academic record, Brian had been dropped from Purdue. In order to be readmitted to the university and rejoin the football team in the fall of 1997, he had to attend a junior college for a semester and then enroll in summer school at West Lafayette. In each case, he was required to earn above-average grades. He not only met those goals, but also earned All-America and Big Ten honors on the field and continued his new-found excellence in the classroom in order to graduate in May.
White-McCarty, a junior guard and forward, might seem like a new name to some but that is because she got married this past May. She helped the basketball team achieve high honors, winning the Big Ten Tournament, posting a 23-10 record, earning a final national ranking of 11th by USA Today/ESPN and advancing to the NCAA Elite Eight for the third time in five years. Purdue, which beat four top 10-ranked teams this year, lost to fourth-ranked and eventual national runner-up Louisiana Tech by only seven points in the NCAA Midwest Regional Finals.
White-McCarty was first team All-America by Women's Basketball Journal and Women's Basketball News Service. The unanimous first team All-Big Ten choice made academic all-league for the second straight year and third team Academic All-America.
The Big Ten's leading scorer in conference games (21.2 ppg) paced the Boilers in points (20.6), rebounds (6.1), assists (4.8) and steals (79 total). She set several school records, including most points in a season (679) and minutes per game (37.8) while posting the second-best free throw percentage in history (.844) and third-most assists (160).
White-McCarty, who was voted to the NCAA Midwest Regional All-Tournament team, already ranks highly in several Purdue career statistics: second in free throw percentage (.806), fourth in three-point field goals (121), fourth in assists (422), fifth in steals (199), seventh in points (1,475) and 13th in rebounds (479).