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Rockets Start GoFundMe Page to Assist Family of Player; Scholarship Fund to be Established

A GoFundMe page has been created to assist the family of University of Toledo defensive lineman Jahneil Douglas, who was shot and killed Tuesday night in Toledo. The fund will help pay for funeral costs, as well as assist Douglas’ children.

The page was started by former teammate Mitchell Guadagni, the Rockets’ starting quarterback the past two seasons.

“We all loved Jahneil and we loved his family,” Guadagni said. “[Former Rocket teammate] Nate Childress and I were talking about Jahneil and decided we wanted to do something to help his family and his beautiful children. Jahneil will always be a Rocket, and he will always be in our hearts.”

Toledo Head Football Coach Jason Candle said he is proud of the way the players have come together to help their teammate’s family.

“Yesterday was a terrible day for the Rocket football family,” Candle said. “We are still reeling from the loss of JD. Coming together as a family is important during these trying times, and I am happy to see our Rockets step up like this. JD’s impact will be forever felt on Toledo football.”

UToledo Vice President and Athletic Director Mike O’Brien added that a scholarship fund in Douglas’ name will be forthcoming.

“This has been such a tragic loss for Jahneil’s family and for our football program,” O’Brien said. “Jahneil was a fine young man and a great Rocket, so we felt it was only fitting to create some kind of lasting legacy to honor his memory.”

Access the GoFundMe page for Douglas’ family.

UToledo Faculty Athletics Representative Named

Dr. Sharon L. Gaber, president of The University of Toledo, has named Dr. Dana Hollie to serve in the position of Faculty Athletics Representative.

The Faculty Athletics Representative serves as an essential liaison between the University’s president, its athletic department, the Mid-American Conference and the NCAA. Hollie replaces Dr. Mary Powers, professor of pharmacy practice, who concluded her term as Faculty Athletics Representative after serving in that role for the past five years.

Hollie

“Dr. Hollie’s academic background, integrity and knowledge of the University make her an ideal choice to serve as our Faculty Athletics Representative. The University will be well-served by her leadership in collaboration with Athletic Director Mike O’Brien, coaches, academic advisers and student-athletes,” Gaber said. “I’d also like to recognize Dr. Powers for her service in this role and the impact she has had on the University as an alumna and dedicated faculty member.”

Hollie is an associate professor of accounting in the College of Business and Innovation, and holds the Alan H. and Karen A. Barry Endowed Professor of Accounting Chair in the college. Hollie earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting from the Rochester Institute of Technology, and later earned a master of business administration from George Mason, a master of science in business administration from Washington University in St. Louis, and a Ph.D. in accounting from Washington University. She served as a visiting academic scholar with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for the 2019-20 academic year.

“I am looking forward to the opportunity to serve as the NCAA Faculty Athletics Representative for The University of Toledo,” Hollie said. “UToledo has very talented student-athletes and coaches, and serving as the Faculty Athletics Representative provides me an opportunity to be even more engaged with students’ athletic and academic successes.”

UToledo student-athletes have an impressive history of academic accomplishment. The Rockets have earned a collective semester GPA of 3.3 or higher in each of the past three semesters, including a record 3.527 GPA this past spring. Toledo also has been the recipient of the Mid-American Conference Institutional Academic Achievement Award in six of the past nine years. That award is presented annually to the conference institution that achieves the highest overall institutional GPA for student-athletes for the academic year.

“The academic success our student-athletes have earned demonstrates our commitment to ensuring their excellence in the classroom,” O’Brien said. “The Faculty Athletics Representative is an important part of maintaining that culture, and Dana’s experience and leadership will only make our team stronger. I would also like to personally thank Mary Powers for her outstanding service and commitment to our athletic program and our student-athletes these past five years.”

Former Toledo Women’s Basketball Player Signs Pro Contract in Italy

Former Toledo women’s basketball player Mariella Santucci has signed a professional contract to play for Passalacqua Ragusa in her home country of Italy.

Santucci becomes the eighth Rocket to play professionally overseas under three-time Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year Tricia Cullop, joining Melissa Goodall (Italy and Spain), Naama Shafir (Israel), Andola Dortch (Belarus), Inma Zanoguera (Italy), Brenae Harris (Spain), Janice Monakana (Great Britain) and most recently Jay-Ann Bravo-Harriott (Spain and Great Britain) on that list.

In addition, former Rockets Kaayla McIntyre, Janelle Reed-Lewis, Dortch and Harris currently play for the Toledo Threat, which is part of the Women’s Professional Basketball Organization.

“Since the first day Mariella stepped on campus at Toledo, it was her goal to play professionally,” Cullop said. “I’m incredibly happy to see her goal become a reality. We’re so appreciative of the hard work, dedication and leadership that she brought to our program, and I now look forward to becoming a fan of Passalacqua Ragusa and cheering for her.”

Passalacqua Ragusa plays in Italian-Serie A1, the premier national league for women’s basketball clubs in Italy.

This past year, Santucci averaged 10.9 points, a squad-best 6.3 rebounds, a team-high 5.2 assists and a team-best 1.5 steals in 30.5 minutes per game for Toledo. The only Rocket to start every contest in 2019-20, Santucci led the Mid-American Conference in helpers (160), and she ranked second in assist/turnover ratio (1.70, 160-94), 10th in free-throw percentage (.719, 105 of 146), 12th in defensive caroms (4.77 rebounds per game, 148), and 15th in overall rebounding (194).

A 2019-20 team captain, Santucci scored in double figures on 16 occasions during her final season wearing the Midnight Blue and Gold, the third-highest total on the team, including a career-best 31 points against Miami.

A school-record three-time Academic All-MAC honoree, Santucci wrapped up her collegiate career fifth in program history in career assists (614) and minutes played (3,878), sixth in steals (202), eighth in games played (130) and 24th in points (1,103). She graduated as the only player in school annals to tally at least 1,000 points, 600 assists, 500 rebounds and 200 steals in a career.

Rockets Move to Digital Ticketing for Athletic Events

The University of Toledo Athletic Department has announced it will transition exclusively to digital ticketing for all ticketed athletic events, beginning with the 2020 football season. All season tickets, single-game tickets and parking passes are now fully digital and accessible via smartphones.

Digital ticketing provides the ultimate in convenience and increases safety by eliminating the physical handling of tickets. Digital ticketing also reduces frequent issues related to paper tickets, including theft, lost tickets, shipping delays, and the need for an early confirmation of a shipping address. Other advantages feature the ability for ticket purchasers to easily transfer tickets and manage their account via a smartphone.

Digital ticketing is the safest, quickest, most cost-efficient and sanitary way for Rocket fans to receive their season tickets, mini-plan tickets, single-game tickets or parking passes. With this new process, fans can download and store their tickets to their smartphone, transfer tickets to a friend via text at the push of a button, and manage their account utilizing the new My Account 2.0 page when logging into their account on utrockets.com/myaccount.

“Many of our fans have already been using digital ticketing, so they are familiar with its many advantages over paper tickets,” said Deputy Athletic Director Dave Nottke. “We truly believe digital ticketing will enhance the game-day experience for fans and will allow us to provide improved customer service.”

For assistance or questions, go to UTRockets.com/digitalticketing, call the Rocket Ticket Office at 419.530.GOLD (4653), email at athleticticketoffice@utoledo.edu, or stop by the ticket office during normal business hours.

To renew or purchase 2020 Toledo football season tickets, go to the Toledo Rockets website.

Rocket Ticket Office to Reopen June 15

The University of Toledo Athletic Ticket Office will reopen for in-person service beginning Monday, June 15.

The ticket office, located in the Sullivan Athletic Complex in Savage Arena, will be open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Fans visiting the ticket office will be asked to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Park in the designated ticket office parking spaces located near Rocky’s Locker and enter the east side of the building. Signage will indicate the proper entrances and exits, and six-foot markers will be placed at the ticket windows.

Fans are strongly encouraged to wear face masks while inside the Sullivan Athletic Complex lobby.

“We are pleased that our ticket office is reopening so that we can better serve our fans,” said Deputy Athletic Director Dave Nottke. “While we are still encouraging our customers to order their tickets online or by phone, we know that it is important to be able to offer in-person services in as safe an environment as possible.”

Fans also may renew or purchase 2020 season tickets for the 2020 football season online at the Toledo Rockets website or by phone at 419.530.GOLD (4653).

The Rockets will open the season at Tulsa Saturday, Sept. 5, before hosting San Diego State in the Glass Bowl Saturday, Sept. 12. A week later, Toledo will travel to East Lansing to face Michigan State.

Read updates on University and Athletic Department information related to the COVID-19 pandemics.

Two UToledo Athletes Named MAC Medal of Excellence Recipients

University of Toledo women’s soccer player Abby Demboski and men’s tennis player Danilo Vukotic have been awarded the Mid-American Conference Medal of Excellence.

Demboski and Vukotic were both honored by the MAC for their academic and athletic achievements during their collegiate careers. Demboski graduated this spring with a degree in nursing, and Vukotic graduated this spring with a degree in information technology.

A four-year starter on the soccer team, Demboski appeared in 80 matches during her career and was a key cog during the Rockets’ 2017 MAC Championship run. She made 29 starts over the past two seasons as a midfielder and scored three goals as a senior in 2019. Off the field, Demboski was a three-time Academic All-MAC selection.

“Abby was an incredible part of our soccer team the past four years,” Head Women’s Soccer Coach TJ Buchholz said. “Beyond her success on the field, Abby was a significant leader for our team in the classroom. Abby always set the academic bar extremely high for our team, and we are grateful for her leadership during her four years as a Rocket.”

Vukotic spent much of his three-year Toledo career playing on the top two courts in both singles and doubles play, tallying 25 victories on the No. 1 court as a Rocket. This past season, he won 17 combined matches in singles and doubles and was a two-time MAC Player of the Week honoree.

“Danilo was driven on the court and maintained an amazing purpose in the classroom,” Head Men’s Tennis Coach Al Wermer said. “He became a great leader for our team this year in all areas. This award is very well-deserved.”

The Medal of Excellence is an award presented annually to one male and one female student-athlete from the graduating class of each of the 12 conference member institutions. To be honored with the Medal of Excellence Award, student-athletes have to participate on the varsity level in a conference-sponsored sport. They show evidence of academic success with a minimum 3.50 accumulative grade-point average, while also exhibiting athletics excellence, leadership and service.

Toledo Athletics Partners With Connecting Kids to Meals

The University of Toledo Athletic Department has announced a partnership with Connecting Kids to Meals to support the Children First Relief Fund. The Rockets have agreed to donate one free ticket to selected 2020-21 men’s or women’s basketball home games to every donor during the month of June.

The purpose of the Children First Relief Fund is to raise needed dollars to feed 5,000 hungry kids in Northwest Ohio every weekend from late May until August.

The relief fund has successfully reached its initial goal of $125,000, and now with the partnership with the Rockets, the campaign is heading into overtime.

“I’m thrilled our athletic department is partnering with [Connecting Kids to Meals] to make an impact in our community,” said Head Women’s Basketball Coach Tricia Cullop. “They are an incredible organization that feeds thousands of hungry children in the Toledo area daily. I hope we can count on all Rocket supporters to help us make a difference.”

Head Men’s Basketball Coach Tod Kowalczyk added, “Feeding hungry children around Toledo is extremely important, and it’s great that we’re able to help them out. The impact that [Connecting Kids to Meals] has made in our community has been impressive, and I encourage all of our fans to support them any way possible.”

Connecting Kids to Meals was founded in 2002 to serve children and families living at or below the poverty line in Lucas County. Today, the leading nonprofit organization in northwest Ohio fighting childhood hunger has expanded its mission to reach children in Wood County and beyond.

To make a donation, visit connectingkidstomeals.org.

Former Rocket Distance Runner Elected Into MAC Hall of Fame

Former Rocket track and cross country star Briana Shook is one of six new members inducted into the Mid-American Conference Hall of Fame.

Shook joins Stevi Large Gruber (Akron, women’s track and field), Bryan Bullington (Ball State, baseball), Margo Jonker (Central Michigan, softball), Wally Szczerbiak (Miami, men’s basketball) and Ellen Herman-Kimball (Ohio, volleyball) in the 2020 induction class.

She said she is honored to be representing The University of Toledo in the MAC Hall of Fame.

“It has been 15 years since I have raced, so getting the news of being inducted definitely took me back to the line, waiting for the gun,” Shook said. “Back then, I never thought there would be a time when running wasn’t my life. Today I try to teach my kids that hard work pays off and that the memories are worth living wholeheartedly at the time that you are making them. I would go back in a heartbeat to race again.

“Everyone wishes they had a super power; every time I raced, I felt like I found mine. I am so honored for the nomination and proud to be a Toledo Rocket alum.”

MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher praised this year’s induction class.

“We have such a storied history within our conference, and it is important to honor and celebrate the accomplishments of our former students, coaches and administrators, specifically these six individuals, and their achievements during their time competing in the Mid-American Conference,” Steinbrecher said. “We are honored to welcome this year’s class to the Mid-American Conference Hall of Fame.”

Shook is one of the most decorated student-athletes on the track in Toledo and MAC history. She was a three-time All-American in both cross country and track and field. Over the course of her career, Shook (2000 to 2004) won 11 MAC titles and added three runner-up finishes, as well.

Shook helped lead the Rockets to back-to-back MAC Cross Country Championships in 2001 and 2002, winning the individual race both seasons. In 2002, she was named the NCAA Great Lakes Region Cross Country Runner of the Year. Shook was a three-time MAC champion in the indoor 3,000, and twice each in the indoor 5,000, the outdoor 5,000 and the 3,000-meter steeplechase. She still holds the MAC record in the indoor 3,000 meters (9:25.91) and the steeplechase (9:49.44).

At the 2002 MAC Outdoor Championship Meet, Shook earned the Most Valuable Performance award for her victory in the steeplechase and 5,000 meters. She went on to finish in fifth place in the steeplechase at the NCAA Championship Meet that year. Shook also earned Most Valuable Performance honors at the 2003 MAC Indoor Championship Meet for her first-place finishes in the 3,000 and 5,000 meters.

In 2004, she was named the MAC Outdoor Championship Meet Most Valuable Performer and was named NCAA Mideast Track and Field Athlete of the Year. She won the steeplechase (9:59.22) and the 5,000 meters (16:22.46) at the 2004 MAC Meet and finished second at the NCAA Championship Meet in the steeplechase.

During the summer of 2004, Shook made history by setting the American record in the 3,000-meter steeplechase with her 9:29.32 clocking in Belgium, a time that was fourth best in the world that year. She was ranked No. 1 in the U.S. in the steeplechase by Track & Field News in both 2003 and 2004, winning the USA Outdoor title in 2003. In 2004, she won the U.S. Olympic Trials, but was disqualified for missing a jump, even though she actually ended up running a longer race than her competitors.

Shook graduated from Toledo in 2004 with a degree in communications and photography, earning Academic All-MAC honors as a senior. She went on to join the Toledo coaching staff, serving as an assistant from 2004 to 2008. Shook was instrumental in helping to guide the women’s cross country program to a MAC runner-up finish in 2005 and an eighth-place finish at the 2006 NCAA Regional Championships, the highest of any MAC program that season. She also helped to guide Ebba Stenback to an eighth-place finish and All¬-America status at the 2006 NCAA Championships in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Under Shook’s guidance, Stenback also was the NCAA Mideast Regional Champion and No. 2 all-time steeplechaser in MAC history behind Shook.

Shook later served as head women’s track and cross country coach at Heidelberg University from 2010 to 2013. She coached 13 All-Americans, two national champions, and was named Ohio Athletic Conference Women’s Track and Field Coach of the Year in 2010 and 2013. She retired from coaching in 2013 to help raise her three children with her husband.

Shook was inducted into The University of Toledo Varsity T Hall of Fame in 2010 and the Ohio Track and Cross Country Hall of Fame in 2020. She resides in Mexico, Mo., with her husband, Robert, and the couple have three daughters — Haleigh (13), Atley (7) and Georgia (5).

The MAC Hall of Fame was approved by the MAC Council of Presidents in 1987. The charter class was inducted in 1988 and subsequent classes were added in 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1994. After six induction classes, the MAC Hall of Fame maintained 52 members until it was reinstated in May 2012. This year’s class brings the number of MAC Hall of Fame inductees to 102 individuals from 15 classes.

Rockets Earn Record 3.527 Grade Point Average in Spring Semester

University of Toledo student-athletes earned a combined grade point average of 3.527 in the 2020 spring semester, Vice President and Athletic Director Mike O’Brien announced today. It is the highest semester GPA for the Rockets, shattering the previous record of 3.306 set in spring 2019.

It is also the third consecutive semester in which UToledo student-athletes have earned a semester GPA of 3.3 or higher, and the 11th straight semester above a 3.2.

Softball recorded the highest semester team GPA with a mark of 3.812, the highest ever for a Rocket team. Men’s tennis (3.780), women’s coss country (3.776), women’s soccer (3.775), men’s golf (3.768), men’s cross country (3.745), and women’s swimming and diving (3.742) were each above the 3.7 mark, the first time in school history that seven teams had GPAs above a 3.7.

Other highlights from this past semester include:

• 20.4 percent (73 of 357) of student-athletes earned President’s List honors with a perfect 4.0 GPA.

• 57.4 percent (205 of 357) earned a spot on the Dean’s List by garnering at least a 3.50 GPA.

• 87.4 percent (312 of 357) made the Honor Roll by securing a 3.00 GPA or higher.

“Under unprecedented circumstances, our student-athletes rose to the occasion to have another outstanding semester in the classroom. They have set a very high standard of excellence in the past, but to eclipse the previous GPA record by more than two points is simply amazing,” O’Brien said. “This achievement says so much about the priorities of our student-athletes, coaches and staff. Special congratulations to Head Coach Joe Abraham and the softball team for setting the record for the highest team GPA in our school’s history.

“I would also like to express recognition to Associate Athletic Director for Academic Services Ericka Lavender and the Student Athlete Academic Services (SAAS) staff for putting in long hours and extra effort to help our student-athletes adjust to the mid-semester switch to remote learning. This is a very proud day for University of Toledo Athletics.”

Lavender added, “I am extremely proud of our student-athletes, SAAS staff and coaches for their tremendous work and effort during such an unprecedented time this semester. I would like to thank the UToledo faculty, staff and administration. This could not be possible without their support.”

UToledo Assistant Director of Sports Medicine Named Division I Assistant Head Athletic Trainer of Year

University of Toledo Assistant Director of Sports Medicine Brad Pierson has been named the Division I Assistant Head Athletic Trainer of the Year by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) and the Intercollegiate Council for Sports Medicine (ICSM).

Each year, NATA and ICSM honor the hard work and dedication of outstanding individuals who have devoted their time, energy and talents to the betterment of the athletic training profession.

“I’m extremely honored to be recognized by the NATA and ICSM for this award,” Pierson said. “To be nominated by my peers for this award is extremely humbling. There are athletic trainers across the country that do amazing work day in and day out, and for me to be recognized in this group of professionals is pretty incredible. The opportunity to provide healthcare for some outstanding student-athletes makes the long days well worth it. I want to thank my co-workers, coaches, and department administrators, because without their support, I would not be successful in my work.”

Pierson recently completed his seventh season as a member of The University of Toledo sports medicine staff and second year as the assistant director of sports medicine and associate head athletic trainer. Pierson works directly with the women’s basketball program and also oversees the graduate assistant athletic trainers who cover the track and field and men’s and women’s cross country programs.

“As the ICSM awards committee reviewed the many exceptional nominees for the Staff Athletic Trainer of the Year Award, Brad rose to the top of the list,” said Steve Hillmer, a member of the ICSM Awards Committee. “Brad has been involved in increasing the quality and services provided to all of the student-athletes at The University of Toledo. His ability to work with various resources on campus to increase the care for the student-athletes is a model for every institution nationally. With all of his responsibilities on campus, Brad still finds the time and energy to serve the profession through his work at the state, regional and national level by volunteering on several committees. He is a role model for all athletic trainers in our profession.”

Pierson came to Toledo after spending two years at Mid-American Conference member Eastern Michigan, where he was the primary athletic trainer for the men’s basketball, crew and women’s volleyball teams.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in athletic training in 2009 from Alderson-Broaddus College in Philippi, W.Va., before going to EMU to earn a master’s degree in exercise physiology in 2011 and working on the sports medicine staff as a graduate assistant.

In 2011, Pierson accepted a position at the West Virginia University Institute of Technology as an assistant athletic trainer and professor in the Physical Education Department.

A native of Charleston, W.Va., Pierson is a certified athletic trainer in the National Athletic Trainers’ Association.

“Brad is clearly one of the best young professionals I have worked with in my 22 years at Toledo,” said Associate Athletic Director for Sports Medicine Brian Jones. “His passion for this profession, the care he provides to our student-athletes, and his compassionate personality truly make him a fantastic recipient of this award. I’m truly honored to have Brad as a member of our Toledo sports medicine family.”