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Sondheimer receives award

By Daily Bruin Staff

Jan. 9, 2001 9:00 p.m.

  File photo Michael Sondheimer

By Pauline Vu
Daily Bruin Senior Staff

It all started with an opening in the Sports department.

In 1974, Michael Sondheimer was writing for the News department
of the Daily Bruin when he heard there was an opening in Sports.
Sondheimer only knew a little bit about volleyball, but he took on
the task of covering it anyway. That started a love of the game
that has lasted since and recently resulted in his winning the
Grant Burger Media Award, the highest media award for volleyball
promotion.

“It’s a big honor because it’s picked from
media members across the country in all different aspects of
volleyball,” said Sondheimer, UCLA’s associate athletic
director. “To win it really meant something special, to be
recognized in a sport I’ve worked so hard and long
in.”

The award, sponsored by the American Volleyball Coaches
Association, was presented to Sondheimer on Dec. 16 at the 2000
AVCA National Convention.

“Michael Sondheimer has been a pioneer in the promotion of
volleyball to the nation and has contributed immensely in bringing
recognition to the sport,” said AVCA executive director
Sandra Vivas in a statement.

After first covering the men’s team as a reporter,
Sondheimer also began covering women’s volleyball. Both
sports were coached by the current coaches, Al Scates (men) and
Andy Banachowski (women).

“I had minor knowledge of (volleyball). Al Scates and Andy
Banachowski taught me what I know,” Sondheimer said.

Scates still remembers Sondheimer as a reporter.

“We called him “˜the Muff’ because he had hair
out to here,” he said, holding his hands about six inches
from his head.

A few years after covering the Bruins, Sondheimer became sports
editor of the Daily Bruin, where he continued promoting
volleyball.

“He set a record for the number of days that we had
articles on the front page,” Scates said.

After graduation, Sondheimer went to work in the athletic
department as promotion director of women’s sports. In 1983,
he won the first Virgo Nelson Award for innovative volleyball media
guides. That season’s women’s guide included statistics
and records that were not found in most media guides, but are
standard today.

Also, the current official NCAA box score was created off of
statistical forms Sondheimer developed in the 1970s for men’s
volleyball championships.

From his first exposure to volleyball to today, Sondheimer
remains a huge fan. He has seen 25 of the last 27 men’s
championships in person, whether or not UCLA was playing in the
game.

But the Bruin championship he remembers most is the 1984
women’s championship in Pauley Pavilion, UCLA’s first
ever. The Bruins had lost in the finals in 1981 and 1983, and
things were looking bleak in 1984. Down 12-4, and then 13-7 in the
decisive fifth game against Stanford, the Bruins mounted a steady
comeback to take game five and the national championship.

“To this day it’s the greatest comeback in
women’s volleyball NCAA history for a game five,”
Sondheimer said.

He also helps coach the alumni team in men’s
volleyball.

Sondheimer found out he won the Grant Burger Award in an e-mail
from a friend while he was in Sydney, Australia as a statistician
and research announcer in indoor and beach volleyball for the
Olympics.

“I never found out from the AVCA. I was very much
surprised,” he said.

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