May 7, 2014
The Big Ten Conference is celebrating 100 years of the Medal of Honor in 2014. Minnesota will announce its 2014 male and female winners on June 4. Until then, we will look back at some previous student-athletes who were bestowed with the Big Ten Medal of Honor, which is one of the most prestigious conference awards in college athletics. The Big Ten Medal of Honor was first awarded in 1915 to one student-athlete from the graduating class of each university who had “attained the greatest proficiency in athletics and scholastic work.” It was the first award in intercollegiate athletics to demonstrate support for the educational emphasis placed on athletics and was acclaimed throughout the nation, and in particular by the NCAA “as one of the significant gestures yet made in college sports.”
Carol Ann (Shudlick) Smith is the only women’s basketball player in program history to win the Medal of Honor, which is one of many honors and awards for the All-American. A 1994 recipient of the Big Ten Medal of Honor, Shudlick led Minnesota to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in her senior season and was named the Wade Trophy winner and Big Ten Player of the Year that same year. Shudlick ranks in the top 10 in numerous Gopher categories, including second in scoring (2,097), seventh in blocks (84) and steals (173), and eighth in rebounds (727). She was a two-time All-American, three-time All-Big Ten selection and Academic All-Big Ten honoree. Following her collegiate career, Shudlick played professionally overseas and in the ABL. She was inducted into the "M" Club Hall of Fame, was honored on the NCAA's list of 209 student-athletes named "NCAA Women's Basketball's Finest," and had her No. 42 jersey retired in 2003.
GopherSports: You are the only Gopher women's basketball player to receive the Big Ten Medal of Honor. What did that accomplishment mean to you?
Carol Ann (Shudlick) Smith: Considering the outstanding and talented women that have played for the Gophers over the years, I felt very honored and humbled to receive the Big Ten Medal of Honor. At the time I think it was difficult to grasp the honor, but I worked hard at Minnesota in the classroom and on the court, so it is definitely an accomplishment I value.
GS: How would you rank receiving the Big Ten Medal of Honor among your collegiate athletic career accomplishments?
CAS: I remember receiving the award, but at the time I was not focusing on individual accomplishments. My number one priority was helping our team make it to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. But, now that I can reflect back on this honor, I really consider it at the top with the Wade Trophy.
GS: What are some of your favorite memories from your time at Minnesota?
CAS: Our 1994 NCAA Tournament appearance, beating Iowa my senior year and my teammates!
GS: How closely do you follow the Gopher women's basketball program today?
CAS: We live in the Chicago area, so we try to make it back for at least one home game every year. Plus, we always have the Gopher games on TV and a flag out front! It is fun to create a connection and loyalty for our kids.
GS: How did your time at Minnesota prepare you for your professional playing career overseas and in the ABL?
CAS: I think the level of competition in the Big Ten was extremely important in preparing me for post-college ball. You never have a night off when the Big Ten season starts, because there is never an easy win. I grew tremendously as a player and I was physically and mentally tougher because of that competition.
GS: You enjoy doing volunteer work. What got you interested in community service?
CAS: I feel blessed to have received a college scholarship to play a sport I love. That scholarship allowed me to start my career debt free. I feel the need to give my time not only as a way to help others, but to show my appreciation for the education I received at the U.
GS: What are you doing today with your degree from the University of Minnesota?
CAS: My degree in journalism from Minnesota has allowed me to work in many sectors. Right now I am a stay-at-home mom, so I’m using my degree at home and in my volunteer work.
GS: Do you still keep in touch with your teammate and/or coaches at Minnesota?
CAS: We are still a very close group as teammates. We try to connect at alumni events, get the hubbies and kids together in the summer and travel for girl’s weekends!