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Sooner Gymnasts Earn Scholarships
June 02, 2009

June 2, 2009

NORMAN, Okla. - Former University of Oklahoma gymnasts Haley DeProspero and Jake Messina were among 24 Big 12 student-athletes selected to receive 2008-09 Dr. Prentice Gautt Postgraduate Scholarships, the conference office announced Tuesday.

The scholarships are named in honor of the late Dr. Gautt, a former Big 12 Conference staff member and student services’ pioneer. Also a graduate of the University of Oklahoma, Gautt was the first African-American to receive a scholarship from OU to play football, breaking down racial barriers that opened doors to other Sooner student-athletes. The university posthumously celebrated the 50th anniversary of his historic actions at OU during the 2006 Sooner football season and OU’s student-athlete academic center is named in his honor.

Gautt passed away in March 2005.

DeProspero and Messina were two of a record 117 OU student-athletes to graduate during the current academic year with degrees in zoology and environmental science, respectively.

An eight-time honoree on the Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll and recipient of the OU Athletic Director’s Leadership Award in 2009, DeProspero will start classes at The University of Texas at Houston Medical School in the fall. 

A four-time NACGC All-Academic Scholar and three-time Academic All-Big 12 first team selection, DeProspero was recently named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District VI first team, awarded by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).

A two-time conference champion on beam, DeProspero led the Sooners to their second straight Big 12 crown in 2009 and fourth consecutive NCAA appearance, which includes program-best finishes in 2007 and 2008.

Jacob Messina Bio | Haley DeProspero Bio | Big 12 Release

Messina was a part of three National Championships as a Sooner and four MPSF Conference Championships.  Named a co-captain as a senior, Messina earned his second career All-America honor on the pommel horse in 2009. 

The Matthews, N.C., native earned his fourth consecutive Academic All-MPSF team honor earlier this year. Messina has also been honored several times for his work in a "Partners in Education" program developed by Cleveland Elementary music teacher Regina Bell and OU Head Coach Mark Williams.  

Messina is looking to pursue a master’s degree in athletic administration at Oklahoma.

Individual grants began at $2,500 in 1996-97 and were raised to $5,000 in 1999. In 2004-05, the grants were $6,900 apiece and have since been increased to $7,500. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.50 on a 4.00 scale; participate in intercollegiate athletics at the nominee’s school for at least two years; and have completed his/her athletics eligibility. The student-athlete must graduate from the nominee’s respective member institution within 15 months of receiving the award and is expected to enroll in graduate/professional school within two years of graduation.

The list of all-time recipients has grown to 225 since the inception of the league in 1996-97. Starting in 2002-03, additional funding increased scholarship award winners to two per member institution.

To date the Big 12 has provided $1,385,600 for postgraduate education.

Selections were made by a panel that included three faculty athletics representatives, one senior woman administrator and one director of athletics.

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