Based on the nominations for the 2012 Pepsi Dinner of Champions, it was coaches who were the leading lights on the local sports scene in 2011.
Three coaches, including Vanderbilt’s Tim Corbin and James Franklin, are among the five finalists for Sports Person of the Year. Belmont’s Rick Byrd is the other coach in the group, which also includes Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne and IRL driver Dario Franchitti.
The complete list of nominations was announced Tuesday by the Nashville Sports Council.
Corbin led the Commodores to the College World Series for the first time. They finished third behind Southeastern Conference rivals South Carolina and Florida. Pitcher Sonny Gray, who also was drafted in the first round by the Oakland A’s, was named a finalist for the Ed Temple Male Amateur Athletics Award.
Franklin, in his first season, led Vanderbilt’s football team to a bowl game, just the fifth in program history. The Commodores finished 6-7 following their loss to Cincinnati in the Liberty Bowl. Running back Zach Stacy joined Gray as an Ed Temple Award nominee.
Byrd led Belmont to a perfect record in Atlantic Sun play and a berth in the NCAA tournament.
“We are thrilled to announce with the Nashville Sports Council this amazing list of very deserving nominees,” Buddy Lewis, vice president general manager of Pepsi Beverage Company’s Tennessee/Western Kentucky Market Unit, said in a release. “We look forward to recognizing these special individuals and teams for their 2011 achievements.”
The 14th Annual Pepsi Dinner of Champions takes place Feb. 22 at the Grand Ole Opry House. The event begins with a silent auction and reception at 5:30, and the awards presentation commences at 7 p.m.
Individual tickets for non-Sports Council members at $100, which includes an invitation to a backstage reception, event parking, a Bronze level membership to the Nashville Sports Council, and a commemorative gift. General admission seating is available for $15 ($10 with a KrogerPlus Card).
“The 14th Annual Pepsi Celebration of Champions presented by Kroger is a one-of-a-kind experience, that brings sports fans throughout Middle Tennessee together to celebrate our community’s accomplishments in sports,” Scott Ramsey, president and CEO of the Nashville Sports Council, said. “We are excited to recognize some of the greatest athletes and achievements and all of the positives that sports delivered to our community in 2011."