AUSTIN — The University Interscholastic League is proud to announce the distinguished recipients of the 2023 UIL Sponsor Excellence Award, celebrating 15 outstanding sponsors who have demonstrated unparalleled commitment to students’ extracurricular development in Texas.
The winners were selected by a panel of judges in the areas of academics, athletics and music from nominations submitted by school principals and superintendents across the state.
The award, now in its 33rd year, was created to identify and recognize outstanding sponsors who enable students to develop and refine their extracurricular talents to the highest degree possible within the education system.
“The commitment and dedication of sponsors, coaches and directors, exemplified by these award winners, are the driving force behind the invaluable benefits of interscholastic competition and student performance,” said UIL Executive Director Dr. Charles Breithaupt. “The UIL takes pride in acknowledging and honoring these exceptional individuals with this prestigious award.”
Each winner will receive $1,000 and a symbolic memento from the UIL in recognition of their outstanding achievements in the pursuit of educational excellence through interscholastic competition. The League continually strives to strengthen and promote the role of extracurricular activities in Texas through programs like the UIL Sponsor Excellence Award.
The UIL Sponsor Excellence Award winners for 2023 are as follows:
Walter (Leroy) Arnold – Pflugerville Weiss High School
Walter (Leroy) Arnold has served as a swimming and diving coach in Pflugerville ISD for eight years, initially as an assistant coach at Pflugerville Weiss High School in 2017 before becoming the head coach in 2018. He has also taken on more head coaching duties within Pflugerville ISD, leading Pflugerville High School from 2019 to 2020 and Pflugerville Connally High School in 2021. Arnold has coached 63 regional qualifiers, 38 state qualifiers and achieved state titles in six different events. He received the District Swim Coach of the Year Award for three consecutive seasons and was honored as the District Dive Coach of the Year in 2021. Additionally, he increased Weiss High School’s swimming team membership from 12 to 47 since 2017.
“I believe the purpose of athletics is to develop the student athlete to the best of their ability,” Arnold said. “Sportsmanship, team work and dedication to all facets of athletics and academics are what we should be about.”
Chris Brister, Cypress Falls High School
Chris Brister has amassed 28 years of coaching experience, with the last seven as head football coach and athletic coordinator at Cypress Falls High School. During his tenure, his teams have made it to the state playoffs five times, reaching the area round three times. Serving as the school’s recruiting coordinator, Brister facilitated 146 players in securing college scholarships, achieving an overall 93% passing rate for all student-athletes at Cypress Falls. In the past year, Brister served as the president of the Greater Houston Football Coaches Association and presented at various football coaching clinics
“I believe athletics is used in addition to academics to foster growth in all students,” said Brister. “An athletic program that emphasizes discipline, accountability, community service and time management
will help our students to compete in more than athletics.”
Daniel Cope, Riesel High School
Daniel Cope has accumulated 11 years of coaching experience at Riesel High School, holding head coaching roles in boys basketball, boys and girls golf, and cross country. His teams have qualified for the state playoffs in seven seasons, securing two district championships. As offensive coordinator for football, Cope has contributed to seven playoff qualifications and three regional semifinal advancements. He also serves as an assistant coach for Riesel track and field, guiding multiple individuals to the regional tournament. Additionally, Cope plays a role as an academics science coach for the district.
“I desire to inspire my athletes to achieve their greatest potential, in the classroom, on the field or court and in life,” Cope said. “The competitive nature of sports is one of the best ways to learn about things such as: leadership, responsibility, accountability, hard work, and perseverance.”
Beth Dill, Slidell High School
Beth Dill, with 34 years of experience as an academic coach, currently coaches at Slidell High School. Throughout her career, she has guided students in journalism, one-act play, prose and poetry, speech, and ready writing. Dill’s accomplishments include leading teams to two UIL team academic state championships, participating in the UIL One-Act Play State Contest seven times, and advancing multiple students to the UIL Academic State Meet. Her involvement extends to being a member of the UIL One-Act Play Advisory Committee, UIL Prose and Poetry Advisory Committee, and UIL Regional Speech Advisory Committee. Dill has actively hosted district academics meets and OAP clinics, in addition to presenting at various UIL conferences.
“UIL activities afford students amazing opportunities to achieve their potential,” Dill said. “The organization empowers students to shine personally and academically.”
Donna Forbis, O’Donnell High School
With 17 years of academic coaching experience, Donna Forbis has dedicated the last 13 years to leading the debate program at O’Donnell High School. Under her guidance, students have excelled in various categories, competing at UIL state meets in CX debate, Lincoln-Douglas debate, prose, journalism, congress, and one-act play. Notably, at the state level, Forbis led individuals to a third-place finish in LD debate, a second-place finish in prose, and a headline writing finalist in journalism. Forbis has hosted numerous UIL academic meets, district and regional OAP meets, OAP clinics, and served on the regional speech committee.
“Involvement with UIL Academics and One-Act Play provides opportunities for students to learn
and demonstrate skills that will help them in the classroom and throughout their lives,” Forbis said. Through this journey, our students are strengthening commitment, responsibility, leadership skills, and also building friendships.”
Stephanie Martinez, Karnes City High School
Stephanie Martinez has been coaching academics for the past 23 years. Throughout her career, Martinez has led her students to more than 10 appearances in numerous events at the UIL State Academic Meet. As the academic director at Karnes City High School, Martinez has led her teams to back-to-back academic team and speech district championships. Additionally, Martinez has hosted district contests in one-act play, CX debate, Lincoln-Douglas debate, and is currently serving on the Region 3 Congress Committee.
“Even though competition is designed to produce winners and losers, that cannot be just what success is based on,” Martinez said. Based on that, winning should be a part of the objective, but teaching life lessons and establishing friendship and camaraderie through competition is what is most important.”
Kristi Mayes, Godley High School
Kristi Mayes has been a coach for the past 24 years with stops at Stephenville High School, Brock High School, and currently at Godley High School. She has coached girls basketball her entire career and has led her teams to 10 district titles, eight regional semifinals, three regional finals, and one state championship. Mayes has also been a softball coach for 15 years, leading her squads to five district titles, 11 area appearances, and two regional quarterfinal appearances. She has coached boys and girls cross country for 10 years, winning nine combined district titles, advancing to 19 regional meets and three state appearances. Mayes has also coached track and field and volleyball, as well as coaching academics in headline writing. Throughout her career she has also been deeply engaged in Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Fields of Faith.
“I believe students who compete learn to advocate for themselves, understand the importance of
collaboration with others and embrace individual growth and development,” Mayes said. Through competition, students are also privy to learning how to manage successes and failures, adapting when
adversity strikes and encouraging others to rise above their own expectations.”
Rashidur Rahman, Argyle High School
Rashidur Rahman has coached accounting, computer applications, and computer science at Argyle High School since 2004. While consistently guiding her students to the UIL Academic State Meet, the last three years have witnessed remarkable success in these events. Under Rahman’s leadership, the accounting team secured the state title, achieving the highest team score across all conferences. In computer science, her teams have consistently placed in the top-3 each year. This collective success has significantly contributed to Argyle High School, which has won the Academic Team State Championship an impressive 16 times in Rahman’s 20 years of coaching.
“Students who are in UIL academics are better prepared for college, and I have students who concur with that sentiment as well,” Rahman said. My students don’t compete to win, but they compete to improve themselves.”
Eric Rath, Canyon High School
With 23 years of teaching experience, Eric Rath has served as director of bands at Canyon High School for the past four years. He has led the program to three consecutive UIL Marching Band State Contest appearances, advancing to the finals in 2022 finishing sixth overall. The band consistently received sweepstakes ratings in marching, concert, and sight-reading competitions. Rath’s extensive background includes roles as a band director at Panhandle High School, assistant director of bands at Canyon Randall High School, and a middle school band director at both Canyon Junior High and Zavala Middle School. Throughout his career, he has presented at numerous clinics and camps and hosted UIL concert and sight-reading contests.
“My philosophy of competition in the school’s basic educational mission is rooted in the belief that
healthy competition can be a powerful tool for fostering growth and development among
students,” said Rath. “In a competitive environment, students are more likely to push their own boundaries and discover their full potential.”
Cy Scroggins, Canyon Randall High School
Cy Scroggins has dedicated 17 years to teaching theater at Sonora High School and, more recently, at Canyon Randall High School. During his career, he has steered his one-act play casts to 13 regional appearances and nine state appearances, capturing three state championships. Under his guidance, 20 students have earned state acting awards and one received the Outstanding Technician Award. Additionally, Scroggins has led his speech teams to 11 state individual appearances, with four individuals winning medals and one clinching the state championship. Beyond the classroom, he has hosted numerous OAP festivals, presented at multiple theater workshops, and has served on both the UIL Regional Speech Advisory Committee and the Texas Educational Theater Association Board of Directors.
“UIL is an excellent vehicle for students to be empowered in academics and character development. Competition drives students to use and deepen skills learned in the classroom in a practical way,” Scroggins said. The character development learned through UIL competitions can change the course of the students’ lives.”
Rodney Sheffield, Magnolia High School
Rodney Sheffield boasts 35 years of coaching experience, with the last 12 spent at Magnolia High School as the theater director. Over the course of his career, Sheffield has advanced his students to the UIL One-Act Play State Finals on nine occasions, securing a second-place finish, and capturing state titles in 1998 and 2003. His students have earned 22 individual state awards, including distinctions such as Best Actor, Best Actress, and the Samuel French Outstanding Performer Award. Sheffield’s extensive contribution to the theatrical community includes hosting more than 50 OAP contests and active involvement in organizations such as the Texas Educational Theater Association Board of Directors. Additionally, he has shared his expertise by presenting at events such as the TETA Conference, TETA TheaterFest, Capital Conference, and UIL Super Conferences.
“Every student can be successful by being their best,” Sheffield said. “As a teacher and a director, my philosophy has always been that I want students to be the best they can be and to push themselves to go beyond what they thought they could accomplish.”
Andy Speir, Dallas Highland Park High School
Andy Speir brings two decades of academic coaching experience, with the past six years at Dallas Highland Park High School. During his career, he has led his calculator applications, mathematics and number sense teams collectively to 35 individual district championships, 32 team district championships, nine individual state championships, and seven team state championships. In addition to his coaching responsibilities, Speir has hosted multiple UIL academic meets and UIL math and science meets.
“The UIL academic competitions allow students to show the skills they have learned in the
classroom while also motivating them to go beyond what they have learned in the classroom and
extend their knowledge,” said Speir. “I enjoy watching students along their UIL journey and seeing how they improve at the content, as well as learning from others and teaching others.”
Ricardo Torres, Del Rio High School
Ricardo Torres has two decades of coaching experience in track and field, including 17 years as the head coach and last two as athletic coordinator at Del Rio High School. Throughout his tenure, he guided his teams to secure four district team championships, one area team championship, and produced an impressive tally of 109 regional individual qualifiers, seven state individual qualifiers, with one emerging as the state individual champion. Torres has also had 25 student-athletes successfully transition to compete in collegiate track and field during his career.
“Through encouraging and/or demanding high academic achievement, promoting great
sportsmanship at all times, and instilling and modeling outstanding leadership qualities, we as
coaches will be an important contributor in the development of the whole student-athlete,” said Torres. In
doing this we provide our athletes with tools of opportunity to develop their athletic skills to the
highest level possible.”
Anthony Williams, Mount Pleasant Chapel Hill High School
With a background spanning more than 24 years in academic coaching, Anthony Williams has dedicated the last 18 years to serving as the UIL academic coordinator at Mount Pleasant Chapel Hill High School. Under his leadership, the computer applications team secured seven state titles, while the computer science team achieved three state titles (2-team, 1-individual). Throughout his career, Williams has guided 36 individuals to compete in the UIL Academic State Meet, with 20 of them making multiple appearances at the state level. Beyond his school achievements, he has served on the UIL Computer Science Advisory Committee, the UIL Computer Applications Leadership Panel and has hosted numerous spring academic meets. Williams has also helped with the Student Activities Conference for computer applications at Tyler Junior College.
“I think creating a culture of competition is one of most important things that you can give a student. In life, everyone will face adversity,” said Williams. It’s not if, but when and teaching that young person to not only bet on themselves but also knowing that someone has faith and confidence in them.”
Dorothy Wilson, Katy Cinco Ranch High School
Dorothy Wilson, a seasoned choir director with 26 years of experience, currently serves at Katy Cinco Ranch High School. Under her leadership, her students have participated in the UIL Concert and Sightreading Contest and the UIL Texas Solo and Ensemble Contest. Wilson’s choirs have earned invitations to perform twice at the Texas Music Educators Association Convention and once at the Southwestern American Choral Directors Association Convention. Notably, five of her students have been honored as Most Outstanding Performer at the UIL Texas State Solo & Ensemble Contest. Beyond directing, Wilson has hosted UIL concert and sightreading contests and has served one term on the UIL Prescribed Music List Committee and four terms on the UIL Music Advisory Committee.
“Life is a contest. Choir provides a means for students to learn how to compete while doing something they enjoy,” Wilson said. “Students learn the skills necessary to prepare for the competition and they learn how to handle setbacks from competitive losses.”