As the most exciting time in NCAA college basketball comes to a close for the year, FCA is proud to present its annual John Lotz “Barnabas” Award to Embry-Riddle Aeronautic University’s (ERAU) Steve Ridder for his leadership, dedication and commitment both on and off the court.
The award is given annually to honor a basketball coach who best exhibits a commitment to Christ, integrity and encouragement to others, and lives a balanced life. Ridder is the 21st winner of the “Barnabas” Award, named for former North Carolina assistant and Florida head coach John Lotz.
“Steve Ridder exemplifies the ideals of the John Lotz Award — commitment, integrity, and encouragement,” said Shane Williamson, FCA President and CEO. “We at FCA have loved watching Ridder lead both on and off the court and truly impact the lives of his players.”
Ridder has posted a career record of 740-306, all at Embry-Riddle, putting him 43rd all-time in career wins among college men’s basketball coaches, while his .707 winning percentage is currently 9th-best amongst active coaches with at least 600 victories.
Since taking over at ERAU, Ridder has recorded over two decades worth of 20-win seasons, including five campaigns with 30 or more victories. From 1990-2015, Ridder posted a Sun Conference record of 241-83 (.744), which represents the most wins and best winning percentage in league history.
The Eagles reached the NAIA pinnacle in 1999-00, claiming the ERAU athletic department’s first-ever national championship with a 75-63 win over national tournament host College of the Ozarks. During Ridder’s tenure, 37 players have earned All-America honors, including eight NAIA first team All-Americans, while 61 Eagles have garnered All-Conference accolades. Just as importantly, Ridder has seen 38 student-athletes record Academic All-Conference recognition and 18 grab NAIA Scholar-Athlete laurels.
The success of Ridder’s Embry-Riddle program has not gone unnoticed as he has earned eight different Coach of the Year honors and five separate Hall of Fame inductions. Following his team’s national title in 1999-00, Ridder was named the NAIA National Coach of the Year, and less than 10 years later, was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame (2009). Ridder is also enshrined in the Florida Association of Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame, the Berea College Hall of Fame, the Northern Kentucky Hall of Fame and the Bellevue High School Hall of Fame.
In 2022, shortly after leading Embry-Riddle to the NCAA II Sweet 16, Ridder was honored with the Harry Statham Coach of Impact Award by Small College Basketball. The award honored Ridder for using the power of the coaching platform to make a positive impact on players, coaches and others.
In addition to his coaching role, Ridder served as Embry-Riddle’s Director of Athletics for 20 years (1993 – 2013), overseeing major growth in the department. Under his watchful eye, the Embry-Riddle Athletic Department transformed into one of the elite athletic programs in the nation, including 14 consecutive top 25 finishes in the NACDA/Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup and 14 straight Sun Conference Commissioner’s Cup, awarded to the best overall athletic program in the league.
For his leadership as Director of Athletics, Ridder earned the highest NAIA athletic administration honor in 2006 when he was named the NAIA Athletics Director of the Year. Ridder also earned Sun Conference Athletic Administrator of the Year accolades eight times and NAIA Southeast Region Athletic Administrator of the Year honors three times.
In 2004-05, Steve and his wife Vicky were honored by many loyal athletic supporters with the establishment of the Steve and Vicky Ridder Endowed Scholarship. Through fundraised dollars, a scholarship is awarded annually to a student-athlete who best represents the philosophical mode of “Student, Person, Player.”
Since its launch by FCA in 2003, the “Barnabas” Award has honored an impressive and impactful lineup of coaches. Past winners and their respective schools at the time of the award are: John Wooden, UCLA (2004); Steve Alford, Iowa (2006); Ritchie McKay, Virginia (2009); Tom Crean, Indiana (2013); Hubert Davis, North Carolina (2018); Scott Drew, Baylor (2019); Tony Bennett, Virginia (2020); Brad Soucie, Liberty University (2021); and Greg Tonagel, Indiana Wesleyan (2022).
Photos courtesy of Todd Townsend