Older than The Heisman (1935), the AAU Sullivan Award honors the outstanding athlete in the United States. It has been presented annually by the AAU since 1930 as a salute to founder and past president of the Amateur Athletic Union, and a pioneer in amateur sports, James E. Sullivan. Based on the qualities of leadership, character, and sportsmanship, the AAU Sullivan Award goes far beyond athletic accomplishments and honors those who have shown strong moral character as well.
The AAU James E. Sullivan Award annually recognizes the outstanding athlete whose athletic accomplishments are complemented by qualities of leadership, character and sportsmanship. Winners achieve great success on a national and/or international stage through competition in collegiate athletics, Olympic pursuit or similar high profile competitions. Presented by the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), the AAU Sullivan Award symbolizes the fostering of a community of respected athletes whose example provides a great model to our AAU athletes.