The ESPYs broke tradition last night when they posthumously awarded the "Best Coach" award to three coaches and educators who worked at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Scott Beigel, Aaron Fies, and Chris Hixon while protecting their students in February when a gunman opened fire at the school. Their families were in attendance at the ESPN event and accepted the award on their behalf.
Beigel, Fies and Hixon "were more than just coaches. They were heroes," ESPN said in a tweet.
A video that honored the three coaches was played for the audience at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Scott Beigel, a cross-country coach, was honored by one of his team members. "You never felt like you couldn't tell him something. He was just warm, and funny," runner Monique Miquel said about her late coach in the video.
Speaking about assistant football coach Aaron Feis, Gage Gaynor said, "I trusted him. Over the years, we built a bond; a lot of people did, too."
"I know the next two years I am going to struggle, because after all this, if anything, I would want to talk to him instead of a counselor, but I can't talk to him anymore, so it sucks," Sarah Ochoa said of the school's wrestling coach and athletic director Chris Hixon. The video was narrated by "Friday Night Lights" star Connie Britton, the Sun-Sentinel reports.
Elliott Bonner, who's been an assistant football and baseball coach at the school since 1997, spoke at the ceremony, the paper reports, saying: "Scott, Aaron and Chris were heroes and they were coaches. But they were also husbands, fathers and sons. The issue of gun violence and what happened at our school isn't a political issue. It's a human issue. Lives were lost that didn't have to be."
In all, 17 students and faculty were killed in the Parkland school shooting.
In the past, the ESPYs "Best Coach" award has gone to coaches strictly for their work on the field, ESPN says. Previous recipients include Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson and New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
But this time, the recipients were honored not just for their achievements as coaches, but for "their immeasurable bravery in the face of danger and for their ultimate sacrifice to protect the lives of countless students," said Alison Overholt, vice president and editor in chief of ESPN The Magazine.