COLUMBUS, Ga. - University of Illinois assistant wrestling coach Jim Heffernan has been nominated for the AFLAC National Assistant Coach of the Year Award. High schools and colleges nationwide have been invited to nominate candidates for this new and unique award program, which is designed to honor some of the truly unsung heroes of American team sports. Heffernan is currently in his 11th season as assistant coach at Illinois and his 13th with head coach Mark Johnson (two seasons at Oregon State). During that time, Heffernan has helped the Illini to six Top-10 finishes in 10 seasons after a 36-year drought. Illinois has crowned six national champions over the last 10 years, fourth-most behind Iowa, Oklahoma State and Iowa State. Heffernan has twice been named the National Wrestling Coaches Association's Assistant Coach of the Year in both 1995 and 2001. The program, which is administered by Scholastic Coach & Athletic Director Magazine, the bible of the coaching profession since 1931, will select up to 500 male and female winners in all sports from the thousands who will be nominated. A blue-ribbon panel of top prep sportswriters from across the country will be responsible for the final selections. Winners will be selected according to a list of criteria, including longevity, knowledge, long-term successes, special contributions to the school and/or community, and overcoming obstacles, among others. The winners will be announced May 1, 2003. The AFLAC National Assistant Coach of the Year Award should become highly sought by assistant coaches everywhere. With more than 350,000 assistant coaches nationwide, the award will be highly selective.