Collegiate Athlete Hall of Fame inducts 30 big names in athletics

The Collegiate Athlete Hall of Fame doesn’t yet have an official home or even a selection committee, but it does have a doozy of an inaugural class.

Thirty of the greatest college track and field and cross-country athletes will be inducted into their own halls of fame on Monday night at a ceremony at the Hult Center.

It’s a class that includes Jesse Owens and Wilma Rudolph, Carl Lewis and Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Jim Ryun and Jenny Simpson, and of course, Steve Prefontaine.

And that’s just the beginning, said Sam Seemes, CEO of the US Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) and driving force behind the creation of the Collegiate Athlete Hall of Fame.

“Reaching 30 was extremely difficult, but you also have to do it in big chunks or you’ll never be caught,” Seemes said. “I kind of resisted calling it the inaugural class because the first two, three or four years will probably be the inaugural class. They just have to be separated to do that.

Steve Prefontaine during his last race, at Hayward Field in 1975.

The class includes 20 men and 10 women who have combined to win 205 national collegiate individual titles, 19 Olympic gold medals and set 99 world records.

Eligibility for induction this year was limited to men who had completed their college career before 2000 and to women before 2010.

Although many of Monday’s inductees have achieved great success as professionals, they were selected for the College Athlete Hall of Fame solely on the basis of their accomplishments as a college athlete.

The constitution of the first class began 20 months ago at the start of the pandemic, with Seemes bringing together a group to help with the search.

“It took a lot of time, effort and careful consideration, he said.

When it comes to selections, however, Seemes has done it himself.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee performs the high jump during the heptathlon at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea September 3, 1988. One of the greatest athletes of all time, Joyner-Kersee beat the world record in the heptathlon in the five-discipline event with a score of 7,291 which stood until 2008. She won a total of three gold, one silver and two bronze medals in his four Olympic Games.

“We will eventually go to a committee,” he said. “But if we hadn’t done that, we never would have started. I just accepted that if we want it done that’s how we’re going to do it, and if there’s any criticism you just have to take it, but at least we’re getting started.

The response so far, particularly from athletes, has been anything but critical, Seemes said.

“They were all really, really excited,” he said.

Monday’s two-hour ceremony is hosted by ESPN’s John Anderson.

Simpson, Lewis, Joyner-Kersee and Ryun will attend, as will Ralph Boston (Tennessee State); Suzy (Favor) Hamilton (Wisconsin); Carlette Guidry (Texas); Vicki (Huber) Rudowski (Villanova); Jackie (Johnson) Powell (Arizona State); Suleiman Nyambui (UTEP): Billy Olson (Abilene Christian); and Erick Walder (Arkansas).

A dozen other inductees will have representatives in their place.

Prefontaine’s sister, Linda Prefontaine, will represent the Oregon star who died in 1975. He is the only former Duck in the first round of tryouts, though Eugene resident and Oregon Track Club Elite racer Sally Kipyego a former Texas Tech star, also is inducted.

FILE - Carl Lewis raises his arms in victory as he wins the 100-meter final ahead of third-placed Emmit King, left, at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials at the Coliseum in Los Angeles, June 18, 1984.

Owens, the iconic eight-time NCAA and four-time 1936 Olympic champion from Ohio State, will be represented by her granddaughters Merlene Dortch and Gina Hempfield.

“Our history is rich, rich, rich, Seemes said. “We want to make sure we preserve it and recognize it in the future.”

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Collegiate Athlete Hall of Fame

Induction ceremony: Monday at 7:30 p.m. at the Hult Center

Tickets: Free participation but registration required at https://tickets.hultcenter.org

Male inductees: Ralph Boston (Tennessee State, 1958-1961), Ron Delany (Villanova, 1955-1958), Harrison Dillard (Baldwin Wallace, 1942-1943, 1946-1948), Charlie Greene (Nebraska, 1964-1967), DeHart Hubbard ( Michigan, 1922-1925), Carl Lewis (Houston, 1980-1981), Gerry Lindgren (Washington, 1965-1969), Randy Matson (Texas A&M, 1964-1967), Ralph Metcalfe (Marquette, 1931-1934), Rodney Milburn (South, 1970-1973), Bobby Morrow (Abilene Christian, 1955-1958), Suleiman Nyambui (UTEP, 1978-1982), Billy Olson (Abilene Christian, 1978-1982), Jesse Owens (Ohio State, 1934- 1936), Mel Patton (Southern California, 1946-1949), Steve Prefontaine (Oregon, 1969-1973), Henry Rono (Washington State, 1976-1979), Jim Ryun (Kansas, 1966-1969), Erick Walder ( Arkansas, 1991-1994), John Woodruff (Pittsburgh, 1936-1939).

Female inductees: Jenny Barringer (Colorado, 2005-2009), Suzy Favor (Wisconsin, 1986-1990), Carlette Guidry (Texas, 1988-1991), Vicki Huber (Villanova, 1985-1989), Jackie Johnson (Arizona State, 2004, 2006- 2008), Jackie Joyner (UCLA, 1981-1983, 1985), Sally Kipyego (Texas Tech, 2005-2009), Merlene Ottey (Nebraska, 1980-1984), Meg Ritchie (Arizona, 1980-1983), Wilma Rudolph (Tennessee State, 1959-1963).

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