Eleven to be inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame
A professional golfer, a pair of former University of Arkansas football players and past and present college and high school coaches are among the members of the Class of 2014 for the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
Eleven inductees will be honored when the organization holds its 56th annual induction banquet on Friday, Feb. 28. The banquet will be held at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock.
The Hall of Fame Class of 2014 will consist of six inductees from the regular category, three inductees from the senior category and two inductees from the posthumous category.
Wally Hall of Little Rock is the organization’s president, and Ray Tucker serves as executive director. The Hall of Fame inducted its first class in 1959.
Those being inducted from the regular category are:
- David Bazzel, who played football for the University of Arkansas under head coaches Lou Holtz and Ken Hatfield. Bazzel, a native of Panama City, Fla., was a team captain, a three-year starter and a four-year letterman at linebacker from 1981-85. He was a defensive team captain for the 1985 unit that set a Southwest Conference record of allowing no rushing touchdowns during the conference season. Bazzel, who now co-hosts the morning drive-time program on Little Rock radio station KABZ-FM, 103.7, has since made a name for himself with various sports awards and promotions. He was the chairman of the Arkansas Governor’s Council on Fitness for nine years, was a founder of the Little Rock Touchdown Club in 2004, created the Broyles Award for the nation’s top college assistant football coach in 1996 and created the Golden Boot that is awarded each fall to the winner of the Arkansas-LSU football game. Earlier this year, Bazzel created the Cliff Harris Award to honor the top small college defensive player in the country. Bazzel also was a founder of the state high school weightlifting championships.
- Gary Blair, the head women’s basketball coach at Texas A&M University and a former head women’s basketball coach at the University of Arkansas. Blair, who coached at Arkansas from 1993-2003, is one of only three NCAA Division I women’s basketball coaches to lead two schools to the NCAA Women’s Final Four. He ranks among the top 20 in career victories and in the top 30 by winning percentage among active Division I coaches. Blair already has been inducted into three halls of fame: the Texas High School Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002, the Stephen F. Austin University Ladyjack Hall of Fame in 2008 and the Southland Conference Hall of Honor in 2009. Blair led Arkansas to the 1998 Final Four. The team finished with a 22-11 record. Blair’s overall record at Arkansas was 198-120. He led Texas A&M to the 2011 national championship. The Aggies finished their championship season with a 33-5 record. At the start of this season, Blair had a 237-100 record at Texas A&M and a 645-263 overall record. He was the head coach at Stephen F. Austin from 1985-93, compiling a 210-43 record at the Texas school.
- Ken Duke, a professional golfer who was born in Hope, grew up in Arkadelphia and played college golf at Henderson State University. Duke, who now lives in Florida, turned professional in 1994. In June, Duke won the Travelers Championship, beating Chris Stroud with a birdie on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff. It was Duke’s first PGA Tour win. He also has two wins on the Nationwide Tour and two wins on the Canadian Tour. As a seventh grader, Duke was diagnosed with scoliosis. Doctors at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock determined that he had a 26 percent curvature of the spine and advised him to wear a back brace 23 hours a day. He underwent surgery two years later after the curvature reached 51 percent. Surgeons attached a 16-inch metal rod to his spine, but Duke returned to his high school golf team within months. Duke was inducted into the Arkansas Golf Hall of Fame in October. His best finish in a major championship came when he tied for 13th in the 2008 PGA Championship. He has made the cut at all four major championships in his career.
- Bennie Fuller, a former basketball player that Little Rock’s Emogene Nutt (whose late husband Houston Nutt Sr. was the longtime coach at the Arkansas School for the Deaf) once referred to as the “Wilt Chamberlain of the deaf.” Fuller is the all-time leading scorer in Arkansas boys’ high school basketball history and still ranks fourth on the national list. He scored 4,896 points at the Arkansas School for the Deaf from 1968-71. In Arkansas, no one comes close to Fuller for career points. Jim Bryan of Valley Springs is second with 2,792 points from 1955-58, and Allan Pruett of Rector is third with 2,018 points form 1963-66. Fuller is third nationally on the per-game scoring average list. He averaged 50.9 points per game during the 1970-71 season. In 1971, Fuller scored 102 points in a game against Leola that was played at Arkadelphia. Fuller grew up near Hensley, where he learned to shoot a basketball into a hoop made from a bicycle wheel. Fuller played college basketball at Pensacola Junior College in Florida and received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
- Stephanie Strack Mathis, the career scoring leader in women’s basketball at Arkansas Tech University. Mathis, who played high school basketball at St. Joseph in Conway, was a three-time All-American at Arkansas Tech. She scored 2,298 points during her college career. She helped lead the Golden Suns to NAIA national championships in 1992 and 1993. The team that captured the 1992 title had a 35-1 record and closed the season with a 28-game winning streak. That team won each of its final 27 games by double figures, including an 84-68 win over Wayland Baptist in the national championship game. The Golden Suns went 31-5 the following year and repeated as national champions. Mathis scored 670 points that season, including 30 points against Union University in the national championship game. During Mathis’ four years as a Golden Sun, the team went 124-15 overall and 56-6 in Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference play. Tech was 52-3 in home games during Mathis’ four seasons. In high school, she had 1,748 career points at St. Joseph and was a two-time All-State player.
- Dennis Winston, a Forrest City native who played high school football at Marianna and later was a linebacker for the Arkansas Razorbacks from 1973-76. Winston was part of a signing class that included 13 black players, the most ever to that point at Arkansas. He went on to play 11 seasons in the NFL for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New Orleans Saints. Winston was a member of Steeler teams that won the Super Bowl following the 1978 and 1979 seasons. He started at left outside linebacker for the injured Jack Ham in Super Bow XIV. He also made history for the Saints in the New Orleans Superdome in November 1984 when he returned an interception 47 yards for a touchdown, leading New Orleans to its first win in prime time on Monday Night Football. Winston began his coaching career in 1992 as Grambling University’s defensive coordinator under the legendary Eddie Robinson, serving in that role for five years. Winston coached the Razorbacks’ outside linebackers in 1997, Danny Ford’s final season as head coach. Winston later was an assistant coach at Arkansas State University and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. He served this year as the interim head coach at Grambling.
Those being inducted from the senior category are:
- Don Campbell, a longtime high school football coach who had stints at Corning, Sheridan and Wynne. Campbell, a Forrest City native who graduated from college at Henderson, was a head coach for 10 years at Corning, five years at Sheridan and 16 years at Wynne. He had an overall record of 257-98-6. His teams won 16 district championships along with state championships at Wynne in 2001 and 2004. In 1987, he was awarded the Lowell Manning Award as the state’s outstanding coach. He was selected for the Arkansas High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2008, a year after having received the first Paul Eells Award from the Arkansas chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame. Campbell, who served on the all-star football coaching staff nine times (five of those times he was the head coach of the East squad), was inducted into the Henderson Hall of Honor in 2010.
- Alvy Early, whose more than 1,000 career wins as a women’s basketball and softball coach make him one of the state’s most successful college coaches ever. Before he became a coach at the University of Arkansas at Monticello, Early was a three-sport star at the school, earning letters in football, baseball and tennis. He was a successful high school coach at West Fork before returning to his college alma mater in 1979 to become the women’s head basketball coach. In 21 seasons, his teams went 425-211. He produced 11 All-Americans, won or shared four AIC titles and led the Cotton Blossoms to the national championship game in 1990. Early became UAM’s softball coach in 1997 and immediately built a powerhouse. In 2000, the Blossoms won the first of five consecutive Gulf South Conference West Division championships. They won two more division titles before UAM joined the Great American Conference in 2011. Early promptly led the Blossoms to the first GAC regular-season championship and the league’s first postseason tournament title.
- Ken Stephens, who was a star athlete at Conway High School and what’s now the University of Central Arkansas. As a coach, Stephens won titles at the high school and collegiate levels. In 1972, Stephens took over a UCA football program that had suffered three consecutive losing sesons. Four years later, the Bears were playing for the NAIA national championship. Stephens’ UCA teams won AIC championships in 1976, 1978, 1980 and 1981. He left UCA in 1982 with a 67-35-6 record after being hired to coach at Lamar University in Texas. Stephens became the head coach at Arkansas Tech in 1985 and retired in 1992. As the head football coach at North Little Rock High School from 1963-70, Stephens’ teams won three state championships. He was the Arkansas High School Coaches Association’s coach of the year in 1966 and was given the Lowell Manning Award in 1967. He served as an assistant football coach at the University of Arkansas for one season in 1971 prior to taking the UCA job.
Those being inducted from the posthumous category are:
- Jim Barnes, a Tuckerman native who played basketball for what’s now the University of Texas at El Paso before being chosen by the New York Knicks as the first selection in the 1964 NBA draft. Barnes, who was nicknamed “Bad News,” was named to the 1965 NBA All-Rookie team and played seven seasons in the NBA for five teams – the Knicks, the Baltimore Bullets, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Chicago Bulls and the Boston Celtics. He scored 3,997 career points. Barnes averaged 8.8 points per game in the NBA. He averaged 15.5 points per game for the Knicks during the 1964-65 season. Barnes won an Olympic gold medal as a member of the U.S. team at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Barnes, who was 6-8, died in September 2002. Barnes had played for Don Haskins at what was then Texas Western and helped establish a program that would go on to shock the college basketball world in 1966 as a team with five black starters upset a University of Kentucky team with five white starters.
- Harry Vines, a Little Rock native who starred in basketball from 1955-57 at what’s now Little Rock Central High School, earning All-American honors in 1957. Vines played college basketball under Abe Lemons at Oklahoma City University from 1957-61 and was later inducted into the school’s sports Hall of Fame. Vines coached basketball in the public schools at Oklahoma City and Little Rock from 1961-65. But he became best known for his volunteer work, coaching the wheelchair team known as the Arkansas Rollin’ Razorbacks. His wheelchair teams posted 21 winning seasons in his 22 years as the coach and won National Wheelchair Basketball Association championships in 1991, 1993, 1994, 1996 and 2000. Vines also coached a number of basketball teams at the international level. He was inducted into the National Wheelchair Basketball Association Hall of Fame in 2001.
Another honoree at the Feb. 28 banquet will be Ronnie McFarland of Searcy. McFarland is a longtime member of the board of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame and has served the organization in numerous capacities through the years. He will receive the William H. “Buddy” Sutton Meritorious Service Award.
The Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame Museum on the west side of Verizon Arena in North Little Rock is open each Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. It includes an 88-seat theater with a video highlighting the careers of Arkansas sports greats, along with a touch-screen kiosk with a database of all Hall of Fame inductees.
Members of the Hall of Fame vote each year on inductees. Membership forms can be obtained here.