Induction into Hall of Fame well worth trip

By: Wally Hall
Published: Friday, February 28, 2014
The entrance to the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock.
The entrance to the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock.

Tonight, at the Statehouse Convention Center, 11 great individuals representing five different colleges in the state and numerous high schools will be inducted at the 56th Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame banquet.

If there was ever any doubt how significant it is to be honored with induction into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, it was wiped out with this year’s class.

Ken Duke, a Henderson State graduate, will board a private plane this afternoon and fly to Little Rock for the ceremony and will immediately fly back to Palm Beach, Fla., for the Honda Classic. Duke made arrangements with the PGA to have an early round today so he could be at the banquet.

Last year, Bennie Fullerlost his house in a tornado, but the all-time leading scorer in Arkansas high school basketball with 4,896 points is taking a couple of days off from his job at the post office - and all that goes with restoring your family’s life after such a tragedy - to be here.

Fuller, who played for Houston Nutt Sr. at the Arkansas School for the Deaf, made the 1971 high school all-star game, and during the week Nutt went up to check on his player. Fuller, quickand athletic, was struggling. The coaches had moved him to point guard and there was the natural communication problem.

Nutt intervened, and Fuller was moved to shooting guard and ended up being named the Most Valuable Player of the game. The Nutt family has a table at tonight’s banquet to honor Fuller.

David Bazzel’s family has bought two tables, KABZ-FM, where Bazzel cohosts The Show With No Name, has bought two tables, and this week Bazzel tried to get two more tables only to find out that the banquet was sold out. Fortunately, Frank Fletcher reserved his the day the class was announced.

Gary Blair, the head coach at Texas A&M, had to do all kinds of twists and shouts to be here. His team played host to Arkansas on Thursday night and plays at Florida on Sunday, but he wasn’t about to miss this, saying he was tremendously honored.

Blair’s departure from the University of Arkansas was one of two hard-to-understand events that took place in the University of Arkansas’ basketball offices, with the other being the hiring of Stan Heath instead of Bill Self as the men’s basketball coach in 2002. Blair’s contract was not extended in 2003, even though he didn’t ask for a raise.

So Blair took the job with Texas A&M and led the Aggies to the national championship in 2011. Incidentally, A&M bought a full-page ad in tonight’s program.

The list goes on and on regarding how much it means to be recognized as one of the state’s greats.

Others being inducted tonight include coaches Don Campbell, Alvy Early and Ken Stephens, former athletes Dennis Winston (football), Stephanie Strack Mathis (women’s basketball), Jim Barnes (men’s basketball) and Harry Vines, another great athlete who gained fame coaching the Rollin’ Razorbacks.

Ronnie McFarland also will receive the meritorious service award.

It will be a night to remember, especially for this class of 11 who richly deserve this honor.

To be chosen for induction, a person must first be nominated. The selection committee chooses the names that go on the ballot and the general membership votes. The top two vote-getters are in - although the board has veto power in case a person can’t be there - and the next three or four are voted on by the board, as are senior and posthumous inductees.

It can get pretty spirited when the board starts to vote, and at times there is some heavy lobbying, but in the end the majority rules.

It isn’t easy to get inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, but that’s what makes it such a big honor.

Sports, Pages 19 on 02/28/2014