Bethune-Cookman University Announce Its 13 Athletic Hall of Fame Inductees for 2016
B-CU Athletics Will Honor the 2016 Hall of Fame Class During the Hall of Fame Weekend on September 16-17th
Bethune-Cookman Athletics announced Wednesday, August 24, its thirteen member 2016 Athletic Hall of Fame Class that will be honored during festivities on campus and in the community on Hall of Fame Weekend taking place September 16-17. The weekend will begin with The Official Hall of Fame Reception and Enshrinement Ceremony on Friday, September 16, in the Mary McLeod Bethune Performing Arts Center, followed by a private Hall of Fame Brunch on Saturday morning, September 17. The weekend concludes with the 2016 Hall of Famers leading the Legacy Walk and serving as honorary game captains for the B-CU vs. Tennessee State football game kicking off at 4 p.m., at Municipal Stadium.
"We are honored to recognize thirteen outstanding Wildcats whose lives and accomplishments have made a tremendous impact on our university, community and our conference," said B-CU President Dr. Edison O. Jackson.
B-CU Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics Lynn W. Thompson, who worked directly with the selection committee chaired by Dr. Kevin James, Sr., is truly impressed with the class.
“The committee selected a phenomenal group of thirteen of the greatest student-athletes, coaches and supporters to have ever been a part of the history of our university,” Thompson said. “They each truly deserve this moment of honor and recognition for the work they have done on our campus and beyond."
The 2016 Hall of Fame Class includes former student-athletes, coaches and special contributors who have enriched the legacy of the institution through intercollegiate athletics and professional accomplishments. The honorees were selected by an 11-person committee made up from a cross-section of campus constituencies, alumni and boosters. The inaugural Hall of Fame Class was inducted in 2000. Since its establishment, the Hall of Fame has enshrined 63 people, including the Class of 2016.
The 2016 B-CU Hall of Fame Inductees are as follows:
Inducted as Student-Athletes:
Johnny “Gator” Allen (Men’s Basketball): Along with Carl Fuller, Allen anchored perhaps the best men’s basketball lineup in Bethune-Cookman history. He was a four-year letterwinner (1965-1969) and the all-time leading scorer with 3,067 career points. Allen was also the second-leading rebounder with 1,352 boards, and still holds the school single-season scoring record with his 1967-68 total of 994 points. He scored more than 30 points in 35 games and finished as the all-time leader in field goals, field goal attempts and free throws. He was a member of the 1968 SIAC champions, and holds the SIAC Tournament scoring record and led the Wildcats to two NAIA postseason appearances. Allen passed away in Palm Beach County in 2013.
Linda Banks (Women’s Basketball): A four-year letterwinner (1977-1980) as a freshman, Banks led the Lady Wildcats to the 1978 FIAW state basketball title. Her sophomore year, she averaged 25 points per game and finished her career averaging double figures in points per game and led the Lady Cats to the 1980 FIAW state title and an AIAW national tournament appearance.
Nick Collins (Football): Nick Collins was a three-year starter at free safety (2002-2004) and the captain of one of the most successful football teams in Wildcats history. Known as a ferocious hitter, the free safety earned All-American and All-MEAC honors when he led the league with six interceptions in 2004. He was drafted in the second round by the Green Bay Packers in 2005, going on to earn three Pro Bowl appearances and scoring a touchdown in the Packers’ Super Bowl XLV victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. After retiring in 2015, Collins was named to the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame in 2016. He is the son of former Wildcats quarterback Willie Collins, a consensus choice of the coaches of his era as one of the greatest athletes to ever lead a Bethune-Cookman football team.
Owen Harris (Men’s Basketball): The greatest assists leader in Bethune-Cookman men’s basketball history, Harris was a four-year starter (1967-1971) on head coach and fellow B-CU Hall of Famer Jack “Cy” McClairen’s greatest teams. He was the point guard who fed the ball to fellow Hall of Famers Carl Fuller and Johnny “Gator” Allen. Harris is the school’s all-time leader in free throw percentage and is ninth all-time in scoring with 1,401 career points. He was the starting point guard on the legendary 1968 SIAC Championship team, and served as assistant basketball coach at Bethune-Cookman for four years before becoming a successful high school coach in Florida.
Rashean Mathis (Football): A four-year letterwinner in football (1999-2002), Mathis set the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) and B-CU single-season interception record with 14 in 2002. He finished that season as the fifth-leading scorer on the 2002 team, with touchdowns on interception returns, punt returns and touchdown receptions, respectively. His stellar 2002 season was capped off with him being named the winner of the Buck Buchannan Award as the nation’s top defensive player. He finished his B-CU career as second all-time in interceptions with 31. In 2003, he was drafted in the second round by his hometown team, the Jacksonville Jaguars, and was named to the 2006 Pro Bowl. He retired from the NFL in 2015 after playing 175 games with 32 interceptions after playing for Jacksonville and the Detroit Lions.
Jerry Simmons (Football): Simmons was a three-year veteran wide receiver who led the Wildcats in receptions in 1962 and 1964, and was the beneficiary of the pro-style offense of Jack “Cy” McClairen during his first years as head coach of the Wildcats. After his career at B-CU (1961-1964), Simmons played for 10 seasons and 106 games in the National Football League with the Denver Broncos and the Atlanta Falcons. After his playing career ended, Simmons embarked on a long career as an NFL scout.
Alvin Wyatt, Sr. (Football): Simply one of the greatest to ever wear the Maroon and Gold as a student-athlete, Wyatt could be enshrined in both categories of student-athlete and coach if it was possible. Wyatt was a four-year letterwinner in football and track and field (1966-1969), and was named All-SIAC during each year of his career. In 1969, Wyatt was named SIAC Player of the Year as a defensive back and return specialist, devastating opponents with his interception and kick returns for touchdowns. He capped off that phenomenal season by being named as an All-American. Forty-six years later, Wyatt still holds B-CU records for single game interceptions (5), career interceptions (34) and career punt return average (25.6). After concluding his sterling B-CU career in 1970, he was a sixth-round draft pick of the Oakland Raiders and thrilled crowds in Oakland and Buffalo during his NFL career, as well as the Jacksonville Sharks of the World Football League. After retiring from his professional career, Wyatt joined the B-CU football staff, serving a long stint as defensive coordinator for both Larry Little and Jack “Cy” McClairen, and would become the winningest head football coach (90 wins) and head women’s basketball coach (245) in school history. One of the only coaches to be named MEAC Coach of the Year in Football and Women’s Basketball, Wyatt led the Wildcats football team to the 2002 MEAC football championships and a pair of NCAA postseason appearances, as well as the 1998 Heritage Bowl. He led the Lady Cats hoopsters to crowns in the FIAW and MEAC during his career as a women’s basketball coach. Presently, he is the head football coach at Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, Florida.
Lauren McCoy (Softball): Lauren McCoy was a three-year letterwinner at B-CU (2003-2005) and lettered in softball and bowling. In softball, she became a legend as a three-time All MEAC pitcher with three 20-win seasons capped off with the historic 2005 season in which she led the Wildcats to the NCAA Division I Regional Championship and the first and only appearance of an HBCU in the NCAA Softball Super Regionals. She finished her career with 456 strikeouts, 28 shutouts and her career earned run average was lower than 1.70 in all three seasons. She pitched five no-hitters and two perfect games for the Wildcats. After graduation, she began a coaching career, and is presently the head softball coach at fellow MEAC member institution, Howard University.
Inducted as Coaches:
Calvin Jackson (Track & Field): Jackson was a two-sport letterwinner for the Wildcats as a standout offensive lineman who opened holes for Wildcats legends Randy Walker and Wayne Allen (1970-1973). As a track student-athlete, Jackson also swept the 1972 discus and shot put titles at the 1972 SIAC Track and Field Championships. After graduation, he served as long-time and legendary track coach at Miami Northwestern High School where he constantly produced high school track phenoms. He led the Bulls to the 1991 Florida 4-A track championship. He retired in 2007, and was named to the Florida Athletic Coaches Association (FACA) Track Hall of Fame in 2016.
Mervyl Melendez (Baseball): Mervyl Melendez, like Alvin Wyatt, could have been named either as a student-athlete or coach. As a player, Melendez was a two-year letterwinner (1996-1997), and finished his playing career as the all-time leader in doubles (30) and batting average (.342). He also starred as a relief pitcher for the Cats, in addition to his regular role at third base. Melendez also had a clutch double which drove in the winning run in the Wildcats first NCAA postseason baseball victory at Georgia Southern. After his playing career ended in 1998, he was named an assistant coach at B-CU under Richard Skeel, and two years later became the head coach in 2000. During the next 11 seasons, he was named MEAC Coach of the Year eight times, led the Cats to 11 MEAC Tournament Championships and NCAA regional championship appearances, three undefeated seasons in league play and 379 career wins. In 2012, he was named head baseball coach at Alabama State University, and in 2016 led the Hornets to an undefeated season in conference play and the SWAC championship and NCAA regional championship berth. After that tremendous season, Melendez accepted the head baseball coaching position at Florida International University in June 2016.
Marcia Pinder (Women’s Basketball): A 1974 graduate of Bethune-Cookman College, according to many publications, Pinder is undoubtedly one of the greatest girl’s high school basketball coaches in the nation. With over 900 coaching victories and nine state championships, Pinder has created Ft. Lauderdale’s Dillard High School to a place amongst America’s elite girls’ basketball powerhouses. Her accomplishments have earned her enshrinement in three Halls of Fames which include Broward County Athletic Hall of Fame, Florida Athletic Coaches Association (FACA) and National Scholastic Hall of Fame.
Inducted as Humanitarians/Supporters of Athletics
Reverend Isadore Williams: Known around the country as “the voice of Bethune-Cookman Football”, Isadore Williams actually began his career as public address announcer for the Wildcats while a student on campus in 1975. In short, Isadore Williams is the only voice that Wildcats football fans have known for 40 years. Since his beginning on the microphone as a student, Reverend Williams has only missed two football games for the Cats, and his legendary calls have inspired Wildcats fans for generations. He is revered for his traditional opening line “Who Will Ascend to the Top of the Mountain.” He has called over 220 Wildcats football games, and is also a legend as the play-by-play announcer each Friday night for his hometown Lake City Columbia High School football team. Reverend Williams is always comfortable and inspiring, whether in the announcers’ booth on a Friday or Saturday, or in the pulpit as the longtime pastor of the historic Philadelphia Baptist Church in Lake City, and continues to provide inspiration to his flock in Lake City, as well as to Wildcats and supporters across the country. His unmistakable voice is the sound of hope – whether on the field of competition or the mission field.
Damion Cook (Football): A massive and multi-talented football player, Damion Cook had experience playing both offense and defense for the Wildcats from 1997-2000. He started at defensive tackle in the 1998 Heritage Bowl and spent enormous amounts of time on offense in short yardage situations. While it was clear that he had all of the tools to become a legendary offensive lineman, Damion played where the team needed him most – defense. Recognizing his stellar talent, NFL veteran and then head coach Alvin Wyatt groomed this giant for a career in the National Football League. Cook played in the famed eight-overtime win against Virginia State in 1997, which at the time was the longest game in NCAA history with one of the zaniest plays of the year. In the sixth overtime, Damion broke through and blocked a VSU field goal and took off towards the end zone for an apparent 82-yard touchdown, but dove too soon into the end zone only to come up two yards short. Two overtimes later, the Cats celebrated the win after a huge sack by Cook allowed the Cats to take possession and score the game winning TD. Damion starred in the first season of “Hard Knocks” with the Baltimore Ravens, the NFL training camp television show, as he successfully earned a spot with the Ravens and went on the play 26 games in his career with the Ravens and the Cleveland Browns. He also played in the Canadian Football League and the United Football League. In the 2015, the Wildcat nation was heartbroken at the sudden death of this great young father, husband and Maryland high school football coach, and the Bethune-Cookman Athletic Department honored his memory by naming the football student-athlete of the year award as the Damion Cook Award. The son of two Bethune-Cookman alums, Donald and Dr. Dorothy Cook, Damion Cook was one of the most respected and well-liked students to ever grace the campus.
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About Bethune Cookman University:
Founded in 1904 by Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) today sustains her legacy of faith, scholarship and service through its relationship with the United Methodist Church and its commitment to academic excellence and civic engagement. B-CU offers 38 degrees on its main campus and online college. Located in Daytona Beach, B-CU is one of three private, historically black colleges in the state of Florida. The institution boasts a diverse and international faculty and student body of nearly 4,000. For more information, visit www.cookman.edu.