Hall of Fame breakfast
More than 250 people gathered Oct. 27 at the Gateway Center as UNT inducted its 2007 Athletic Hall of Fame class and honored the 1977 football team.
Hall of Fame member and former football coach Hayden Fry spoke to more than 40 members of the 1977 football team that finished the year ranked 16th in the nation. The team, which played as an independent, had only four of 11 games at home that year. Its 9-2 season officially became 10-1 after it was determined Mississippi State used at least one ineligible player in its win over North Texas and the game was ruled a forfeit.
The 10 wins tied a school record for most wins in a season, and North Texas was ranked in the United Press International Top 20 in the nation for eight consecutive weeks (and was as high as No. 13 at one point). It is the only time in North Texas history that a football team has been nationally ranked in the top 20.
Glenn Lewis ('81), offensive left tackle on the team, remembers when he was recruited to come to North Texas.
"What I loved most was meeting the team and seeing how they worked together," he says. "That sealed it for me."
Lewis says defeating SMU at Texas Stadium was a highlight of the 1977 season for him.
"The day-to-day grind of practice was worth it when you saw it pay off on the field," he says.
Lewis' teammate, middle linebacker Frank Babb ('80), especially remembers playing the University of Texas at Austin. Even though North Texas lost the game, Babb says it was special because the team played a Heisman Trophy candidate (and eventual winner for 1977) named Earl Campbell. UT-Austin would end the season unbeaten but lose in the Cotton Bowl.
Also at the breakfast, the Athletic Hall of Fame welcomed its 25th class as Christy Johnson ('01), Jalie Mitchell ('02), Rosalyn Reades ('02) and Bennie Rutherford ('50, '54 M.S.) were honored.
Johnson, a four-year letterwinner in soccer, left UNT in 2000 as the all-time leader in goals, points, shots and games started in her four-year career. She was a freshman All-American in 1997 and first-team all-central region player that year.
Mitchell was named all-conference in women's basketball all four years at UNT, concluding her career as the 2002 Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year. She is the Mean Green's all-time leading scorer with 1,764 points and ranks No. 1 in free throws and attempts.
At the induction ceremony, Mitchell remembered that her UNT professors "encouraged her to be more than an athlete." She called Mary Thibodeux ('76 Ph.D.), who taught in the College of Business Administration when Mitchell was a student and who died Oct. 24, "an inspiration."
Mitchell's teammate Reades was a four-year letterwinner in women's basketball who ended her career ranked No. 1 in assists (458) and steals (296) at UNT. She was a two-time all-conference pick and the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2002, and was also NCAA Woman of the Year for the state of Texas for 2002 for her athletic and academic achievements. A chemistry major and student in the Honors Program at UNT, Reades became only the second UNT student ever to reach semifinalist status for the Rhodes Scholarship.
Now a medical school graduate, she is completing a residency in Charlotte, N.C., where she said she was recognized last summer while in a pediatric rotation. The father of a patient said he and his young daughter had seen Reades and her teammates a few years ago while they were en route to a game and noticed how well dressed they were. The daughter then started following the Lady Eagles for the rest of the season.
Rutherford was a four-year letterwinner in men's basketball from 1946 to 1950. He was the Eagles' leading scorer in 1949-50 with a 16.8-points-per-game average, which included a season-high 29 points against Houston. He was a first-team Gulf Coast Conference selection in 1949-50, scoring 438 total points, the third-most in the state of Texas. As basketball co-captain he was voted the T Club's Most Outstanding Athlete of the Year in 1949-50.
Rutherford fondly recalled North Texas basketball coach Henry "Pete" Shands ('40), who offered him a scholarship after watching one of his high school games in Slidell.
"It's been 57 years since I played a game for Coach Shands, but I still have dreams about him. He made a bigger impact on my life than anyone else, and all of it was positive. He taught me how to play and love the game of basketball. As players, we knew who was our coach and boss. There wasn't any doubt who was in charge — and we liked it."
Rutherford also recalled playing in the Harriss Gym, which was located near today's Administration Building. The open-sided gym, built in 1923 as a temporary structure, was used for more than 30 years before being torn down.
"When the referee asked the visiting team which end of the gym they wanted, they always took the wind," Rutherford said.
Rutherford is a retired educator with the Everman ISD, where he was superintendent from 1964 to 1983.