Illinois announces latest Hall of Fame class

Illinois announces latest Hall of Fame class

The second Illinois athletics Hall of Fame class already featured Lou Henson.

That much was known when Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman announced last summer that Henson, the all-time winningest men’s basketball coach in Illinois history, would headline the latest class.

What wasn’t know when Whitman made that decision public at the end of the Hall of Fame Gala in Chicago last June is who would join Henson.

Now, it’s known. Joining Henson in the second-ever class are 20 former Illini athletes, coaches and administrators, the university’s athletic department announced on Thursday morning.

“These men and women represent all that we value at Illinois, including integrity, work ethic, sportsmanship and excellence,” Whitman said in a statement. “Individually and collectively, their accomplishments, both on our campus and across the world of sport, are the stuff of legend.”

The 2018 Hall of Fame Gala will take place at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago on June 15, with the Hall of Fame induction ceremony slated to happen on Saturday, Sept. 22 at State Farm Center in Champaign.

The second class represents 13 sports, with Kendall Gill, Dave Downey, John “Red” Kerr and Charles Carney joining Henson on the men’s basketball side.

Carney, Alex Agase, Jim Grabowski and Dana Howard are all former Illinois football players who will be inducted, along with former Illinois football coach Ray Eliot.

Other inductees are Kevin Anderson (men’s tennis), Nancy Brookhart Cherin (volleyball), Darrin Fletcher (baseball), Maxwell Grant (fencing coach), Tara Hurless (women’s soccer), Scott Langley (men’s golf), Celena Mondie-Miller (women’s track and field), Charles Pond (men’s gymnastics coach), Joe Sapora (wrestling), Justin Spring (men’s gymnastics), Tonya Williams (women’s track and field) and Willie Williams (men’s track and field).

Below are brief bios on each inductee:


Alex Agase, football (1941-42, 46) and wrestling (1942-43)

A 1963 College Football Hall of Fame inductee, Agase was a consensus first-team All-American during the 1946 season after serving a two-year stint in the Marines during World War II, where he received a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his service in the Pacific Theatre. He also competed as a heavyweight wrestler at Illinois, where he served as captain for both seasons. He went on to play six seasons with the Cleveland Browns before serving as Northwestern’s football coach (1964-72) and Purdue’s football coach (1973-76). He died in 2007 at the age of 85.


Kevin Anderson, men’s tennis (2005-07)

The Australian native won the 2006 NCAA doubles title at Illinois and earned All-American honors in each of his three seasons. The 2007 Big Ten tennis Athlete of the Year finished runner-up at last year’s U.S. Open and recently won the New York Open for his fourth career ATP Tour title. He currently resides in Gulf Stream, Fla.


Nancy Brookhart Cherin, volleyball (1986-89)

A second-team All-American three times, she guided the Illini to two consecutive Final Four appearances in 1987 and 1988. During her four seasons at Illinois, the Illini went 124-22 and won the Big Ten twice. She currently resides in Long Beach, Calif.


Chuck Carney, football, men’s basketball (1918-22)

The only Illinois athlete to ever earn All-American honors in both football (1920) and basketball (1920 and 1922), Carney was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1966. A three-time first-team all-conference pick in basketball, Carney’s 188 points stood as a Big Ten single-season scoring record for 22 years. He died in 1984 at the age of 84.


Dave Downey, men’s basketball (1961-63)

Downey still holds the single-game scoring record for the Illini with his 53-point effort at Indiana in 1963. He averaged a double-double for his career at Illinois with 18.9 points and 11.0 rebounds and left Illinois as the program’s all-time leader in scoring (1,360 points) and rebounds (790). Downey led Illinois to the 1963 Big Ten championship and was the Illini’s team MVP all three seasons. He currently resides in Champaign.


Ray Eliot, football coach (1942-59) and hockey coach (1937-39)

Nicknamed “Mr. Illini,” Eliot compiled an 83-73-11 record in his seasons leading the Illinois football team as Illinois won Big Ten titles in 1946, 1951 and 1953. He also coached the school’s first-ever hockey program for three years and guided Illinois to the 1947 Rose Bowl win along with national championship honors after Illinois went 9-0-1 during the 1951 season that culminated with a 40-7 win against Stanford in the 1952 Rose Bowl. He died in 1980 at the age of 74. 


Darrin Fletcher, baseball (1985-87)

The Illini single-season record holder with a .497 average the Oakwood native compiled in 1987, Fletcher went on to a 14-year Major League Baseball career with the Dodgers, Phillies, Expos and Blue Jays after earning Big Ten Player of the Year accolades in 1987. A 1994 All-Star, Fletcher finished with a .269 career average and 124 home runs. Fletcher’s father, Tom, (1962) and son, Casey, (2014-15), also played baseball for Illinois. He currently lives in Oakwood.


Maxwell Garret, fencing coach (1941-72)

Garret went 245-71-1 in his coaching career at Illinois that included 17 Big Ten titles and two NCAA championships. A U.S. Fencing Hall of Fame member, Garret also coached at Penn State, where he led the Nittany Lions to six league titles and third place at the NCAA championships in 1979. Garret, who was involved in helping coordinate fencing competition at the 1996 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, died in 2013 at the age of 95.


Kendall Gill, men's basketball (1987-90)

A consensus second-team All-American choice in 1990, Gill is widely remembered for his role on the Flyin’ Illini team that reached the 1989 Final Four. He finished his senior season in 1990 by averaging 20.0 points and ranks third in program history with 218 career steals. The fifth overall pick by the Charlotte Hornets at the 1990 NBA draft, Gill went on to score 12,914 points during a 15-year NBA career for seven different teams. He currently lives in Chicago.


Jim Grabowski, football (1963-65)

When he left Illinois, Grabowski was the program’s all-time leading rusher with 2,878 yards. The 1,258 yards he rushed for in 1965 was second-best in the country and helped Grabowski finish third in the Heisman Trophy race that season. Grabowski rushed for 125 yards in the Illini’s 17-7 win against Washington in the 1964 Rose Bowl and went on to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1995. Grabowski had a six-year NFL career with the Packers and the Bears and played in two Super Bowls. He currently lives in Inverness.


Lou Henson, men’s basketball coach (1975-96)

One of the more beloved figures in Illinois history, Henson compiled a 423-224 record in 21 seasons at Illinois. The Illini reached the NCAA tournament 12 times in his time on the Illinois sidelines, winning the Big Ten title in 1984 and advancing to the Elite Eight. Five years later, the Flyin’ Illini he coached won a then-school record 31 games and advanced to the Final Four. In his 41-year coaching career at three schools, Henson won 779 games, ranking 16th on the all-time NCAA wins list. The playing floor at State Farm Center is named in his honor and he was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall Fame in 2015. He and his wife, Mary, currently reside in Champaign.


Dana Howard, football (1991-94)

The all-time leading tackler in Big Ten history with 595 stops, Howard will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame later this year. The East St. Louis native won the Butkus Award in 1994 and was a model of consistency on defense for Illini, garnering 147 tackles in 1991, 150 in 1992 and 1994 and 148 in 1993. A fifth-round draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys, Howard played with the St. Louis Rams in 1995 and the Bears in 1996. 


Tara Hurless, women’s soccer (2001-04)

A two-time second-team All-American, Hurless finished her Illini career as the program’s all-time leading scorer with 47 goals, a record that stood 11 years. The Illini’s offensive MVP all four years of her career, Hurless helped lead the Illini to the 2003 Big Ten tournament title in 2003 and the Elite Eight in 2004. She currently resides in Mahomet.


John “Red” Kerr, men’s basketball (1952-54)

A first-team All-Big Ten player who averaged 25.3 points in his final season at Illinois, Kerr finished as the program’s all-time leading scorer with 1,299 points. A member of the 1952 Final Four all-tournament team, Kerr played in the NBA from 1955-63 with Syracuse, for Philadelphia in 1964-65 and for Baltimore in 1966. He finished his pro career with 12,480 points and 10,092 rebounds while playing in 844 consecutive games, a record that stood until 1983. A former coach of the Bulls and Suns, along with serving as a broadcaster for both teams, he died in 2009 at the age of 76.

Scott Langley, men's golf (2008-11)

A three-time All-American at Illinois, Langley became the first Illini to win medalist honors at the NCAA Championship when he did so in 2010. The Big Ten Golfer of the Year in 2010, Lanley also won Big Ten Freshman of the Year accolades in 2008. A three-time academic All-Big Ten honoree, Langley turned pro in 2011 and has earned more than $3 million during his pro career so far, which saw him win the Tour's Panama Championship on Feb. 4, the first pro title of his career. He currently resides in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Celena Mondie-Milner, women’s track and field (1987-90)

An 18-time All-American at Illinois, Mondie-Milner won 17 Big Ten individual and relay titles with the Illini. The 1990 athlete of the Big Ten outdoor championships, Mondie-Milner placed second in the 100 meters at the NCAA outdoor championships and third in the 200 at the same event. She won a gold medal at the 1995 World Championships as part of the United States’ 400-meter relay team and was a unanimous selection to the Big Ten women’s outdoor track all-decade team in 1992. She currently lives in Austin, Texas.

Charles Pond, men’s gymnastics coach (1949-73)

The head coach for 25 seasons, Pond led Illinois to 11 straight Big Ten titles and four NCAA championships from 1950-60. He coached 107 men and women to national, Olympic and world titles, along with serving as an associate men’s coach and assistant women’s coach on the 1956 United States Olympic team. The 1966 inductee into the U.S. Gymnastics Hall of Fame, Pond died in 2003 at the age of 88.

Joe Sapora, wrestling (1928-30)

The standout wrestler for the Illini won NCAA championships at 115 pounds during the 1929 and 1930 seasons, becoming the first Illinois wrestler to win two NCAA titles. He also claimed Big Ten titles and All-American honors in those two seasons before embarking upon a 36-year coaching career at City College in New York from 1932 to 1968. A member of the CCNY Hall of Fame, Sapora guided Henry Wittenberg to heavyweight gold medal at the 1948 Olympics. Sapora died in 1992 at the age of 87.

Justin Spring, men’s gymnastics (2003-06)

The current Illinois men’s gymnastics coach, Spring was a four-time NCAA individual champion and 13-time All-American during his own career at Illinois. The two-time Dike Eddleman Award winner at Illinois in 2004 and 2006, Spring went on to become a five-time U.S. Senior National Team member and helped the 2008 United States Olympic team to a bronze medal at the Beijing Games. He also coached Illinois to then 2012 national title and currently resides in Champaign.

Tonya Williams, women’s track and field (1993-96)

A two-time NCA champion in the 400-meter hurdles in 1995 and 1996, Williams was a 14-time All-American with the Illini. She also finished second in the 100 hurdles at the 1996 NCAA meet and third in the same event in 1995. The Dike Eddleman award winner in 1995 and 1996 at Illinois, she won 20 Big Ten championships, with 10 in individual events and 10 in relays. She currently resides in Pembroke Pines, Fla.

Willie Williams, men’s track and field (1952-54)

A two-time NCAA champion in the 100-yard dash in 1953 and 1954, Williams made history in 1956. Running at the National Military Track Meet in Berlin, Williams broke his hero Jesse Owens’ world record in the 100 at 10.1 seconds, in the same stadium and same lane that Owens ran in upon winning gold at the 1936 Olympic Games. A nine-time Big Ten individual sprint and hurdle champion, both in the indoor and outdoor seasons, while an athlete at Illinois, Williams served as an assistant track coach at Illinois from 1982 to 2000. He also coach Gary (Ind.) West Side High School to five state titles between 1974 and 1980. He currently resides in Highland, Ind.

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CharacterCounts wrote on February 22, 2018 at 10:02 am

I thought this Hall of Fame program was for those who participated in sports at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  Why is any part of activities being held in Chicago?  The campus has a hard time trying to remain the flagship of the University of Illinois and keeping it's administration in Champaign-Urbana.  

Is the Athletic Association ashamed of being in Urbana-Champaign?  Do they think the campus can't hold an event in Urbana-Champaign as well as Chicago?  I hope those who in power, bring this event  to campus next year if not this  year.  Does not speak well of the Chancellor or the AD.

I understand  University of Illinois-Chicago holding their events in Chicago.  I don't ever hear of them holding any events in Champaign-Urbana.


CU_townie_2_time_UI_grad wrote on February 22, 2018 at 11:02 am

Hmm Field Museum of Natural History or the I-Hotel? Which is a more attractive venue? Is this really that hard to figure out?

CharacterCounts wrote on February 22, 2018 at 12:02 pm

Which is located on the campus of the UI-UC?

BruckJr wrote on February 22, 2018 at 3:02 pm

I hear that the Vatican museums are nice too but I don't think that the University should hold a Hall of Fame ceremony there.

GLG wrote on February 22, 2018 at 10:02 am

Congratulations to Coach Henson. Why did it take so long to put Lou in the hall of fame?

Yes the gala must be in Chicago where the big money donors are, We would hate to have them drive to CU. They might get a wiff of the south farms or see a person wearing something with the Chief on it or worse than that, Seeing someone blowing green beer out of the nose!

champaign61821 wrote on February 22, 2018 at 12:02 pm

Because this is only the second year of inductees, and it sounded like they wanted to space out the top honorees over the fist couple years (like Dick Butkus in year 1 and Lou Henson in year 2).

BruckJr wrote on February 22, 2018 at 3:02 pm

Good for Lou, but I don't understand why he is included before Harry Combes who had a better run at the University.  Lou won .567 of his conference games over 21 years at Illinois while Harry won .626 over 20 years.  For that matter, Mills, Kruger, Self and Weber all had better conference winning percentages but didn't stay as long at the University.

HOOP GENIUS wrote on February 22, 2018 at 5:02 pm


HOOP GENIUS wrote on February 22, 2018 at 5:02 pm


loopillini wrote on February 23, 2018 at 2:02 pm

There are two very good reasons why they hold a gala in Chicago prior to the induction in Champaign. The first is to ensure they get in front of the Chicago media. It is a given that downstate media will cover the event no matter where it is held, but you will never get a significant media contingent, from America's third-largest media market no less, to make the trip to Champaign to cover this event. So they bring it to their doorstep to ensure much broader publicity.

The second reason runs along those same lines regarding the access to a large contingent of high net-worth individuals and to the Chicago business community in general. Most would not make a trip to Champaign for this, so they bring the event to them to help in overall fundraising for the athletic program.