UAFS Hall of Fame Grows with 2023 Class Induction
Winning a championship at any level is the pinnacle of achievement in athletics. However,
beyond the game, there is one more goal to be reached – the hall of fame.
From the bronze busts in Canton to the hallowed halls of Cooperstown, an induction to a hall of fame recognizes accomplishments in the game and a dedication to putting the love for the sport, team, fans, and community above all else.
While the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith Athletics Hall of Fame might not carry the same weight as the Pro Football Hall of Fame or National Baseball Hall of Fame, it is just as important to those whose names are forever etched into the history of the university.
On Tuesday, April 11, 2023, after a brief hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the UAFS Hall of Fame returned. More than 350 former athletes, coaches, family, friends, and fans sold out the event and filled the Stubblefield Center with cheers and standing ovations to honor the class of 2023.
“It’s one of those nights where we get to celebrate our own, celebrate the great people of UAFS from the past, and look forward to the future,” said UAFS athletic director Curtis Janz as he addressed the crowd.
The class of 2023 included current volleyball coach Jane Sargent, men’s basketball
leading scorer Seth Youngblood, baseball groundskeeper John “Taz” Tongier, and the
entire 1994-95 NJCAA women’s basketball national championship team.
Typically, a hall of fame ceremony honors those who have stepped away from the game, but Tuesday’s celebration of Sargent comes as her coaching career remains strong. With more than 700 career wins, Sargent is Arkansas’s winningest collegiate volleyball coach and has never had a losing record at UAFS in her 25-year career.
“When you know, and they’ve accomplished everything like Jane has, why wait,” explains Janz.
During her acceptance speech, Sargent thanked her former and current coaching staff, players, and UAFS for allowing her to coach for nearly three decades and build a program from the ground up into something more than just a team.
“I’m most proud of taking groups of players who’ve never met before and turning them into a family,” said Sargent as she held back tears.
The emotional event got the best of Tongier, who wrote that his only wish is to relive his past 30 years helping UAFS baseball double.
Youngblood returned to UAFS, having already cemented himself in the university’s history
books. But now, will be remembered as a member of the 2023 Hall of Fame class.
“It means the world to me,” beamed Youngblood. “People say small-town kids can’t do this or can’t do that, and my name leaves a pin on that board that says you can do that.”
From 1994-95, the then Westark College, women’s basketball team finished the season
undefeated, winning 35 games and the NJCAA National Championship. Since then, that
team has inspired every team to follow. Former player Alisa Burras was previously
inducted into the UAFS Hall of Fame (2011) and is now joined by the rest of her teammates.
“It was nothing but a dirt road, a white house, and the gym. That’s all we had,” exclaimed Burras. “To be inducted into this as a team is awesome. To see where we came from and where the program is now is really awesome.”
The success of that team was not without the guidance of their late head coach, Louis Whorton. Before the induction ceremony ended, Janz recognized Whorton and his influence over the athletic program at UAFS. In a special presentation to Whorton’s widow, Pat, UAFS designated the hall of fame in his honor.
The late Stacey Jones was posthumously awarded the UAFS Forever Letterman. Jones becomes the third person to be honored, joining former UAFS baseball coach Bill Crowder and current Fort Smith mayor, George McGill.
The UAFS Hall of Fame class of 2023 joins an impressive list of hall of famers and will continue to serve as examples of athletic excellence for others to follow.
- Hall of Fame
- UAFS Athletics