A new class will soon stand beside the giants of Maroon athletics, one that boasts impressive feats both on and off the field.
On Friday evening, in front of a sold-out Quadrangle Club, the 2007 Hall of Fame class will take its spot next to the likes of Jay Berwanger, Gertrude Dudley, and Amos Alonzo Stagg.
This year, as in every year since 2004, the Hall of Fame will open its doors to eight new members: Joe Bochenski [A.B. ’88, M.B.A. ’93], Derrick Brooms [A.B. ’96], Clarence Herschberger [A.B. 1898], Claire Orner [A.B. ’77], Floyd Stauffer [S.B. ’37], Mitchell Watkins [A.B. ’60, M.B.A. ’65], and Walter Hass, an administrator.
Each member will be memorialized with two bronze plaques chronicling their contributions to Chicago athletics. One they will keep, and the other will go into the east hallway of the Ratner Athletic Center.
The selection process begins each fall with open nominations held for the following year’s class. From there, the selection committee meets in January to begin reviewing nominations and reconvenes in early spring to make the final decision. Their choices for the new class are released each May.
“The selection committee consists of the presidents and two at-large representatives of both the Graduate Order of the ‘C’ and Graduate Women’s Athletic Association, two University representatives, the faculty athletics representative, two members of the Athletics Hall of Fame, the director of athletics, and the sports information director,” said Dave Hilbert, the University’s sports information director.
This year’s class is headlined by Clarence Herschberger, a standout running back and kicker for the Maroons during the Stagg era. Herschberger was Chicago’s first consensus All-American and led the Maroons to a 35–8 record during his time on the South Side. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1970.
The other member of the pigskin fraternity to be enshrined this year will be Derrick Brooms. Assaulting the record books in 1995 was this speedster’s claim to fame. That year, the wide receiver and kick returner led the nation at his position, averaging 35.2 yards per return. Brooms’ ability to blow by defenders paid the Maroons dividends as they went on to post an 8–2 record in 1995—their best in the modern era.
Brooms’ play lifted him to become a two-time UAA Football Player of the Year. If that wasn’t enough, he was also a two-time UAA sprint champion in indoor and outdoor track and field. Given these gifts, it was no surprise when he received the Stagg Medal in 1996, the award given to the best male senior athlete.
Perhaps, however, Brooms would never have seen a football field at Chicago if it were not for fellow inductee Walter Hass. As the University’s director of athletics from 1956 to 1977, he was instrumental in reinstituting football as a varsity sport following the 30-year absence of the game from campus.
His crusade began by instituting football as a physical education class, which eventually led to a club team. Hass triumphed in 1969 when football regained its status as an intercollegiate sport at the NCAA Division III level. Feeling the need to secure his newly revitalized program, he personally took the reigns as head coach from 1956 to 1977.
Leading the non-football charge of inductees is Joe Bochenski, All-American wrestler and 1988 Division III runner-up in the 134-pound weight division—another Stagg Medalist in 1988.
Floyd Stauffer, a standout diver and water polo player, will be the most senior inductee on Friday evening. He was a 1937 All-American in diving and led the Maroons to a Big Ten title in water polo. Stauffer was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2006.
This year’s lone female honoree will be three-sport juggernaut Claire Orner. Before she served as the Maroons’ first trainer for women’s athletics, she gathered 12 varsity letters in volleyball, basketball, and softball, leading the Maroons to an IAIAW softball championship in 1977.
Rounding out this year’s class will be versatile basketball and track and field star Mitchell Watkins. Watkins competed in myriad track and field events while still finding time in his junior and senior years to lead the basketball team in rebounds.
In a surprise, there will be a ninth member receiving honors this year. Although last year the Hall of Fame directors were unable to track down a relative of 2006 inductee Paul Des Jardien, they recently located a family member who will be on hand to receive the plaque on his behalf.
The Hall of Fame induction kicks off a Homecoming weekend that includes a bevy of family-oriented activities. In addition to football and women’s soccer games, there will be a barbeque outside of the football stadium complete with free T-shirts, face painting, balloon animals, and tug of war—all topped off with live music. Activities begin at 11 a.m. and last until kickoff at 1 p.m.