Thursday September 30, 2004Nine Hall of Fame Inductees Announced
The F Club and Gator Boosters have announced the 2005 inductees to the University of Florida Athletics Hall of Fame. Eight former athletes and one long-time Gator supporter will be inducted at the Hall of Fame Banquet in February. This year's inductees are Jerry "Red" Anderson (football), Tami Bruce (women’s swimming), Ben Hill Griffin III, Larry Libertore (football), Mark Merklein (men’s tennis), Dennis Mitchell (men’s track), Errict Rhett (football), Fred Ridley (men’s golf) and Sophia Witherspoon (women’s basketball).
A committee of F Club members selects members to the Hall of Fame. They are selected in three different categories; Gator Greats, Distinguished Letterwinners or Honorary Letterwinners. Gator Greats and Distinguished Letterwinners cannot be nominated until 10 years after completion of their eligibility. Honorary Letterwinners are considered after they have contributed 10 years of employment with the University of Florida, the University Athletic Association or Gator Boosters, Inc.
Gator Greats are letterwinners or athletes who have brought recognition and prominence to the University and themselves by athletic accomplishments as an undergraduate. Criteria considered are All-American, All-SEC and exceptional leadership as witnessed by teammates and/or coaches. This year's inductees in the Gator Greats category are Tami Bruce, Larry Libertore, Mark Merklein, Dennis Mitchell, Errict Rhett and Sophia Witherspoon.
Distinguished Letterwinners are letterwinners or athletes who have made major contributions to the University athletic program through personal time, effort, and interest and through many years of continued service and/or have distinguished themselves as exceptional in their chosen field of endeavor. This year's Distinguished Letterwinners are Jerry "Red" Anderson and Fred Ridley.
Honorary Letterwinners are individuals, coaches, athletic officials, staff members and other University officials who were not letterwinners or athletes at the University of Florida, yet have rendered outstanding service to the intercollegiate athletics program through personal time, effort, interest and through many years of continued service. This year's Honorary Letterwinner inductee is Ben Hill Griffin III.
Brief biographical sketches of each of the inductees follow.
Jerry "Red" Anderson: Football 1964-66
Starting defensive lineman in 1965 and 66 … Played in the 1966 Sugar Bowls and was co-captain of the 1967 Orange Bowl team … Honorable mention All-SEC … Began his coaching career in 1967 … Led Miami Carol City to the 1976 state title … Had collegiate coaching stints at Vanderbilt, Miami, West Point and Central Florida … First coaching stint at Florida was 1985-95, and was hired by Ron Zook in 2002 … between times in the football office, served as the Assistant Director of Gator Boosters from 1995-2002.
Tami Bruce: Swimming 1986-89
Twelve-time All-American … Earned seven NCAA titles, including winning the 1,650 yards freestyle three consecutive years … In 1998 ranked fourth in the world in the 400m freestyle, ninth in the 800m freestyle and tied for 10th in the 200m freestyle … Claimed six Southeastern Conference individual titles, while the team won three conference titles during her tenure.
Ben Hill Griffin III: Honorary
Chairman of the Board and CEO of Ben Hill Griffin, Inc. in Frostproof, with business interests in citrus, cattle and fresh fruit packing … Serves as a Director of SunTrust, Inc. and SunTrust of Mid-Florida … A member of the Board of Overseers of the UF Health Science Center, Gator Boosters, Bull Gator Club, SHARE Council, the Foundation Board of Directors, and an honorary Blue Key member … A member of the UF President’s Council … In 1993, he was honored as a Distinguished Alumnus of UF … Received an AA degree from the University of Central Florida and studied business at UF.
Larry Libertore: Football 1960-62
Played both sides of the ball while wearing the Orange and Blue … In 1960, ran for a 66-yard touchdown on the first play of the game to lead UF to a 13-10 upset win over LSU in Baton Rouge … Led the team in total offense and punt returns in 1960 … Named MVP of the 1960 Gator Bowl … Started at quarterback in 1961 … Started at defensive back in 1962 … Went on to be elected a member of the state legislature.
Mark Merklein: Men’s Tennis 1991-94
The first two-time NCAA champion in Florida men’s tennis history, earning the 1994 singles title and the 1993 doubles title with David Blair … First men’s tennis player in UF history to earn four All-America honors … Three-time All-SEC honoree, earning player of the year honors in 1994 … Ranks in the top five in career wins, career singles, single season wins and in single season doubles wins … Also ranks in the top 10 for career doubles wins.
Dennis Mitchell: Men’s Track 1986-89
Owns four UF individual and relay records … Three-time NCAA champion, twice in the 200m and once as a member of the 4x400m relay … 12-time All-American … 15-time SEC Champion, including four titles in the 100m … Scored the most points of any competitor at three Southeastern Conference Championships … Three-time world champion sprinter in the 100m … Three-time U.S. Olympian … Earned a silver medal as part of the 4x100m relay at the 1996 games in Atlanta.
Errict Rhett: Football 1990-93
First team All-American in 1993 … Completed career with 4,163 rushing yards, the top total in school history and the fourth-best all-time in the SEC … Caught 153 career passes, also the top total in school history for a running back and the third-best overall … First player in NCAA Division I-A to rush for over 4,100 yards and catch 140 passes … Two-time All-SEC first team … Led the conference in rushing in both 1991 and 1993 … Joined Emmitt Smith as the only UF players to gain 1,000 rushing yards in a season twice … Drafted in 1994 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers … Named the 1994 NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Fred Ridley: Men’s Golf 1973
Played on the 1973 NCAA Champion team … Won the 1975 US Amateur … Played on the 1976 World Amateur team and the 1977 U.S. Walker Cup team … Served as the captain of the U.S. Walker Cup team in 1987 and 1989 … Partner in the law firm of Foley & Lardner … Currently serving as the president of the United States Golf Association and the joint chairman of the international Golf Federation.
Sophia Witherspoon: Women’s Basketball 1988-91
Sixth all-time leading scorer with 1.381 points in just three seasons … top five in several career statistical categories: point average, three-point field goals made, three-point field goals attempted, three-point percentage, free throws made, free throws attempted and steals … First-team All-SEC her senior year and second team her junior season … Now a professional basketball player, with the Los Angeles Sparks, New York Liberty, and Portland Fire … She was a second round selection in the inaugural WNBA draft in 1997 by the New York Liberty and became their leading scorer in her first season … Most recently played for the Los Angeles Sparks with whom she won a WNBA title.