March 3, 2009
The South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame’s Class of 2009 will be, in large part, a sentimental journey to the 1960s with six of the eight inductees in their heyday during that turbulent decade.
The back-in-the-day class for the 49th annual banquet ceremony includes NASCAR driver-crew chief Cotton Owens; Clemson and former major leaguer Ty Cline; USC basketball backcourt mates Skip Harlicka and Jack Thompson, the first recruits and building blocks for the wildly-successful McGuire Era; Olympia High School coach Bobby Giles who won seven state championships with the Red Devils; and the late, award-winning sports writer Herman Helms, who arrived at The State newspaper in the early 60s and spearheaded a revival of the dormant hall of fame.
Two heralded ‘youngsters’ — Robert Porcher, South Carolina State football star of the early 1990s, and current North Carolina women¹s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell — headline the yesteryear-laden class. Porcher, a stalwart defensive end, went on to become a three-time Pro-Bowl selection with the NFL Detroit Lions. Hatchell coached Francis Marion University to two women¹s basketball national championships during her 11 seasons at the Florence school before establishing UNC as a perennial national power.
The eight luminaries will be inducted to the state’s highest athletic honor on May 18 at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. Tickets (table of eight for $500) and program sponsorships can be purchased by calling the SCAHOF office at 803-779-0905. The affair, which includes a reception, dinner, and a silent memorabilia auction, begins at 5:30 p.m.
In addition to the inductees donning of the symbolic blue jackets, the Bobby Richardson Sportsmanship Award recipient and the pro and amateur athletes of the year will also be honored. The affair, which includes a host of returning past inductees, may well be the greatest annual collection of Palmetto State sports stars under one roof.
Former South Carolina State coach and 2009 SCAHOF president Willie Jeffries, known for his wit and witticism, will preside over the banquet as emcee along with executive director Ephraim Ulmer.
Robert Porcher — Wando native starred at South Carolina State. A late bloomer, he dominated as a senior, making 88 tackles, 15 sacks (two shy of Pro Football Hall of Famer Harry Carson¹s school record) and 24 tackles for losses to become a first-round draft pick of the NFL Detroit Lions. The 6-3, 266-pound defensive end led the Lions in sacks eight times and played in the Pro Bowl three times. S.C. State retired his No. 94 jersey in 2000. In Detroit, Porcher became a pillar of the community, winning numerous service awards, including ‘Father of the Year’ in 2000.
Cotton Owens—- Union native, who earned nickname ‘Cotton’ because of his white hair, began his career on NASCAR’s Modified circuit in 1956 driving a souped-up 1950 Dodge. He won 54 feature races, including 24 in a row, and won three U.S. Modified Championship Races. After retiring as a driver he became a crew chief and launched the career of David Pearson. Together they won 23 aces and a Grand National championship in 1964-65. He also guided the cars of Al Unser, Charlie Glotzbach, Buddy Baker (winning the 1970 Southern 500), Pete Hamilton and Marty Robbins. The Stock Car Racing Hall of Fame at Darlington inducted Owens in 1970. In 1998, he was named on of NASCAR’s 50 GREATEST Drivers. In 200, he was honored for a ‘Lifetime Achievement in Auto Racing.’ In 2006, the Living Legends of Auto Racing gave him its ³Pioneer Racing ³ award. In 2007, Spartanburg honored him with a ‘Cotton Owen Day’ and he received the Order of the Palmetto. In 2008, he was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.
Sylvia Hatchell –The University of North Carolina women¹s basketball coach ranks among the top tier in her profession, and her illustrious career started in South Carolina. Hatchell coached Francis Marion University in Florence, S.C. to a 2272-80 record over 11 seasons, leading the Lady Patriots to a 36-2 mark and the NAIA national championship in 1986. In 1982, she coached FMU to the AIAW small college division national crown. Hatchell led UNC to the NCAA championship in 1994. Hatchell is the only coach to win the AIAW, NAIA and NCAA Division I titles. She also led UNC to the Final Four in 2006. She entered the 2008-2009 season with a career record of 751-272 (update) over 33 years, and a 479-192 slate in 22 years at UNC. She has coached 20 players to pro careers and seven All-Americans. She stands No. 3 among active women¹s coaches. The two-time National Coach of the Year (1999 and 2006) was inducted into the Women¹s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004. In 1995, Hatchell led the USA team to a silver medal in the World University Games. She has been an assistant coach to five USA gold medal teams. She served as president of the Women¹s Basketball Coaches Association in 1996-97. The Gastonia, N.C., native is a 1974 cum laude graduate of Carson-Newman College and earned a master’s degree at Tennessee.
Skip Harlicka Jack Thompson — Newspaper clips recorded the kudos from coaches. Former Wake Forest coach Bones McKinney and former Clemson coach Bobby Roberts, both called Thompson-Harlicka the best back court in the ACC (the league was 14 years in existence at that time in1968). Duke coach Vic Bubas said Thompson-Harlicka outplayed his pair of Verga-Vacendak in 1968.
In 2007 then USC coach Dave Odom, a long time ACC observer, called Thompson-Harlicka, “right there with Verga-Vacendak” McGuire said of Thompson in 1968, “he passes better than Bob Cousy.” In 2007 teammate Bobby Cremins called Thompson the best passer ever at USC. Harlicka, with the NBA Atlanta Hawks, and Thompson, with the ABA Indiana Pacers, became first round pro basketball draft picks. Both were selected among the top five guys in the country. In 1997, both were selected by the State paper among the top 50 players in the history of the state. The pair played their best in big games; for their careers they defeated Duke three of five times and UNC two of the last four times they played; in each of the games, Duke and NC were ranked between third and 10th in the nation. They were the only backcourt in USC history to be inducted into the USC Hall Of Fame.
Harlicka led Carolina in scoring his three varsity seasons (1965-68) with a 17.5 career average, including 21.8 as a senior All-ACC and Chuck Taylor Converse All American. He ranks no. 6 among Gamecocks in career scoring average, his 1,209 career points on the school point totals dominated in recent years by four year lettermen. He twice made the ACC All Tournament team and played a key role in Carolina’s rise to the top of the ACC.
Thompson, a second team All-ACC selection averaged 10.9 but scored when he had to, as he did in making 10 of 12 shots at Duke to hold the highest shooting percentage by a Duke opponent for 24 years. The true measure of Thompson, who is widely regarded as the best passer in school history, suffers because he played his first 2 seasons before USC began recording assists. Also, a torn hamstring injury severely impacted Thompson¹s senior season. Nevertheless, newspapers often noted his 14 assists set in 1966 stood for 11 years. Thompson made All-ACC tournament and All State twice.
Ty Cline — He starred at Clemson (1956-60) as an All-American baseball player in 1960. In 1960 he was also All-ACC and All-Atlantic Region. He helped the Tigers advance to the1959 College World Series as well as making the 1959 US PanAm Team. As a sophomore he led Clemson in most hitting categories while compiling a 5-1 record as a pitcher. As a junior he hit .348. His career average at Clemson was .335. After being drafted, he played 12 years in the majors. He spearheaded two key victories for Cincinnati over Pittsburgh in the1970 National League Championship Series. Was inducted into the Clemson Hall of Fame in 1978.
Bobby Giles, — Longtime Olympia HS coach in three sports. He compiled an overall 623-281-4 record and won seven state championship overall. In football he recorded a 110-87-4 mark and one title; in basketball he compiled a 336-116 record and five titles; in baseball, he had a 207-78 record and one state title. He also served as head coach of the Shrine Bowl in 1967. He coached two players (Jerry Martin and Mike Martin) who went on to play professional baseball, and coached seven Shrine Bowl football players. As an athlete, he played football and basketball at USC. He scored the first touchdown in Gator Bowl history.
Herman Helms — When Helms arrived from Charlotte to become the sports editor of The State newspaper in 1963, he rekindled an embryonic-but-dormant South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame and saved the organization from possible extinction. He also served as a SCAHOF director for many years. As a sports editor he remained faithful to the highest standards of journalism, always allowing sports-page space for diverse coverage.
As a 27-year columnist at The State, he stood as the conscience of large-scale programs such as USC and Clemson, which sometimes drew the ire of diehard fans unknowledgeable of the role of a newspaper. Helms was the only journalist to be named sportswriter of the year in both Carolinas, winning the award twice in N.C., and five time in S.C., before removing his name from further consideration to allow others to be recognized. He earned numerous national awards, and lectured on his craft. Among all the great national sports events he covered, Helms attended national heavyweight boxing championship bouts and was inducted into the Carolina Boxing Hall of Fame in 1988. He received a commendation from the S.C. Legislature upon his retirement in 1989. The Monroe, N.C. native and Catawba College graduate served as president of the Atlantic Coast Writers Association and on the Governor’s Council for Physical Fitness under Gov. John West. Helms died in December of 2007. Catawba College inducted Helms into its Hall of Fame in April 2008.
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