As the Colorado football team strives to put itself on the path to victory, the athletic department this week honored some of its best players from the past.
Three big names in football and the largest group of female inductees in CU history highlighted the 2022 Colorado Athletic Hall of Fame class, which was inducted in a ceremony Thursday night. The 17th class in the Athletics Hall of Fame was then honored during Saturday night’s game between CU and Arizona State at Folsom Field.
Football legends Greg Biekert (1989-92), Charlie Davis (1971-73) and Jay Leeuwenburg (1988-91) became CU’s last Hall of Famers from the grill.
Also fitting, in the year of the 50th anniversary of Title IX, four female athletes were in the Hall of Fame class for the first time. Track and field stars Jane Frederick (1970-73) and Yolanda Johnson (1987-91), skier Maria Grevsgaard and gymnast Debbie Willcox (1978-80) were inducted. CU also had four women in the 2010 class, with three athletes and coach Ceal Barry being inducted, but this year’s class is the first with four female athletes.
Jimmy Griffith (skiing) and former athletic director Dick Tharp (1996-2004) have been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Biekert and Leeuwenburg were teammates on CU’s national title team in 1990.
A linebacker, Biekert was a Butkus Award semi-finalist in 1992. He was also voted CU’s MVP in 1992 while earning unanimous All-Big Eight honors that season. A graduate of Longmont High School, he still ranks third on CU’s list for career tackles (441).
Leeuwenburg was a starter for three years at center and a unanimous first-team All-American in 1991. He earned an honorable mention All-American in 1990 and was a two-time first-team All-Big Eight.
Davis played running back for the Buffs and earned honorable mention All-American honors in 1971. His 1,386 rushing yards in 1971 still ranks fifth most for a single season in league history. CU. He ranks sixth in CU history with 2,958 career rushing yards.
Frederick began attending CU in 1970, before the school had any women’s varsity programs. But, she used CU facilities to train and was one of five people to approach athletic director Eddie Crowder about starting a women’s athletics program. In 1973, she won the AIAW national title in the pentathlon, becoming CU’s first female national champion in any sport.
Grevsgaard was a member of CU’s national championship ski team in 2006 and also won two individual NCAA Nordic titles. She was the first eight-time All-American in CU ski history.
Johnson, known as “Yo-Yo,” was a three-time first-team All-American, including twice in the 100-meter hurdles (1990 and 1991) and 55-meter hurdles (1990). She still holds the school record for the 55 meter hurdles (7.60 seconds). She never lost a race during her time at George Washington High School in Denver.
Willcox was a freshman star with the CU gymnastics team in 1979, but never competed again after a knee injury at AIAW Regionals that spring. Prior to the injury, she was the Big Eight all-around champion. As a youth, she won the 1974 U.S. all-around title, won two medals at the 1975 Pan American Games, and competed at the 1976 Olympics.
Griffith is considered CU’s first ski star. Competing for CU from 1947 to 1951, he won four collegiate races and finished nine in the top five. A member of the United States national team, he was named to the Olympic team in November 1951, but died on December 6, 1951, after a training accident. He was in line to become the school’s second Olympian and first in skiing.
Tharp was named the fourth full-time athletic director in CU history in 1997. He founded the CU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1998 and created the school’s “Living Legends” program. He hired several head coaches, including Gary Barnett (football) and current women’s golf coach Anne Kelly. Among his other accomplishments, he oversaw the construction of the East Side Club and Suites for Folsom Field in 2003.
Additionally, CU restored its Athletics Hall of Honor, while adding a “legacy wing” to its Athletics Hall of Fame.
The original CU Athletic Hall of Honor was established in 1967 but discontinued in 1987. It was eventually replaced with the establishment of the CU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1998. The Hall of Honor is designed to recognize the individuals who “while attending the University of Colorado, received a Varsity ‘C’ and achieved distinguished achievement in their chosen field,” according to CU.
Jim Hansen and Dr. Eric McCarty, both former CU football players, have been selected for Hall of Honor inductees.
Hansen, an offensive lineman at CU from 1989 to 1992, earned a degree in aerospace engineering, with a GPA of 3.941, as well as two awards citing his academic achievements. One such award was the Vincent Draddy Award, since renamed the William Campbell Award and considered the “Academic Heisman” of college football. He was also a Rhodes Scholar, studied for a year at Oxford, and was a professor at MIT before accepting his current position at the US Naval Research Laboratory.
A linebacker and fullback at CU from 1984 to 1987, McCarty is in his 19th year working with the athletic department. He joined the school’s sports medicine team in 2003 and has performed numerous surgeries on UC athletes and staff. A graduate of Boulder High School, McCarty was a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship while a student at CU.
Legendary twins Peggy Coppom and the late Betty Hoover were selected as the inaugural recipients of the Legacy Wing, which was created for “individuals who have made a lasting impression or contribution for, at or around CU athletics over the course of of their life”.
Coppom and Hoover, known as “CU’s Twins”, moved to Boulder in 1940 and have been lifelong CU fans. They attended games together until Betty died aged 95 in August 2020. Now 97, Coppom has continued to attend games.
The beloved Coppom said: “Before Betty died, she turned to me one day and said, ‘We had a great time, didn’t we? Yes, great fun cheering on all of CU’s many teams, meeting the coaches, players and their families, and meeting all the staff, attendants, cheerleaders, band.
“You know what? I can’t think of a person or anyone who has ever received an award like this for having a good time.