Anyone who has walked through the hallway adjacent to the Bultman Center has seen their smiling faces. It’s NW’s Athletic Hall of Fame. A close look at the wall reflects the ways in which NW athletics have evolved over the years.
The NW Hall of Fame was established in 1982. This past Saturday, in its 33rd year of existence, the Hall of Fame honors were bestowed on three more former Red Raiders. The 2015 Hall of Fame Inductees were former baseball player Ethan Miller, former football player Nathan Jansen and former volleyball and basketball player Randa (Hulstein) Poel.
Poel became the 24th woman in school history to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Miller and Jansen became the 83rd and 84th men to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
A quick glance at the faces on the wall may seem to point to gender inequities in the NW Hall of Fame, but a closer look reflects a greater equality between men’s and women’s athletics that has grown throughout the past three decades.
In the first year of the Hall of Fame’s existence, the Red Raider Club committee who is responsible for selecting inductees, chose 25 former NW athletes from both the four-year program and the previous junior college program.
Of the 25 people inducted, just one was a woman. Athletic director Earl Woudstra explained that there were several reasons for this.
“If you look at all the pictures on the wall in the Bultman a lot of the initial inductees were men’s football and basketball,” Woudstra said. “But that was because women’s sports were just starting.”
Barry Brandt, former NW athletic director, said for many years instead of having formal women’s sports, intramurals were the main way in which women participated in athletics.
NW women’s athletics began to take off throughout the 1970s. Women’s athletics were established at high schools, colleges and universities on the heels of the Title IX act passed in 1972 mandating equitable federal funding for women’s sports programs.
Brandt explained that even though women’s athletics became official college programs in the 70’s, it still took almost ten years before there were women eligible to be inducted.
This fact was owing to one of the Hall of Fame eligibility criteria, which requires a five-year time lapse between the candidate’s graduation and their induction into the Hall of Fame.
Brandt, who also served as a member of the Red Raider Club, said the committee carefully examined and weighed each candidate’s national, regional and conference successes as well as their NW success.
Brandt and Woudstra said it took time for NW’s women’s athletics, like any athletic program, to reach a level of national recognition and national achievement.
After the 70’s when women’s sports were fully incorporated, inducting one person per year into the Hall of Fame did not keep pace with the number of talented male and female athletes deserving of the Hall of Fame.
“The award started with 1 person; then moved to two; then one male and one female. Then sometimes three,” Brandt said.
Each of this year’s three inductees earned impressive accolades during their athletic careers at NW. Miller, a 2003 NW grad, earned NAIA All-American honorable mention one year and all-conference honors all four years.
Jansen, ’09, was also an All-American and in 2008 was named GPAC Defensive Player of the Year. Poel earned All-American honors in both volleyball and basketball and was all-conference every year.
Woudstra said with such strong men’s and women’s athletic programs, each year narrowing down the list of inductees becomes more difficult.
The wall was first filled with inductees from only men’s football and basketball, but with the growth of NW athletics the wall now includes athletes from women’s basketball and volleyball, baseball, wrestling, softball, men’s golf, cross country and track and field.
Although the Red Raider Club committee keeps gender balance in mind when making its Hall of Fame selections, Woudstra said there is ultimately no gender quota. Rather the committee awards the nominees most deserving of the Hall of Fame that year.
But with more and more talented athletes on NW’s fields, courts and track, Brandt said he wouldn’t be surprised if the number of inductees selected per year increased in the next few years to four: two men and two women.
If NW continues to enjoy the athletic success it has in the past, that wall may fill up fast. And if that’s the case, Brandt said there are plenty of locations around campus for the new kids on the wall.