Three individuals with direct connections to Faulkner County are among the class of 11 who will be inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
Ken Stephens, who has had multiple stops during his coaching career (including the University of Central Arkansas), Don Campbell, a highly successful high school coach who has retired in Vilonia, and Stephanie Strack Mathis, one of the greatest athletes in St. Joseph High School history, are among the inductees.
They will be installed at the organization’s annual banquet on Friday, Feb. 28, at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock.
Stephens, who was a star athlete at Conway High School and what is now the University of Central Arkansas, won titles at both the high school and college levels.
He took over a UCA football program that had suffered three consecutive losing seasons. Four years later, the Bears were playing for the NAIA national championship. Stephens’ UCA teams won AIC championships in 1976, 1978, 1980 and 1981. He left UCA in 1982 with a 67-35-6 record after being hired to coach at Lamar University in Texas.
Stephens became the head coach at Arkansas Tech in 1985 and retired in 1992. He later came out of retirement to revive a dormant program at Ranger Junior College in Texas.
As the head football coach at North Little Rock High School from 1963-70, Stephens’ teams won three state championships. He was the Arkansas High School Coaches Association’s Coach of the Year in 1966 and was given the Lowell Manning Award in 1967.
Campbell, a Forrest City native, compiled a 257-98-6 record that included stops at Corning, Sheridan and Wynne. Campbell’s teams won 16 district championships along with state championships at Wynne in 2001 and 2004. In 1987, he was awarded the Lowell Manning Award as the state’s outstanding coach.
He was selected for the Arkansas High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2008, a year after having received the first Paul Eells Award from the Arkansas chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame. He served on the all-star football coaching staff nine times and was inducted into the Henderson Hall of Honor in 2010.
Mathis is the career scoring leader in women’s basketball at Arkansas Tech University. At St. Joseph, she scored 1,748 career points and was a two-time all-stater.
At Arkansas Tech under coach Joe Foley, she was a three-time NAIA All-American, scoring 2,298 points during her college career. She helped lead the Golden Suns to NAIA national championships in 1992 and 1993. The team that captured the 1992 title had a 35-1 record and closed the season with a 28-game winning streak. The Golden Suns went 31-5 the following year and repeated as national champions. Mathis scored 670 points that season, including 30 points against Union University in the national championship game, earning MVP honors for the tournament.
During Mathis’ four years as a Golden Suns, the team went 124-15 overall, 56-6 in Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference play and 52-3 at home.
Other members of the Class of 2014:
David Bazzel, a former Razorbck star who became nationally known as a sports entrepreneur for creating the Broyles Award for assistant coaches and the Golden Boot, the trophy for the LSU-Arkansas game. He was the chairman of the Arkansas Governor’s Council on Fitness for nine years and was a founder of the Little Rock Touchdown Club in 2004.
Gary Blair, the head women’s basketball oocoach at Texas A&M University and a former head women’s basketball coach at the University of Arkansas who led the Aggies to the 2011 NCAA title.
Ken Duke, a former Henderson State star golfer, who has gone on to a solid career on the PGA Tour, making the cut at all four major championships in his career.
Bennie Fuller the all-time leading scorer in Arkansas boys’ high school basketball history while playing for Arkansas School for the Deaf. He scored 4,896 points during is career, including a 102-point game, and still ranks fourth on the all-time national scoring list.
Dennis Winston, a former star linebacker for the Razorbacks who went on to play 11 seasons in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers and New Orleans Saints. He served as interim coach at Grambling State last season.
Alvy Early of Arkansas-Monticello has more than 1,000 career wins as women’s basketball and softball coach, making him one of the state’s most successful college coaches ever. The late Jim "Bad News" Barnes of Tuckerman was a star basketball player at Texas-El Paso and was the New York Knicks’ top selection in the 1964 NBA draft. He played seven seasons for five different teams. He also was a member of the gold-medal winning 1964 U.S. Olympic Basketball team.
The late Harry Vines, who coached the Arkansas Rollin’ Razorbacks wheelchair team to 21 winning seasons in 22 years, including five national championships. He was inducted into the National Wheelchair Basketball Association Hall of Fame in 2001.
Also to be honored is Ronnie McFarland of Searcy. a longtime member of the board of directors of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame He will receive the William H. "Buddy" Sutton Meritorious Service Award.