The Southern Arkansas University Department of Athletics has announced that it will add eight new individual members to its Sports Hall of Fame.
The Southern Arkansas University Athletic Department Hall of Fame Class of 2021 includes Cody Jones, baseball; Jackie LeDay, volleyball; Mike Rubinski, football; Keffus Wilkerson, track and field; Kim Davis, women’s basketball; Wayne Freppon, football, baseball, men’s basketball, track and field; Jeff Harrington, meritorious service; Bernardi Johnson, football.
The 18th class was elected by SAU's Hall of Fame induction committee earlier this summer.
The newest class will be formally inducted during a ceremony at 6:30 p.m. Friday, October 8 in the Grand Hall of the Donald W. Reynolds Campus and Community Center. The class will also be publicly introduced at halftime of the October 9 Homecoming game against Southeastern Oklahoma State.
The 2021 Southern Arkansas University Sports Hall of Fame Class is comprised of seven former student-athletes and a meritorious service honoree.
Women's Basketball | Modern Era
A conversation discussing the top performers in the history of the Southern Arkansas women's basketball program must include Kim Davis. However, a conversation discussing the best to take the court for the Lady Muleriders in the department's NCAA Era (1995-96) must start with Davis who remains one of the most highly decorated players in program history and one of the most prolific shooters the program has ever seen.
A native of Mountain Home, Davis engineered one of the more impressive freshman seasons for a Mulerider student-athlete regardless of sport as she turned in a rookie season in 2003-04 that finished with the 6' 1" post player being named a Women's Division II Bulletin All-America Honorable Mention selection in addition to earning Women's Division II Bulletin Freshman All-America honors.
A three-time Daktronics All-South Region selection including first team honors after her first year in Magnolia, Davis led the Gulf South Conference and ranked sixth nationally in combined field goal percentage (62.7%; 190-of-303) and two-point field goal percentage (63.0%; 186-of-295) as a freshman; both of which remain single-season program bests to this day. An obvious force inside, Davis also led the GSC in points per game at 17.7 and finished fifth in rebounding average at 9.7 boards per game.
Her 27-game output in 2003-04 took the league by storm and helped SAU snap an eight-year streak of finishing below .500. Davis' efforts resulted in the Arkansan being named GSC West Division Player of the Year and GSC West Division Freshman of the Year plaudits in addition to nabbing All-GSC First Team honors as well; the first of three all-league accolades acquired by Davis in her career which includes a second All-GSC First-Team honor following the 2006-07 season.
In four seasons, Davis never shot below 52.5% from the floor and averaged over 15.5 points per game in three of those seasons. In 81 total games played, including 69 starts, Davis averaged 29.2 minutes on the floor behind a career double-double average of 16.1 points and 10.1 rebounds per game; one of only two players in program history and the only one in the NCAA Era to average a double-double for her career.
Her 1,305 career points rank seventh on the program's all-time scoring list which came courtesy of career records in combined field goal percentage (58.4%; 506-of-866) and two-point field goal percentage (59.8%; 485-of-811). Davis' career free throw clip of 79.8% (272-of-341) ranks second all-time. She totaled 822 rebounds, 92 steals, 61 assists and 55 blocks.
In all, Davis ranks in the top 10 of 15 career statistical categories, including nine top five placements. Additionally, her name can be found twenty-five times in the top 10 of multiple single season records which includes her currently holding the top two, and three of the top five single-season field goal shooting percentages, three of the top four single-season rebounding averages and the single-season record for rebounds.
Football, Baseball, Men's Basketball, Track & Field | Golden Era
The fact that he did not receive a scholarship to compete collegiately certainly did not deter the late multi-sport Mulerider great Wayne Freppon. The Bald Knob product walked on to legendary head coach Auburn Smith's Mulerider Football team in 1958 where he would earn a scholarship and proceed to become a two-time All-Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference selection as a defensive back in 1959 and 1961.
As was often the case in that departed gridiron era of grit and toughness, Freppon played on both sides of the football as he served as a fullback for Smith's offensive attack. Freppon teamed up with the likes of fellow SAU Sports Hall of Famers David Alpe, Jerry Camp, Danny Greenfield, Don Henson, Dr. Larry McNeal, Calvin Neal, James Pettitt, Ken Schmidt, and James "Sonny" Whittington.
But his exploits on the gridiron, which saw Freppon along with his brother Jerry help Smith's program capture 19 wins, were just the beginning for the athletic Arkansan. He played baseball in 1961 and 1962, was a member of the 1960-61 and 1961-62 Mulerider Basketball teams, and also competed in track & field during his time at Southern State College.
Following his graduation from SSC in which he earned a physical education degree, Freppon moved into coaching. He spent forty years as an educator, coach and administrator serving the school districts of Smackover, De Queen, Katy, Texas, Dierks, Fordyce and Hope before his retirement in 2002.
At Smackover, he served as an assistant football coach and the head basketball coach for the Buckaroos for six years, before taking over as head football coach at De Queen where he would twice coach in the AAA East-West All-Star Game, while also earning Class 7A Coach of the Year honors.
Once retired from coaching, Freppon's administrative career began and after 14 years at De Queen he moved to the Lone Star State where he briefly served Katy ISD's Taylor High School, before moving back to Arkansas to finish up an exceptional career at Dierks, Fordyce and Hope High Schools.
It would most likely be an unsuccessful search if given the task of finding someone more "Mulerider" than Jeff Harrington. A 1986 graduate of Southern Arkansas University, Harrington has served his alma mater and Mulerider Athletics in multiple capacities for nearly 40 years; much like his beloved late father Dr. Jack Harrington; a 2005 SAU Sports Hall of Fame Inductee.
A native of Magnolia, Harrington grew up around the Muleriders as a result of his father's longtime devotion to the university as an agriculture professor, head baseball coach, and in multiple roles within the athletic department's game day operations. Jeff wasted no time becoming involved once arriving on campus as a freshman.
From 1982 through his graduation in 1986, Harrington served as the student sports information director. He then transitioned to sports information director; a role that he held during the 1986-87 athletic year and through the end of 1987 covering the Mulerider Men's & Women's Athletic Programs during the start of the department's final decade as an Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference member of the NAIA. During his time in that position, he served as secretary of the AIC's Sports Information Directors Association and in the fall of 1987 he served as the association's president.
Harrington's next move took him into radio where he became news director at radio station KVMA in Magnolia. From 1988 through 1993, Harrington could be heard broadcasting Mulerider baseball and since 1999, he has served in some capacity on Mulerider Baseball radio broadcasts whether in a full-time role or as a fill-in alongside longtime friend and fellow SAU Sports Hall of Famer Dan Gregory.
Harrington's service has certainly mirrored that of his father's and that became no more evident than in 1997 when he took over as the public address announcer for Mulerider football and in turn carried on a legacy that began in 1965 when his father first grabbed the PA mic. Dr. Harrington served in the role through the 1994 season, while the 2021 campaign will be the 24th for Harrington who has been the only in-stadium voice of the Muleriders over the past 120+ SAU Football home games.
Not only can Harrington be heard on Saturday's inside Wilkins Stadium, but since 2014 he has filled a full-time role as the public address announcer inside the W.T. Watson Center; home of the Mulerider Men's & Women's Basketball programs. The following year, Harrington became the full-time in-arena voice of Mulerider volleyball home matches; a role he was very familiar with after serving in the same capacity for the 2003 through 2005 seasons.
His service has extended beyond the duties of a given game day as he is a proud 30+ year member of the Mulerider Club which includes four years as a member of the Club's Advisory Board and the 2017-18 athletic year as the Mulerider Club President.
Whether inside Wilkins Stadium at Rip Powell Field, the W.T. Watson Center or on the radio coverage of SAU Sports, Harrington's confident and enthusiastic approach and presence for Mulerider Athletics has been and remains unmatched.
Football | Golden Era
When Little Rock Parkview's Sam Goodwin took over as head coach of the Mulerider Football program in 1979, he brought a familiar face with him to Magnolia as former Pulaski County standout and Parkview graduate Bernardi Johnson joined Goodwin and began a career that staked the Little Rock native as one of the all-time great defensive backs in program history.
Johnson played under three different head coaches during his time as a Mulerider and enjoyed three winning campaigns as Southern Arkansas totaled 21 wins in his four seasons which included the 1979 and 1980 campaigns under Goodwin, the '81 season under Jimmy "Red" Parker and his senior season of 1982 under the direction of Steve Arnett.
As a sophomore, Johnson quickly established himself as one of the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference's top defensive backs as he led the league in interceptions with six totaling 109 yards and a touchdown which came on a then-school record 92-yard interception return on the road at East Texas State. It remains the second longest in school history and the longest by a Mulerider in a road contest. His 109 return yards that season remain tied for seventh all-time and were the third-most in a single season at the conclusion of the '80 campaign. He finished with 43 total tackles, including 32 solo stops, while also ranking third in the AIC in punt return average.
Evidently, Johnson provided his own stability in the secondary, after switching over from wide receiver as a freshman, as he starred in a defensive backfield that included fellow SAU Sports Hall of Famer Dennis Woodberry and on a defensive unit that included fellow Hall inductee Doug Carter. In his three seasons as a starter, Southern Arkansas ranked in the top three of total defense in the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference each year with SAU boasting the top defense in the league during his final season of 1982.
Johnson's impact as a Mulerider was immense as he would claim All-AIC honors after that sensational sophomore campaign as well as following his junior and senior seasons. He was named an NAIA All-District 17 honoree in '80 and '82 and received honorable mention following the 1981 season. Johnson became the first Mulerider defensive back to receive national postseason acclaim as he earned NAIA All-America honors during his time at SAU.
At the end of his career, he ranked second all-time in program history in total punt returns (36) which remains the seventh most by a Mulerider. He was responsible for 11 interceptions totaling 139 yards and the aforementioned touchdown and he recorded over 320 all-purpose yards.
Baseball | Modern Era
When it came time to take his talents to the collegiate level, Cody Jones didn't have to travel far as the Springhill, LA native crossed state lines and headed northeast up Arkansas Hwy 371 to Southern Arkansas University. In four seasons for the Mulerider Baseball team, Jones solidified himself as one of the top hurlers in program history.
In 2006, Jones earned All-America Third-Team honors from the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) and Rawlings/American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) which made him the first Mulerider in the program's NCAA Era (1995-96) to earn national recognition. Those honors followed first team All-South Central Region selection from both organizations as well as All-Gulf South Conference West Division First-Team plaudits.
That sophomore year, his best statistically as a Mulerider starting pitcher, saw Jones post a 12-3 record with nine complete games and a single-season program-best four shutouts. He coupled that with a 2.98 ERA in 126.2 innings of work; a single-season program record for innings pitched. The left-hander fanned 115 which at the time was a program record and now stands as the third-most in a single season. Jones remains one of only four pitchers to reach the century mark in single-season strikeouts.
That 2006 campaign also saw Jones become the third Mulerider pitcher to toss a no-hitter, and he remains one of only five to accomplish the feat, as he blanked Central Arkansas on February 21 in Conway which aided him in being named the Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week.
Over the next two seasons, Jones would earn two more All-GAC West Division honors with an additional first-team accolade coming during his senior season of 2008; a year that also saw him named a Daktronics All-South Central Region First Teamer and SAU's Auburn Smith Male Athlete of the Year.
No Mulerider pitcher has taken to the mound in a starting role more than Jones' 52 starts nor has a Mulerider pitcher thrown as many innings as Jones' 368.1. He is one of just six pitchers to appear in at least 56 games throughout a career and his 32 career wins are the second-most all-time only bested by fellow SAU Sports Hall of Famer Hayden Simpson's 35. Additionally, Jones tossed six shutouts; the second-most all-time, while his 269 strikeouts rank third in program history and are the second-most ever among Mulerider southpaws.
Volleyball | Golden Era
Although a relatively young volleyball program by NAIA standards, SAU Hall of Fame head coach Ginger Hurst's Riderettes of the late 1980s dominated and for two seasons in the latter part of the decade much of that production can be credited to Beaumont, TX native Jackie LeDay.
A two-time All-Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference selection as well as a two-time NAIA All-District 17 performer with unanimous selection in 1988, LeDay remains the only Southern Arkansas Volleyball player to have earned a regional Player of the Year honor as she was named the NAIA's 1988 District 17 Player of the Year.
LeDay, a winner of multiple AIC Volleyball Player of the Week honors in her two seasons as a Riderette, put together an impressive showing in her player of the week performances during the 1987 season as she averaged a triple double of 44 digs, 18 blocks and 12 assists each week in addition to posting a 27% attack efficiency and a 96% serve efficiency.
In just two seasons, the '87 and '88 campaigns, LeDay helped SAU post a 50-18 (.735) overall record with a 20-4 mark in AIC play. That success was capped in LeDay's final season at Southern Arkansas as she helped lead the Riderettes to the '88 AIC Title; the program's first as an NAIA member.
That two-season stretch remains the fourth-best such winning percentage of any two consecutive seasons in program history. It also marked the first back-to-back campaigns with 20 or more wins in program history which included a then-program record 27 victories in LeDay's junior season of 1987. Since then, the 27 victories have been matched or bettered by only three Mulerider Volleyball teams.
Football | Golden Era
The late Mike Rubinski's journey to Magnolia began in the Sunshine State as the Florida native joined legendary head coach Raymond "Rip" Powell's 1972 Mulerider football squad which would claim the program's first Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference Title in 20 years.
Rubinski merged into a crowded, but highly talented Southern State backfield which included the likes of fellow Mulerider Football legends Cleo House Sr. (SAU Sports Hall of Fame C/O 2019) and Cornell Williams. Although Powell relied on Rubinski's legs at times to carry the football that freshman season, it was Rubinski's foot that helped him impact early as the team's place kicker on extra points and field goals.
As a collegiate rookie, Rubinski connected on 13 extra point attempts and totaled 165 yards on 37 carries with the first of what would became a then-career program record of 25 rushing touchdowns which came in the regular season finale; a 43-0 beat down of bitter league rival Arkansas-Monticello.
In 1974, Rubinski, who his teammates and coaches dubbed "The Florida Flash," became the first running back in program history to eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark in a single season as the fullback totaled 1,064 yards on 229 carries with 11 touchdowns. He ranked second in the AIC that season in touchdowns, yards per carry and total points, while ranking third in attempts and rushing yards. In a game against Bishop College, Rubinski scored all five of the team's touchdowns setting a program record that would not be eclipsed until the 2000 season.
He followed that effort with a 1975 campaign that resulted in 822 yards rushing on 196 carries with a dozen touchdowns. He once again ranked second in the AIC in touchdowns and total points and he finished third in attempts, rushing yards and yards per carry.
In his career, Rubinski established himself as not only one of the program's top ball carriers in Powell's run-heavy, wishbone era, but as one of the top running backs to ever don the Mulerider Blue & Gold. A two-time All-AIC selection as a running back, Rubinski garnered NAIA All-America Honorable Mention honors in his final season of 1975.
At the time his career came to an end, Rubinski owned program records in career rushing attempts, yards rushing, rushing touchdowns, touchdowns scored and points scored. Among Muleriders with at least 25 career touchdowns, Rubinski is the only player that competed earlier than the 2000 season.
Men's Track & Field | Modern Era
With the longtime successes reached by the Southern Arkansas Track & Field program under several legendary head coaches including longtime SAU Sports Hall of Famer Dan Veach, a stockpile of talented student-athletes became the norm year in and year out for Veach's Muleriders.
Among those that played a vital role in the program's success in the early 1990s was Dallas native Keffus Wilkerson. The Texan lettered four seasons as a member of the Mulerider Men's Track & Field team and received national honors both as a sprinter and as a jumper.
Wilkerson burst onto the collegiate scene claiming NAIA All-America status in the Long Jump event and as a member of the Muleriders' speedy 4x100 relay team following his freshman season of 1990. He placed third in the Long Jump that season with a rookie mark of 23' 5 ½".
The next season he became the AIC's Individual Champion in both the Long Jump and Triple Jump events, while repeating as an All-America selection in the Long Jump. He claimed the Long Jump Crown with a final mark of 23' 3 ¾", while his final result of 46' 9" in the Triple Jump also placed him atop the podium.
As a junior in 1992, Wilkerson battled through injuries to once again record a pair of All-AIC First Team honors with a second-place showing in the Triple Jump event (46' 6 ¼") and a third-place result in the Long Jump event (23' 3 ¾"). He claimed a pair of Long Jump wins in the regular season and added a Triple Jump title to his first-place ledger as well.
The following season, his final for the Muleriders, Wilkerson again gritted through competition at times not fully 100% to log a pair of top five finishes at the AIC Championships with fourth-place results in the Long Jump (22') and Triple Jump (43' 11 ½") events. Additionally, he added event wins in the Long Jump (22' 9 ¼") and Triple Jump (43' 7 ½") at that season's SAU Invitational, while claiming top honors in the Long Jump (21' 11 ¼") event at the Ambassador College Track Meet.