OGDEN - Five former standout athletes and one former coach make up the 2016 class of inductees to the Weber State University Athletics Hall of Fame. The WSU Wildcat Club has announced this year’s class of inductees.
This year’s Hall of Fame inductees are: Jim Blaisdell (women’s track and field/cross country coach), Bruce Covernton (football), Crystal Howe (women’s basketball), Wiley King (men’s track and field and football), Richard Smith (men’s basketball) and Meagan Thunell (women’s soccer).
In addition, former Weber State men’s basketball player and longtime college basketball head coach Ben Howland will be the recipient of the first-ever Weber State Athletics Lifetime Achievement Award. Howland will also be honored as part of the Hall of Fame ceremony.
The Wildcat Club Hall of Fame Banquet will be Friday, Feb. 26. The class will also be recognized at Weber State’s men’s basketball home game against Montana on Saturday, Feb. 27. For more information about Hall of Fame weekend, contact the Weber State Wildcat Club at 801-626-6576.
Jim Blaisdell spent 33 years (1981-2014) as the head coach of the Weber State women’s track and field program. He spent the last eight years of his career as the Director of Track and Field for the Wildcats and was also the women’s cross country coach for 26 years. Blaisdell coached more than 1,000 athletes during his time at Weber State.
In those 33 years as a head coach, Blaisdell led the Wildcats to 18 Big Sky Championships in indoor track, outdoor track and cross country. He has also guided the Wildcats to 31 second place finishes in conference meets. He led WSU to nine Big Sky Indoor Championships, capturing titles in 1984, 1991, 1992, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2012 and finished second nine times. WSU still holds the conference record by winning four-straight conference titles from 2002-05.
The Wildcats won five outdoor titles under his watch with wins in 1992, 1993, 1998, 2000, and 2002 when the Wildcats set a Big Sky record with 242 points in route to winning the conference title by 111 points, also a conference record.
In cross country, Weber State won four titles under Blaisdell, 1993, 1997, 2000 and 2006 and have finished second 12 times. He led the Wildcats to a top 10 finish in the NCAA Cross Country Mountain Region Championships in 25 of 26 meets, and finished in the top five 14 times.
From 1990-2007, a span of 50 conference championships in cross country, indoor, and outdoor track, Weber State finished first or second 42 times.
Blaisdell was named Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year 18 times during his career at WSU and was honored as the District VII Coach of the Year four times. He coached 28 All-Americans at Weber State and numerous All-Conference athletes.
Bruce Covernton played four years of football at Weber State from 1988-91 for Mike Price and Dave Arslanian. Coverton came to WSU out of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and originally joined the Wildcats as a defensive lineman. His first two seasons were spent as a defensive linemen with the Wildcats and he started all 11 games as a sophomore.
After his sophomore season, the player nicknamed “Tuna” moved to the offensive line and became an anchor to the Wildcat offense. His final two seasons as an offensive tackle on the left side of the line, Covernton blocked for Jamie Martin won the Walter Payton Trophy in 1991 as the nation’s top player.
In his senior season of 1991, Covernton earned First Team All-American honors as he helped lead Weber State to an 8-4 record and the Wildcats advanced to the NCAA I-AA Playoffs for just the second time in school history. Martin led the nation in total offense that year, throwing for more than 4,000 yards and 35 touchdowns.
After leaving Weber State, Covernton was drafted with the first overall pick in the 1992 Canadian Football League Draft by the Calgary Stampeders. He played in 72 games in seven years in the CFL. He was on the offensive line for Stampeder quarterbacks Jeff Garcia and Doug Flutie.
Crystal Howe played four years for the Weber State women’s basketball team from 2000-03 and was part of the Wildcat teams that won two Big Sky titles and twice advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
Howe, a native of Roy, joined head coach Carla Taylor’s squad as a freshman in 1999-2000. As a freshmen she averaged 11.6 points and led the team at 7.7 rebounds per game. She also led the Big Sky in field goal percentage at 51.6 percent and was named the Big Sky Freshman of the Year, one of just two Wildcats to ever win the award.
She averaged 14.4 points and 10.1 rebounds a game as a sophomore and earned All-Big Sky honors. As a junior during the 2001-02 season, Howe averaged a career-best 15.2 points and 7.2 rebounds a game and once again earned First Team All-Big Sky honors. That season she helped lead the Wildcats to an 11-3 conference record and their first Big Sky title in school history. The Wildcats won the Big Sky Tournament and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever.
As a senior in 2002-03, Howe averaged 12.4 points and 9.5 rebounds a game, once again earned first team All-Big Sky honors and the Wildcats repeated as Big Sky Champions and once again advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
Howe appeared in 119 career games at Weber State, the fourth most games played in school history. She started in 108 games and started every game of her final three seasons.
She still ranks sixth in scoring in school history with 1,597 career points. She is also third in WSU history in rebounds with 1,042 and ranks fourth in field goals made, fifth in free throws and eighth in career blocks.
She is one of just three players in Weber State history to earn Big Sky All-Conference first team honors three times.
Wiley King came to Weber State as a freshman for the Wildcat track and field and football teams in 2002. Four years later, he finished his career as one of the top athletes in school and conference history.
King was a two-sport standout at Weber State, competing four years for the Wildcat track and field and football teams from 2002-06. He was honored as the 43rd best male athlete in Big Sky Conference history.
King ranks as one of the top track and field athletes in Weber State and Big Sky Conference history. King won 13 Big Sky individual titles, winning six in indoor track and seven in outdoor track. He currently holds seven Weber State school records and is the Big Sky’s career leading scorer at both the indoor and outdoor championships.
In indoor track, King won Big Sky Athlete of the Meet in all four Big Sky Championships he competed in and scored a conference record 115 points in those four meets. As a freshman in 2002, he scored 23 points, won the long jump title and helped the Wildcats to the team title with a conference record 170.5 points. The following year, he scored 26 points, won the 55 meter hurdles and finished second in the long jump and high jump. As a junior in 2004, King set a then-conference record with 35 points by winning the 55 meters and 55 meter hurdles and helped lead the Wildcats to the team title. During his senior year of 2006, he scored 31 points and finished first in the long jump and heptathlon.
He also earned All-American honors by finishing sixth in the Heptathlon at the 2006 NCAA Indoor Championships.
In outdoor track he scored 108 career points in the conference meets, captured seven Big Sky titles and was twice named Athlete of the Meet. As a freshman in 2002 he won the triple jump as the Wildcats won the conference title with 215.5 points and in 2003 he won the title in the 110 meter hurdles. During his junior year of 2004, King set a conference record with 42 points, winning the title in the 100 meters, 110 meter hurdles and the 200 meters and the Wildcats won the team title. As senior in 2006 he won the title in the 100 meters and 110 meter hurdles.
Under the coaching of Chick Hislop and Dan Walker, King was a part of five Big Sky Championship teams and he still ranks as the only athlete in Big Sky Conference history to score 100 career points in the indoor and outdoor championships.
King still holds Weber State school records in the 55 meter hurdles, 60 meters, 60 meter hurdles, 100 meters, 110 meter hurdles, long jump and heptathlon and ranks in the top 10 in four other events.
He not only starred on the track, King also played 41 career games for the Weber State football team from 2002-05 as a wide receiver and kick returner, playing for Jerry Graybeal and Ron McBride. He still ranks third in Weber State history in career kickoff returns with 98 for an average of 20.7 yards per return. He is also ninth in school history in career all-purpose yards with 3,294.
Richard Smith played four years of basketball for the Wildcats from 1976-80 and was part of some of the best teams in school history. Under head coach Neil McCarthy, Smith helped lead the Wildcats to two Big Sky titles, three Big Sky Tournament titles and three trips to the NCAA Tournament.
He came to Weber State as a freshman for the 1976-77 season out of Green River, Wyo. The 7-0 center was joined that year by three other freshmen who, over the next four years, would form one of the strongest groups of players Weber State has ever seen. Smith joined freshman Bruce Collins from Rock Springs, Wyo., David Johnson from Loomis, Calif., and Mark Mattos from Santa Barbara, Calif. Those four players, who would become known as “McCarthy’s Kids”, combined to appear in 437 games in their four seasons as Wildcats. They won two Big Sky titles, three Big Sky Tournament titles, went to three NCAA Tournaments, and formed a strong bond that continued long after their careers ended.
Smith played in 18 games and started just one game as a freshman but over the next three years, he started in all but two games as a center for the Wildcats. As a sophomore in 1977-78, he averaged 10.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game as Weber State moved into the brand new, 11,500 seat Dee Events Center. That year the Wildcats finished third in the regular season but won the tournament title in Montana and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
As a junior in 1978-79, Smith stared in all 34 games and averaged 14.4 points and led the team in rebounding at 9.1 per game and field goal percentage. The ‘Cats finished 25-9, won the conference title and again advanced to the NCAA Tournament where they defeated New Mexico State in the first round before falling to Arkansas.
McCarthy’s Kids became seniors for the 1979-80 season and that year still ranks as one of the best in Weber State history. The Wildcats finished 26-3 and captured another Big Sky title, finishing 13-1 in league play. Weber State had an 18-game winning streak during the season, still a school record, and was ranked as high as 15th in the nation in the AP polls, the only season in school history Weber State has been nationally ranked. The Wildcats hosted Lamar in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at the Dee Events Center but lost 87-86.
Smith started all 29 games as a senior and averaged 11.6 points and a team-best 7.0 rebounds per game that season.
For his career he played in 109 games for the Wildcats. He earned first team All-Big Sky honors as a junior in 1979 and earned second team All-Conference honors as a senior in 1980. During his four years the Wildcats posted a 90-30 overall record.
He finished his career with 1,158 career points, at the time the fifth-best in scoring in school history. He now ranks 17th in career scoring and is fifth all-time in career rebounding with 764 rebounds.
Smith was drafted in the seventh round of the 1980 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. In 2013, he was named to the Weber State 50th Anniversary team along with his McCarthy Kids teammates Collins, Johnson and Mattos.
Meagan Thunell has been associated with Weber State women’s soccer for more than 15 years. She played four years for the Wildcats as a goalkeeper from 1998-2001, helping lead the Wildcats to two Big Sky Championships. She has spent the past 11 years an assistant coach at Weber State.
Thunell joined the Wildcats as a freshman goalkeeper in 1998, the third year of Weber State soccer. As a freshman that season she helped lead Weber State to a 17-3 record and its first-ever Big Sky title. She was named Big Sky Conference Newcomer of the Year that season and finished fourth in the nation in goals-against average. She also set a school record with 15 wins that season and only allowed seven goals during the year, a Weber State single-season record.
As a sophomore in 1999, she set a school scoreless streak spanning seven straight games without allowing a goal. She allowed 23 goals that season and was named the Big Sky Conference Defensive MVP, one of three players in school history to earn that honor.
In her junior season she set a school record with 130 saves and also was named to the NSCAA/adidas Scholar All-America team. During her senior year of 2001, she led the Wildcats to a 6-0 Big Sky record and another conference title.
Thunell played in 67 games and started 65 games in her career and still holds Weber State’s career record with 31 wins. She is also the career leader in saves with 411, which is the second most in Big Sky history. She also ranks third in shutouts with 19.5, fourth most in BSC history. She earned Big Sky All-Conference first team honors three times in her career and holds five WSU single-season records.
She has spent the past 11 seasons as an assistant coach under Tim Crompton with the Wildcats. As an assistant she has been a part of three Big Sky Championship teams at Weber State.
Ben Howland will receive the first-ever Weber State Athletics Lifetime Achievement Award. Howland played two seasons of college basketball at Weber State and has since become one of the most successful college basketball coaches in the country.
Howland played two seasons at Santa Barbara City College before joining coach Neil McCarthy for two seasons at Weber State from 1977-79. He played in 62 games in his two seasons with the Wildcats, started 39 games, and helped lead the Wildcats to Big Sky Championships in each of his two seasons. He averaged nine points and three assists per game and the Wildcats compiled a 44-19 record in his two seasons. He was named Team Defensive MVP both seasons and helped the Wildcats to the NCAA Tournament each year, playing alongside Hall of Famer members Bruce Collins, David Johnson, Mark Mattos and Richard Smith.
He graduated from Weber State in 1979 with a degree in Physical Education.
Following his Weber State career Howland went into the coaching ranks. His first stop was Gonzaga University where he became a graduate assistant coach in 1981, helping coach future Hall of Famer John Stockton. He got his first full-time coaching job at UC Santa Barbara where he spent 12 seasons as an assistant coach.
His first head coaching job came in the Big Sky at Northern Arizona where he spent five years (1995-99) and led the Lumberjacks to the 1997 Big Sky Championship. In 1998, he led NAU to the Big Sky Tournament title and a trip to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.
Howland then became the head coach at the University of Pittsburgh in the Big East Conference. In his four seasons (2000-03) at Pitt, Howland compiled an 89-40 record and was 57-11 in his final two seasons with the Panthers, including being ranked as high as second in the country. In 2002 he guided Pittsburgh to a school-record 29 wins and was named the National Coach of the Year.
In 2003, he was named the head coach at national powerhouse UCLA. In 10 seasons with the Bruins, he led UCLA to seven NCAA Tournaments, highlighted by three-consecutive Final Four appearances. He also led the Bruins to four Pac-10 titles. While at UCLA, he became one of three coaches in NCAA history to win at least 30 games in three consecutive seasons joining Adolph Rupp and John Calipari.
In 2015, he returned to coaching, becoming the head coach at Mississippi State in the SEC. In his 19 years as a head coach Howland has more than 400 career victories and has led his teams to the NCAA Tournament 10 times, to the Sweet 16 five times, and the Final Four three times.
Howland and his wife Kim, a former Weber State cheerleader, have two children, Meredith and Adam, and one grandson.