Texas A&M University-Commerce Athletics has announced the four Lion athletes and one team that comprise the 2013 Hall of Fame class, which will be inducted on Sept. 7.
The four newest Hall of Fame inductees are Socrates Bagiackas (track and field), Mark Copeland (football/coach), Rita Garcia (tennis) and Danny Tharpe (coach), while the 1990 Lion football team will also receive enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. Each of these individuals and team have played a vital role in helping East Texas State and A&M-Commerce establish a rich history of tradition and excellence.
This year’s Hall of Fame Induction will take place on Sept. 7 prior to A&M-Commerce’s season-opening football game against Sul Ross State. The festivities will take on a slightly different feel in years past as the Hall of Fame luncheon will be held at noon on Sept. 7 at the Sam Rayburn Student Center with the induction ceremony to follow afterwards.
After the conclusion of the ceremony, a special tailgate celebration will be held for the inductees and their families from 3-5 p.m., leading up to kickoff of the Lions’ season-opening football game against Sul Ross State at 6 p.m. at Memorial Stadium. The inductees will then receive their public recognition at halftime of that evening’s football game.
With the inclusion of the 2013 Hall of Fame class, the A&M-Commerce Hall of Fame now stands at 149 former student-athletes, coaches and administrators, as well as 13 Lion athletic teams. The inductees were selected by the A&M-Commerce Hall of Fame Selection Committee.
Founded in 1978, the Texas A&M University-Commerce Athletic Hall of Fame is one of the most visible functions of the A&M-Commerce Athletic Association. The Association's Hall of Fame Selection Committee meets annually to select "those persons - living or dead - whose contributions to Texas A&M University-Commerce have brought lasting fame and honor to themselves and A&M-Commerce." Induction classes must be approved by the A&M-Commerce President and Texas A&M University System Board of Regents.
Membership in the Athletic Hall of Fame is limited to former Lion student-athletes, coaches and athletic administrators. Student-athletes must have completed their eligibility 10 years prior to nomination while coaches and administrators must have served A&M-Commerce for a minimum of 10 years. In addition, the nominee must be a person of such integrity, character and sportsmanship that the A&M-Commerce family will be inspired by the recognition.
For more information on the 2013 A&M-Commerce Hall of Fame festivities, contact the A&M-Commerce Athletic Department at (903) 886-5558. Keep up to date on all the latest news surrounding A&M-Commerce Athletics by following LionAthletics.com, as well as by following A&M-Commerce’s official Facebook and Twitter pages.
2013 A&M-Commerce Hall of Fame Inductees
Men’s Track and Field
Socrates Bagiackas was a two-year letterwinner with the East Texas State men’s track and field team from 1960-61. During his time, Bagiackas established himself as one of the top middle distance runners not just in the Lone Star Conference, but in the country as well. He set the school record in the 800 meter run in 1960, posting a time of 1:51.80, a mark which stood for 53 years until it was broken this past May. Bagiackas also was the anchor leg of the Lions’ sprint and distance medley teams as the team captured the National College Championship in 1960, finishing the season undefeated in the college division. The team was ranked third in the nation by the Track and Field News, placing first at the prestigious Texas, Kansas and Drake Relays as the Lions captured the 1960 Lone Star Conference championship while placing second at the NAIA national championship. In 1961, Bagiackas continued to help East Texas State establish itself among the nation’s best, capturing the distance medley championship at the Kansas Relays and the sprint medley championship at the Texas Relays.
Mark Copeland was a four year letterwinner for the Lion football team from 1982-85 and was a two-time All-Lone Star Conference selection at linebacker. Copeland earned second team honors in 1984 while being named a first team honoree in 1985, helping lead East Texas State to a share of the Lone Star Conference title in 1983. The 1985 J.V. Sikes Award winner, Copeland remained a key figure with the Lion football team, coaching the defensive unit from 1989-98 while spending nine years as the defensive coordinator. Under Copeland, East Texas State ranked among the top-20 in total defense seven times, including being ranked second nationally in 1992, while coaching multiple All-Americans. Copeland also spent six seasons as the Lions’ head golf coach as A&M-Commerce captured the 1998 Lone Star Conference championship while ranking first in the nation in scoring average in 1997. The men’s golf team was a fixture at the NCAA Division II national tournament under Copeland, qualifying either a team or individual in five of his six seasons.
Rita Garcia lettered four times in tennis for East Texas State from 1978-81, competing in both singles and doubles at the Lions ranked among the top programs in the nation. During her collegiate career, Garcia posted an overall singles record of 134-25, qualifying for nationals all four years as a Lion. She placed first in the region as both a freshman (1978) and sophomore (1979) with runner-up finishes in both 1980 and 1981, posting an 18-2 regional record and a 13-4 mark in the national tournament for her career. Garcia and Lion Hall of Famer Patti Bean also comprised one of the top doubles teams in the nation as she concluded her East Texas State career with a 132-21 doubles record, which included four-straight regional championships. Garcia had a pair of top-10 national finishes in double, highlighted by a third-place showing as a senior in 1981 as the Lions placed third as a team, one year after placing eighth at nationals as a junior. Garcia was named the Most Outstanding Tennis Player in 1981 as she went on to earn both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics from East Texas State.
Basketball, Tennis Coach
Danny Tharpe spent six seasons as an assistant coach for both the East Texas State tennis and basketball teams from 1969-74 and helping the Lions achieve a great amount of success in both sports. Working with the Lion tennis teams, Tharpe helped mentor a handful of All-Americans, including Hall of Famers Robert Hochstadter and Harry Fritz. Working along side legendary Lion Hall of Fame coach Bill Crabtree, Tharpe played an integral role in helping East Texas State capture the 1972 NAIA national championship. Tharpe also worked with another legendary coach in Hall of Famer Jim Gudger, spending six years as an assistant on the men’s basketball team. The highlight of his tenure in Commerce was the 1973-74 season when the Lions won a share of the Lone Star Conference title and advanced to the NAIA District Four playoffs. A standout athlete in his own right, Tharpe has also been inducted into the Florida High School and Western Carolina Halls of Fame, where he has been tabbed as the Greatest Athlete in WCU history, excelling in football, basketball, baseball and tennis.
1990 Football Team
The 1990 East Texas State football team established itself among some of the greatest Lion football teams, posting a 10-3 overall record and a 7-0 mark in Lone Star Conference play under head coach Eddie Vowell, capturing the 22nd LSC crown in program history. Stockpiled with talent, the 1990 squad was comprised of 19 All-LSC selections, including nine first team honorees, with defensive end Terry Bagsby, cornerback Eric Turner and offensive tackle Dwayne Phorne each being named an All-American. The offense was led by Hall of Famers Bobby Bounds and Gary Compton, the all-time leading quarterback and receiver in Lion program history, as East Texas State ranked among the top-10 nationally in total offense, averaging 398 yards and 36.2 points per game. The Lions advanced to the NCAA Division II playoffs for the first time, defeating Brian Kelly’s Grand Valley State team 20-14 in the NCAA first round before falling to Pittsburg State in the quarterfinals. The 1990 team became just the fifth team in program history to win 10 or more games in a season as the Lions had the LSC’s Offensive (Bounds), Wide Receiver (Compton), Defensive (Bagsby) and Freshman (Billy Watkins) Player of the Year as coach Vowell was named the conference’s Coach of the Year.