Butler Athletic Hall of Fame inducts 2020 and 2021 classes

Former men’s basketball head coach Brad Stevens looks into the crowd as he gives a speech at the 2021 Butler Athletics Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Photo by Henry Bredemeier.

DEVIN ABELL | SPORTS EDITOR | dabell@butler.edu 

HENRY BREDEMEIER | MANAGING EDITOR | hbredeme@butler.edu

On Thursday, Sept. 9 Butler University inducted its 2020 and 2021 classes into the Athletic Hall of Fame at Hinkle Fieldhouse. This celebration honored nine individuals and two famed teams — the 2009-10 and 2010-11 men’s basketball teams.

The ceremony marked the 20th Athletic Hall of Fame induction since the inception of the institution in 1992 by the B-Association. Legendary Butler football, basketball and baseball coach Tony Hinkle was the inaugural induction into the Hall of Fame.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 induction ceremony was postponed and integrated into the 2021 ceremony.

2020 Inductees

Tara Loper ‘99

Loper was a member of the women’s track and field team from 1995-2000. She served as a team captain three times and set multiple school records in the discus, hammer and weight throws. 

Loper earned many accolades during her time at Butler, including being named the Midwestern Collegiate Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships Most Outstanding Performer in 1998 and 2000 and All-MCC selection from 1998-2000. She was also named Team MVP in ‘98 and ‘00. 

Following her time at Butler, Looper competed in the 2001-2004 USA Track & Field Indoor and Outdoor championships. She earned seven top 15 finishes and a fifth-place finish in the weight throw at the 2003 Indoor championships. She also competed in the hammer throw at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials.

In her acceptance speech, Loper thanked her coach for encouraging her to come to Butler, a place she said “changed my life.”

“My coach, the one who recruited me here, Joe Franklin. He managed to get me here without a coach,” Loper said. “I believed in him and he did what he said he was going to do. He brought in a coach that was fantastic, Greg Hart and then Matt Gaston.” 

Nick Pantazi ‘03

Pantazi was a member of the men’s soccer team from 1999-2002. Pantazi was selected twice to the All-Horizon League first team — ‘01 and ‘02 — while also being named to the Horizon League All-Newcomer Team in ‘99. He was also selected as second-team All-Mideast Region by the NSCAA.

Pantazi was a force on the attack, as he ranks second all-time in career points, 104, and career goals, 42. He is also tied for Butler’s single-season record in those categories with 19 goals and 43 points in 2000.

In Pantazi’s speech, he thanked his family for their relentless support throughout his career at Butler.

“I have two brothers I want to thank… my two brothers are my best friends and they’ve always had my back, they’ve always supported me in everything that I’ve done,” Pantazi said. “[To my parents] I played thousands of games growing up I feel like in soccer and no matter where I played in the country I don’t think they missed more than a handful of games. Just goes to show you what great support they provided for me growing up.” 

He also was sure to mention his wife, who doubts the legitimacy of his athletic career.

“We met after my playing days were over, we have a running joke between her and I,” Pantazi said. “She was always saying, ‘did you actually really play soccer, or not?’… Hopefully this is actually proof that I did play soccer.”

Eric Voss ‘95

Eric Voss was a wide receiver for the football team from 1990-1993. He was selected as First-Team All-Conference in 1993.

Voss was the first player in team history to record over 2,000 receiving yards in his career, and he currently ranks fourth all-time in the program with 2,176 receiving yards. He also owns the program record for most punt returns in a career, 103, and punt return yards, 723.

In his acceptance speech, Voss spoke about being a walk-on to the football team and how that makes this achievement even more special.

“My story is I don’t know if [I am] the first or one of the first, but I walked on here, as a walk-on to make the Hall of Fame. I’m especially proud of that, it took a lot of work,” Voss said.

Voss also thanked his father for giving him a chance to come to Butler without a scholarship.

“I had to convince him to [let me] come here, we know it’s a private school and so forth… and it’s a sacrifice to do so,” Voss said. “It was part of the motivation when I came that I promised him that I would earn a scholarship … This award is for him and for giving me the chance.”

John Harding — Special Service Award

Harding served as Butler’s equipment manager for 20 years and was a member of the football chain crew. He was initially recruited to the Butler Athletics staff by fellow Athletics Hall of Famer Don Benbow.

“Don and I met each other when he was 25 years old and he asked me, ‘if I would like to run the yard markers at Butler football games?’… I jumped at the chance,” Harding said.

Shortly thereafter, Benbow offered Harding an athletic equipment manager position. 

“He’s a big reason I’m standing here,” Harding said.

Over several decades, Harding was an essential member of Butler Athletics and left a deep impact on many student athletes across the athletic program.

“One of the reasons I loved working here was the student athletes at Butler University,” Harding said. “They were kind enough to let this old man be just a very minimal part of their Butler experience, thank you.”

2021 Inductees

Brad Stevens — Special Service Award

Throughout his six seasons as the head coach of the men’s basketball program, Stevens revolutionized the identity of the team into a nationally renowned Division I program.

In his first season, Stevens became the third-youngest college basketball coach to achieve 30 wins in regular season play. In 2010, Stevens broke the NCAA record for most head coaching wins in a coach’s first three seasons, with an astounding 89.

Stevens finished his career with a 116-49 record, including an impressive 84-22 conference record, winning four regular season titles and three Horizon League Tournaments. Five out of his six teams played in the NCAA March Madness Tournament, including his two national runner-up teams in 2010 and 2011.

In 2013, he left Butler for the head coaching position at the rebuilding Boston Celtics. He led the Celtics to the playoffs every season except his first, and advanced to the conference finals in the ‘16-’17, ‘17-’18 and ‘19-’20 seasons. After the 2020-2021 season, Stevens stepped down as the head coach and moved to President of Basketball Operations for the Celtics.

In his opening line of his speech, Stevens let the audience know the reason why he was being inducted that night.

“You know why coaches get in the Hall of Fame, right?” Stevens said, pointing to his former teams. “It’s all them — I’m here obviously because of everyone else…When you’re in coaching, you realize real quick that there is only so much you can control,” Stevens said. “Any honors or awards that come with that are truly what was accomplished and achieved by everyone as a group.”

Throughout his career, Stevens has been asked the same question on countless occasions.

“People ask me all the time, why is Butler different? Right, what makes Butler unique? What makes Butler special?” Stevens said. “I’ve tried to put that in words for forever.”

The answer came to Stevens when he was tasked with writing a letter to his daughter about what’s most important in life. After putting the task off for months, he finally found the answer one day in his kitchen in Massachusetts. 

“Just be a great teammate,” Stevens said. “Everything else will figure itself out.” 

“Great teammates raise the energy in the room. They smile a lot, they show gratitude, people know when they walk in the room, they have others’ best interest in mind and they want to bring out the best in each and every person…They put themselves in others’ shoes. They’re inclusive and bring the group together, rather than judgemental to tear the group apart…Great teammates realize, it’s not about them.”

In his final line of his letter, Stevens let his daughter know the true meaning of life.

“When you get older, you’ll realize it wasn’t about the good or bad times — it was about who you navigated those times with. The lessons that you learned and the relationships that you forged,” Stevens said, holding back tears.

2009-10 Men’s Basketball Team

The 2009-10 men’s basketball team won a school record 33 games and advanced to its first Final Four in program history. The team boasted a 33-5 record, including a program-best 25-game winning streak that ended in the National Championship to Duke, 61-59.

Led by Brad Stevens, the team had an undefeated Horizon League regular season and captured the Horizon League Tournament title. The roster included Horizon League Player of the Year Gordon Hayward and All-Horizon League selections Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack.

Among those at the induction were most of the players, coaches, managers, as well as the parents and wife of the late Andrew Smith. The keynote speakers for the team were guards Ronald Nored and Grant Leiendecker.

Nored shared the pivotal moment that changed the destiny of the program.

Butler’s record was 8-4 coming off a loss to UAB on Dec. 22, 2009. After a few days off for Christmas, the team came back and practiced not on par to the program’s standards. The coaches recalled the team in the afternoon and the team walked into a surprise. Nored spoke on the defining moment for the 2009-10 team.

“[In] the locker room, we had everything about the Butler Way, everything about the program on the walls,” Nored said. “[When we walked in] nothing was on the walls, the walls were empty. Brad and the coaching staff, their whole thing was, ‘we’re not just going to put things up on the wall just to have words on the wall, we have to live it.’”

Nored said that lit a fire under the team that led them to winning 18 straight Horizon League games, the Horizon League tournament and propelling the program to the National Championship game.

2010-11 Men’s Basketball Team

The 2010-11 men’s basketball followed up it’s predecessor with an improbable back-to-back run to the national championship game. The team boasted a record of 28-10, while also winning the Horizon League Tournament then five NCAA Tournament games for the second straight year.

After Hayward left for the NBA, the roster was led by Howard, Mack and Nored who all earned All-Horizon League honors.

Nored again touched on how the 2010-11 team was also not without its trials and tribulations. Midway through conference play, Butler’s record was 13-9 coming off a loss to Youngstown State on Feb. 3, 2011. For many of the players, it was the first time they lost three games in a row at Butler. 

With something needed to be done to correct the team’s course — the players took action. Before the Cleveland State game, the players called a team meeting and Mack addressed the team.

“It wasn’t normal for Shelvin to stand in front of the team,” Nored said. “What Shelvin did in that meeting was being really clear about what we needed to do to move forward, as a team. Then he went down the list of every single person on the team, and gave our roles. It was pretty powerful for Shelvin to do that.”

Following Mack’s speech, the team went on to win 14 games straight, the Horizon League Tournament and advanced to the National Championship game for the second year in a row, but ultimately fell to UConn, 53-41.

To close out his remarks, Leiendecker echoed Stevens’ point that all the accolades come second to the bonds created in achieving those accomplishments. 

“The more I think about these teams and what we accomplished on the court, it really pales in comparison, ” Leiendecker said. “I’m reminded that it’s just so much bigger than basketball… It’s not about what we achieved, but who we became along the way.”

Andy Boa ‘38

Boa was a member of the football, track and field and baseball programs from 1935-1938. At a time when freshmen weren’t allowed to compete on varsity, Boa earned an impressive nine letters, lettering in all three sports during every eligible season during 1936-1938.

After graduation, Boa was drafted into World War II and earned a battlefield commission for his service, including being cut off behind enemy lines for several months.

Following the war, Boa came back to Butler and created the university’s first golf team and served as an assistant football coach for the Bulldogs.

Boa’s son-in-law, Jan Passmore, accepted the induction and spoke on behalf of the Boa family.

“Thank you for honoring Andy Boa,” Passmore said. “He had a great career here, and received a wonderful education.”

Jackie Closser Novinger ‘07

Closser competed as a guard for the women’s basketball team from 2003-2007. She was a two-time all-conference first team selection.

Closser’s name fills the women’s basketball record books. She ranks 11th in career points, 1,343, fifth all-time in assists with 439 and her 271 three-pointers are the most in program history.

In her acceptance speech, Closser credited her success to her upbringing.

“I was taught to let my abilities shine on the court and not through my words,” Closser said.

Ryan Harber ‘99

Harber was a member of the baseball team from 1996-1998. He led the Bulldogs to the 1998 Midwestern Collegiate Conference championship and was named the MCC Pitcher of the Year and third-team Academic All-American the same year.

Following his outstanding junior year in 1998, he was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the seventh round of the MLB draft. Harber played in the minor leagues from 1998-2002, playing in the Class A New York-Pennsylvania League and Midwest League, and then his final three seasons in the Florida State League, a Class A Advanced Minor League. 

In his speech, Harber credited his parents’ support for much of his success as an athlete.

“Mom, you and dad belong in this Hall of Fame more than I do,” Harber said. “Thank you for always being there…My parents loved my college experience at Butler, they loved coming to campus and watching me do what I love to do, play ball. As a parent now, I understand better now the pride they must have felt.”

Michael Regan ‘01

Regan was a member of the men’s lacrosse team from 1997-2000. He was named the Great Western Lacrosse League Player of the Year in 2000, and also earned U.S. Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association All-American honors. Over the course of his four-year career, Regan scored over 100 goals.

Post-graduation, Regan began a professional career in the National Lacrosse League where played from 2001-2006, and in Major League Lacrosse from 2004-2005.

While at the podium, Regan reflected on what was most important during his time at Butler.

“The relationships that were built here, both on and off the field, are what I’ll remember most,” Regan said. “Wearing that Butler jersey meant something to me. It was something I was proud of, something I helped build. The Butler Way was no mere slogan — it was a lifestyle choice. I still try to live it each day.”

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