OAKLAND CITY — Before the five Oakland City University Athletic Hall of Fame inductions in the Saturday banquet, OCU President Dr. Ron D. Dempsey confirmed the university’s athletic program is apt to return to its past.
Meaning, as Daily Clarion Sports Editor Travis David reported in late-December, Oakland City apparently will be re-accepted by both the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and the River States Conference.
The latter was formerly the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, in which the Mighty Oaks completed for over 20 years after a probationary membership in the 1967-68 academic year.
“We decided we need to be in a conference,” said Dr. Dempsey, who became president last summer after Dr. Ray Barber’s retirement.
Pending final approvals — on visits — from the NAIA and River States Conference Dr. Dempsey confirmed that when the current school year ends, Mighty Oaks and Lady Oaks teams will leave NCAA Division II after a membership that began in the early-1990s.
“While we’ll leave the NCAA, we will stay in the National Christian College Athletic Association,” Dr. Dempsey said after the banquet ended.
The River States Conference, an NAIA Division II league, is composed of two divisions. Oakland City will be part of a West that includes Owensboro-based Brescia (Ky.), New Albany-based Indiana-Southeast, Indiana-Kokomo, Midway (Ky.) College, Alice Lloyd College of Pippa Passes, Ky., and Asbury University of Wilmore, Ky.
The East includes Richmond-based Indiana-East, the Pittsburgh duo of Carlow and Point Park, Circleville-based Ohio Christian, Rio Grande (Ohio) University, and Beckley-based West Virginia Tech.
“Cincinnati Christian has closed its school,” Dr. Dempsey said of the just-past River States member.
OCU Alumni Relations Director Susan Sullivan opened the noon banquet by welcoming guests. She and Dr. Dempsey, who spoke next, each congratulated the 2020 inductees, who were presented in the program that followed the meal prepared by Pioneer College Catering. Baseball coach T. Ray Fletcher, acting co-athletic director along with softball coach Patti Buchta, began the induction ceremony as Hall of Fame Committee co-chairman along with Sullivan.
The five inductees, announced in autumn, were each featured recently in the Daily Clarion.
“I’m truly flattered. The people I went to school with have always helped me,” said 1966 grad Hugh Schaefer, the Indiana basketball historian who taught 39 years at South Knox High, including four years as head coach after a long stint as assistant.
“A truly huge indictee,” presenter Jerry Osmon said before presenting the plaque to Schaefer, whose wheelchair was pushed to and from the stage by son Chad.
“I learned to enjoy life by watching Charlie Trafton,” presenter Jim Pratt said of the 1967 grad who guided the then Oakland City College basketball men to the National Little College Athletic Association 1981 championship hosted by OCC and played at Wood Memorial because the university’s “Cow Palace: gym had been destroyed by fire.
“Charlie would feel so honored if he were here,” widow Elaine Trafton said of the man who also served as athletic director and intramurals director before teaching and coaching at Tecumseh and Boonville high schools.
“God has played a major role in Milton’s life,” presenter Kelly Simpson, son former OCC coach Willis Simpson, said 1971 grad and now Rev. Milt Clayton.
“I want to give this honor to God,” said Clayton, three-time Kentucky Intercollegiate Conference 100-yard dash champion before track events were changed to meters.
“The late Ron Malin not only starred in tennis here, he lifted people’s spirits in his various roles after returning here in 1978,” presenter Randy Mills said of the 1972 grad who, until his death in 2000, served as OCU faculty representative to the NAIA, NCAA and NCCAA.
“It’s hard not only because we’ve lost dad, we lost mom (Carolyn) last May 9,” said Matt Malin, who was joined by his sister Amy Fallen in accepting their dad’s Hall of Fame plaque. “Dad loved his students, and he started our family’s tradition at our university,” said Matt, who with wife Lori raised daughters-turned Lady Oaks Lindsey and Whitney.
“I learned so much from Jacob Cummings, Brian Hancock, Brett Pund and all my basketball teammates here,” said 2004 grad and later Lady Oaks head coach Clint Weddle. Cummings, the presenter, noted that “Clint had an exceptional ethic for hard work and a passion that both came from his late father Terry Weddle, who worked as a coal miner and electrician.”
Buchta noted that “It’s amazing that each inductee talked about another person here who impacted his life.” Fletcher then closed the banquet by leading everyone in OC U’s Alma Mater song. Inductees were later announced at halftime of the men’s basketball game vs. Wilberforce.