Lopiano, Wilkinson join Texas Sports Hall of Fame
Feb. 9, 2011
Natalie England, TexasSports.com
Hindsight illustrates Donna Lopiano's genius, and Monday night's Texas Sports Hall of Fame induction in Waco gave reason to look.
Lopiano served as University of Texas Women's Athletics Director from 1975-1992, and she presided over the Longhorns as they won 18 national championships and produced more than 300 All-Americans. During that time Lopiano also earned her reputation as a forthright and forward-thinking leader in the Title IX movement, which called for equity in men's and women's athletics.
Four years after Lopiano's departure, Laura Wilkinson arrived on the Forty Acres as a diver. She graduated in 2000 with a communications degree, two NCAA individual diving titles and an Olympic gold medal -- the living, breathing version of Lopiano's vision.
Both Lopiano and Wilkinson were among the 2010 class of hall of fame inductees on Monday night at the Ferrell Center. The other new members include: former Dallas Cowboys owner Clint Murchison, Super Bowl wide receiver Drew Pearson, Pro Football Hall of Famer John Randle, Gold Glove catcher Jim Sundberg, Kansas City Chiefs all-time interceptions leader Emmitt Thomas, Pro Bowl quarterback Charley Johnson and Negro League shortstop Willie Wells.
Inductees must have "contributed significantly to Texas sports history."
Prior to the dinner and ceremony, Wilkinson, the only woman to win platform gold at each of the three major world championships, waited around to have her picture taken with Lopiano.
"A friend said this makes me an honorary Texas citizen now," said Lopiano, who was born and raised in Connecticut. "Success of any individual is really the product of a team sport. I was only passionate about bringing education and equality through access. The University of Texas allowed me to hire really good people. They made Texas what it became."
In 18 years at UT, Lopiano constructed the premiere, model women's athletics program in the nation. Ninety percent of the student-athletes who exhausted their athletic eligibility received undergraduate degrees.
Each of the 311 hall of fame members chose pieces of memorabilia to display in the Texas Sports Hall of Fame museum. Wilkinson's post-Olympic Wheaties box is now included in the Olympic case, right next to 2004 inductee, gymnast Mary Lou Retton. She also happened to be Wilkinson's childhood hero.
"I just keep thinking, `little ol' me,'" Wilkinson said. "I thought this was for football and those kinds of sports. I'm grateful to be included. This is a big day for me."