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The greatest EMU athletes of all time?

May 14, 2011

MAC blog Hustle Belt has been breaking down each school’s nine greatest athletes of all time. After some debate, and asking who the best EMU football player has been — if you’re too lazy to click the link, Charlie Batch is running away with more than 60% of the votes, an outcome with which I disagree — EMU’s nine have been announced.

 I’ll go on record as saying that I agree wholeheartedly with four of these nine, and I won’t really argue with two more; Boykins, Crawford, Gervin, and Patton certainly belong here, and since I don’t pay much attention to baseball, I’ll assume that Owchinko and Welch probably belong here too. James might go on this list someday, but she’s not there yet. But Pureifory and Batch? Nope. They’re certainly among the best EMU football players, but when you compare EMU football to men’s cross country, men’s track and field, or men’s swimming and diving, I think you’ve got to put more representatives of those other sports on this list.

Boaz Cheboiywo – 2001 NCAA cross country champion.

Gordon Minty – four time NCAA All-American (Division II his freshman year, Division I the other three). Minty won three consecutive MAC titles, placed 3rd nationally in 1973, setting a world indoor 3 mile record the same year.

Men’s Swimming and Diving – I don’t know who you pick from this group, but you can’t talk about great EMU athletes without talking about men’s swimming and diving. The program won five consecutive national championships (1968, 1969, 1970, and 1971 in NAIA; 1972 in NCAA Division II), has had 15 individual national champions, and won 29 MAC team championships.

Men’s Track and Field – Sure, this team is already represented by Hasely Crawford, and he’s pretty much a no-brainer — he won the 100-meter dash gold medal in the 1976 Olympics and still holds several school records 36 years later — but considering that EMU has had a track and field athlete at every summer Olympics since 1960, I think the program might deserve another athlete on this list.

What do you think? Who would you add (especially as a representatives of men’s swimming and diving and men’s cross country), and who would you remove?

17 Comments leave one →
  1. May 14, 2011 12:42 am

    What’s important is you can make a tic-tac-toe with your agreement!

    You and I have gone back and forth on Batch, so we’ll leave that one well enough alone. As for whole teams being represented … this exercise wasn’t to find the best teams. Hopefully I stay on this blog another few years and one of those summers I can delve into great teams.

    • May 14, 2011 1:27 am

      No, I’m not saying that those whole teams should be represented, just that there ought to be someone from each of those teams; they each have plenty of outstanding athletes to chose from.

  2. Kenneth Barna permalink
    May 14, 2011 11:44 am

    I’m not saying the people whom I see here, are not deserving, but what always bothers me about these lists, is the farther we get away from the past, those athletes are forgotten. Does anyone on this site remember seeing Larry Ratcliff running with the football? In my opinion, he was the best halfback to ever wear the green and white. He had a career ending knee injury late in his senior season, so never played in the pros. That in its self should not qualify, nor disqualify an athlete.
    The other player that comes to mind is Andy Vanyo. He was Eastern’s first All-American, back in the early 1930’s. I did not see him play, but being placed on a team of very select players should demand some respect and consideration.

    • May 14, 2011 2:22 pm

      Speaking for myself, I wasn’t even a twinkle in my father’s eye, nor a blush on my mother’s cheek when Ratcliff was playing, and of course Vanyo was even farther before my time. But I did some checking and found:

      Larry Ratcliff – 1971 College Division honorable mention All-America (AP). His most notable place in the EMU record book seems to be that he twice scored four touchdowns in a game (1970 v. Ball State, 1971 v. Quantico Marines), and he recorded three of the team’s longest-ever rushes from scrimmage (77, 83, and 88 yards).

      Andy Vanyo – Individual athlete records are harder to find for his era, but given the years he played, I’d give him the benefit of the doubt. He was a four-year letterwinner (1927-1930), during which time the team posted a 26-3-2 record, winning the Michigan Collegiate Conference each year, and registering a perfect season (8-0-0) his freshman year. Vanyo was named a second-team All-American by the Walter Camp Football Foundation.

    • May 18, 2011 6:40 pm

      After looking at it some more, I think the original post (on Hustle Belt) was actually intended as the best athletes since joining the MAC, not the best of all time.

  3. LJM permalink
    May 14, 2011 7:09 pm

    Hayes Jones won a bronze medal in one Olympics in the hurdles. Then won a gold medal the next, I think 1964. I believe he set multiple American and world records.

    • May 14, 2011 7:22 pm

      Also a Pan-American gold. He might be the other T&F’er who belongs on this list.

  4. Bobby Wicks permalink
    May 19, 2011 9:42 pm

    Wide receiver Kevin Walter was outstanding at Eastern and has been a very productive receiver in the NFL for several years now. Defensive back, former first round draft pick Ron Johnson was special.
    Basketball star Grant Long was dominant at EMU and had a long and productive career in the NBA.

  5. Bobby Wicks permalink
    May 22, 2011 11:09 am

    Seriously, this needs to be addressed. How could Tavelyn James be selected over Grant Long? You credibility is seriously at stake.

    • May 22, 2011 11:40 am

      Not my credibility; I didn’t pick these nine. These picks come from Matt at Hustle Belt blog.

  6. Bobby Wicks permalink
    May 22, 2011 7:19 pm

    Sorry, my comments are directed at Matt. Tavelyn James has never guided her team to the NCAA tournament. Heck, Lorenzo Neely would be a more worthy selection, in my opinion. Obviously, Grant Long would be my pick though. As far as track and field is concerned, Earl Jones and Paul McMullen are both very deserving. I’d take Ron Johnson over Dave Puriefory in football.

  7. Joney2 permalink
    June 21, 2011 11:08 am

    Lmfao, there has to be a women on there and I would certainly give it to her.

    • June 21, 2011 11:39 am

      When you’ve got a national champion runner who was a 5-time All-American like Mireille Smith (Sankatsing) (800-meter champion in 1992), or an All-American swimmer who placed nationally in multiple events like Rena McBroom (Cox), or a national champion golfer like Shirley Spork, I think Tavelyn James slides down the list. I wouldn’t even rank James as EMU’s top women’s basketball player yet — for now, that’s still Laurie Byrd.

  8. Joney2 permalink
    June 29, 2011 1:42 pm

    She has broken every single one of Laurie Byrd’s records and all she has to do is break one more and she will be Eastern’s all-time leading scorer. Sounds like a big accomplishment to me, she’s 213 points from that and I’m sure she will get that in the pre-season. Those other women I don’t know, I mean golf and swimming??????? I would have to vote no on them. I’m guessing you have ever seen her play. Well I’m congratulating her because she’s a young making a name for herself and her school.

    • June 30, 2011 9:08 am

      I was able to make it to several women’s basketball games last season, including the MAC tourney game against Miami and the WNIT game against Michigan. James scored 21 points against Miami and 36 against Michigan, so yes, I’ve seen her play! I’ll just say that while it’s fun to look ahead at what athletes are on pace to accomplish, when making a historical comparison like this, I think you have to limit yourself to what they’ve already done. If James picks up next season where she left off this season, barring a catastrophe, yes, she will become EMU’s top women’s basketball player of all time, and probably find her way into future all-sports rankings like this. But, historically, there have been lots of athletes who were on pace to accomplish great things, but for one reason or another, fell short. Because of that, my personal approach is to only consider what an athlete has already done — nothing else — when making a ranking like this, and viewed that way, I think James is close, but not quite there.

  9. Joney2 permalink
    July 1, 2011 9:39 am

    OK, I understand what your saying now. You are right, historically she hasn’t made it yet.


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