As the Colorado football team strives to get on a winning track, the athletic department honored this week some of its best players from the past.
Three football greats and the largest group of female athlete inductees in CU history highlighted Colorado’s 2022 Athletic Hall of Fame class, which was inducted during a ceremony on Thursday night. The 17th Athletic Hall of Fame class was then honored during CU’s matchup with Arizona State on Saturday night at Folsom Field.
Football legends Greg Biekert (1989-92), Charlie Davis (1971-73) and Jay Leeuwenburg (1988-91) became the latest Hall of Famers at CU from the gridiron.
Also fitting, in the 50th anniversary year of Title IX, four female athletes were in the hall of fame class for the first time. Track and field stars Jane Frederick (1970-73) and Yolanda Johnson (1987-91), skier Maria Grevsgaard and gymnast Debbie Willcox (1978-80) were inducted. CU also had four females in the 2010 class, with three athletes and coach Ceal Barry being inducted, but this year’s class is the first with four female athletes.
Jimmy Griffith (skiing) and former athletic director Dick Tharp (1996-2004) were and inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Biekert and Leeuwenburg were teammates on CU’s national title team in 1990.
A linebacker, Biekert was a semifinalist for the Butkus Award in 1992. He was also voted CU’s MVP in 1992 while earning unanimous All-Big Eight honors that season. A graduate of Longmont High School, he still ranks third on CU’s list for career tackles (441).
Leeuwenburg was a three-year starter at center and a unanimous first-team All-American in 1991. He earned all-American honorable mention in 1990 and was first-team All-Big Eight twice.
Davis starred as a running back for the Buffs and earned honorable mention All-American honors in 1971. His 1,386 rushing yards in 1971 still rank fifth for a single season in CU history. He ranks sixth in CU history with 2,958 career rushing yards.
Frederick began attending CU in 1970, before the school had women’s varsity programs. But, she used the facilities at CU to train and was one of five people to approach athletic director Eddie Crowder about starting a women’s track and field program. In 1973, she won the AIAW national title in the pentathlon, becoming the first female national champion at CU in any sport.
Grevsgaard was a member of CU’s 2006 national championship ski team and also won two individual NCAA Nordic titles. She was the first eight-time All-American in CU skiing history.
Johnson, known as “Yo-Yo,” was a three-time first-team All-American, including twice in the 100-meter hurdles (1990 and 1991) and in the 55-meter hurdles (1990). She still holds the school record in the 55-meter hurdles (7.60 seconds). She never lost a race during her time at Denver’s George Washington High School.
Willcox was a star as a freshman with the CU gymnastics team in 1979, but never competed again after a knee injury during the AIAW regionals that spring. Before the injury, she was the Big Eight all-round champion. As a youth, she won the 1974 U.S. title in the all-around, won two medals at the 1975 Pan American Games and competed in the 1976 Olympics.
Griffith is considered to be CU’s first star in skiing. Competing for CU from 1947-51, he won four collegiate races and had nine top-five finishes. A member of the U.S. National Team, he was named to the Olympic team in November of 1951, but died on Dec. 6, 1951, after a training accident. He was in line to become the school’s second Olympian and the first in skiing.
Tharp was named the fourth full-time athletic director in CU history in 1997. He started CU’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 1998 and created the school’s “Living Legends” program. He hired several head coaches, including Gary Barnett (football) and current women’s golf coach Anne Kelly. Among his other accomplishments, he oversaw construction of the East Side Club and Suites for Folsom Field in 2003.
In addition, CU restored its Athletic Hall of Honor, while also adding a “Legacy Wing” to its athletics hall of fame.
CU’s original Athletic Hall of Honor was established in 1967 but discontinued in 1987. It was eventually replaced by the establishment of the CU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1998. The Hall of Honor is designed to recognize people who “while attending the University of Colorado, was awarded a Varsity ‘C’ and attained distinguished achievement in his or her chosen field,” according to CU.
Jim Hansen and Dr. Eric McCarty, both former CU football players, were selected for induction to the Hall of Honor.
Hansen, an offensive lineman at CU from 1989-92, received a degree in aerospace engineering, with a 3.941 GPA, as well as two awards citing his academic accomplishments. One of those awards was Vincent Draddy award, since renamed the William Campbell award and considered to be college football’s “academic Heisman.” He was also a Rhodes scholar, studied for a year at Oxford and was a professor at MIT before accepting his current position at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory.
A linebacker and fullback at CU from 1984-87, McCarty is in his 19th year working with the athletic department. He joined the school’s sports medicine team in 2003 and has performed numerous surgeries on CU athletes and staff. A graduate of Boulder High School, McCarty was a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship while a student at CU.
Legendary twins Peggy Coppom and the late Betty Hoover were selected as the inaugural honorees for the Legacy Wing, which was established for “individuals who have made a lasting impression or contribution for, to or around CU athletics during their lifetimes.”
Coppom and Hoover, known as “CU’s Twins,” moved to Boulder in 1940 and have been lifelong CU fans. They attended games together until Betty died at the age of 95 in August of 2020. Now 97, Coppom has continued to attend games.
The beloved Coppom said, “Before Betty died, she turned to me one day and said, ‘We’ve sure had a lot of fun, haven’t we?’ Yes, lots and lots of fun cheering for all the many CU teams, meeting the coaches, the players and their families and meeting all the staff, the attendants, the cheerleaders, the band.
“You know what? I can’t think of one person or anybody that’s ever been given an award like this for having a good time.”