EUGENE - An Oregon football player synonymous with one of the greatest moments in the program's history, a pair of elite figures connected with the school's swimming program, a women's soccer All-American from a previous era and the winningest women's basketball coach in the history of the University are among the head-liners who will be inducted into the University of Oregon's 20th Athletics Hall of Fame class during the weekend of the Ducks' Oct. 29 home football game vs. Washington State in Autzen Stadium.
Five individuals, in addition to the 1970 NCAA men's track & field champions, will formally join the elite collection of the university's former athletics standouts at an Oct. 28 banquet in Autzen Stadium, before being introduced at halftime of the next day's football game against the Cougars.
Tickets for the Friday night banquet and induction ceremonies in the Club at Autzen are available to the general public through Oct. 14 by calling the Duck Athletic Fund at (541) 346-2246.
Selected to the university's 2011 Athletics Hall of Fame are 1969 NCAA swimming champion Michael Dirksen; Elwin Heiny, who accumulated 310 wins as the school's first full-time women's basketball head coach; two-time women's soccer All-American Michele Potestio, 20-year head men's swimming coach Donald Van Rossen, who mentored 24 Oregon All-Americans as well as a trio of Olympians, three-time football All-American Kenny Wheaton, as well as the Ducks' fourth NCAA men's track and field national champion team.
The inductees will join the previous 167 elite individuals and 20 teams who have been selected as part of the school's athletics showcase that originated in 1992.
The only NCAA swimming champion in school history, Michael Dirksen was one of the nation's best at the breaststroke during his collegiate career. The four-time All-American won the NCAA title in the 200-yard breaststroke as a freshman in 1969 (2:08.62). He led Oregon to a ninth-place finish at that year's NCAA Championships. Later in the summer of '69, Dirksen won the AAU national titles in the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke races and also set the American record at 200 meters (2:26.9). As a sophomore in 1970, he finished third at the NCAA meet in the 100 breaststroke and seventh in the 200 breaststroke, and then was second in the 100 yard breaststroke at the 1970 AAU national championships. As a junior in 1971, Dirksen was again third in the 100 breaststroke. The two-time Pac-8 all-conference selection was ranked third in the world in the 100 yard breaststroke in 1970. At the time of his graduation, Dirksen held the school record in the 100 (57.72) and 200 (2:05.11) yard breaststroke and was part of the record-setting 400 yard medley relay (3:31.9). He was named team captain as a senior under coach Don Van Rossen.
The first full-time coach of the University's women's basketball program, Elwin Heiny guided Oregon to 310 wins, the most of any coach in program history, during his 17 seasons at the helm. His tenure included 13 winning seasons, eight 20-win seasons, seven post-season appearances, three trips to the NCAA tournament, two appearances in the AIAW national tournament, two Northwest Women's Basketball League championships, two Northern Pacific Athletic Conference championships and one National Women's Invitational Tournament title. The school's first coach to guide the women to 25 wins in a single season (25-7, 1980-81), he led Oregon over the 20-win plateau in 1978-79 (23-2) when the Ducks captured their first 21 games, and then again in 1979-80 (24-5) and 1981-82 (21-5). The Ducks participated in the AIAW national tournament in 1980 - beating Kentucky - and 1981, before making their first NCAA appearance in 1982. Oregon also made NCAA appearances in 1983-84 (23-7) and 1986-87 (23-7), the second of which saw Oregon claim its first-ever NCAA Tournament win, 75-66 over Eastern Washington. In 1988-89, Heiny led the Ducks to a 22-10 mark and the school's first NWIT championship. A three-time NWBL Coach of the Year, Heiny instructed two-time Kodak All-American Bev Smith, as well as the program's first Pac-10 Player of the Year, Lauri Landerholm, who captured that honor in 1987. He also mentored all-league players like Stefanie Kasperski, Gabi Neumann, Debbie Adams, Suzanne Washington, Julie Cushing and Alison Lang, the Ducks' all-time leader in scoring.
A two-time All-American during women's soccer's first tenure as a varsity sport, Michele Potestio led Oregon to a national tournament appearance in 1981 and set numerous school records despite playing only two seasons at the varsity level before the program was dropped due to budget constraints. As a freshman in 1980, Potestio scored a school-record 22 goals in being named second-team All-America at forward, and a first team all-Northwest Collegiate Soccer Conference selection. Her single-season goals record still stood some 30 years later. During the 1980 season, she established a school record with four goals against Puget Sound and was also named the team's most valuable player. The Ducks went 13-1-3 overall and won the NWCSC with a 9-1-3 mark. The following season, Potestio again led Oregon to the league crown with an 8-0-2 record and the Ducks were invited to the AIAW national tournament in Chapel Hill, N.C., where they went 1-2 with a pair of overtime losses and a 1-0 win over eastern power Massachusetts. She duplicated her second-team All-America acclaim and repeated her first team all-conference selection. Oregon went 13-2-3 overall in 1981, giving the Ducks a 26-3-6 two-year mark during Potestio's career.
Donald Van Rossen
Oregon's head men's swimming coach from 1958-78, Donald Van Rossen mentored 24 All-Americans and three Olympians during his 20-year tenure. He coached Oregon to a runner-up finish at the 1965 Pac-8 Championships and guided the Ducks to a pair of top-10 finishes at the NCAA meet. He also coached Oregon's only NCAA swimming champion, Mike Dirksen, who won the national title in the 200-yard breaststroke in 1969. Five members of that team earned All-America honors, including Dirksen, Jerry Newman, Mike Beauchamp, Bob Jensen and diver Dennis Hartman. Van Rossen's charges won more than 100 dual meets and some 50 earned all-conference honors. He also contributed to his sport by serving on the NCAA Swimming and Diving Rules Committee and as the NCAA Swimming Meet Rules Compliance Coordinator, as well as taking on the role as aquatic venues liaison for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. Van Rossen was also a tenured professor at the University until his retirement in 1987.
Kenny Wheaton and "The Pick" are now synonymous in terms of Oregon football lore. It was his 97-yard interception return for a touchdown against rival Washington that most remember as the key moment during Oregon's 1994 Rose Bowl season. The win over the Huskies catapulted the Ducks to their first Rose Bowl appearance in 37 years. Yet Wheaton was a three-time All-American and three-time Pac-10 all-conference performer for Oregon as one of the best cornerbacks in school history. A menace to opposing quarterbacks, Wheaton led the team in interceptions all three seasons and also in tackles (73) in 1996, when he was a Pac-10 first-team selection and named the team's most outstanding player. At the time of his induction, he still held the school career record for most interception return yards (380) and shared the school mark for most interceptions returned for touchdowns (3). He left school a year early for the NFL Draft ranking eighth on the UO career interceptions list with 11. He also broke up 28 career passes, No. 6 all-time at the time of his induction. The Ducks were 24-12 during Wheaton's tenure with a Cotton Bowl appearance to go along with the trip to Pasadena. After college, he enjoyed a professional career with the Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions and the CFL's Toronto Argonauts, including a CFL Grey Cup title in 2004.
1970 Men's Track & Field Team
Steve Prefontaine and Bouncy Moore led Oregon to perhaps its most unlikely NCAA title at Des Moines, Iowa, in 1970. Initially, California won the meet with 40 points, but the Golden Bears were disqualified for using an ineligible competitor and the Ducks emerged as three-way co-champions along with Brigham Young and Kansas. Prefontaine, a freshman, captured the 3-mile race in 13:22.00, while Moore was the national runner-up in the long jump (25-6). The Ducks also earned points from Steve Savage's third-place finish in the steeplechase (8:46.6), Albert Hearvy's fourth-place showing in the 100 yards (9.50), Gary Wolf's fifth-place discus (178-9) and Tom Smith's sixth-place long jump (25-1.25). Oregon also scored the last of its 35 points in the mile relay, where Hearvy, Vincent Buford, Weldon Vance and Doug Chapman took fourth in 3:08.1. Prefontaine and Moore were also Pac-8 champions in their respective events in 1970. Prefontaine, Savage and Chapman would all go on to become Olympians, while Prefontaine and Moore went on to win several U.S. titles.