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American Today



Men’s Basketball Team Faces Tough League Test as 40th Hall of Fame Class is Inducted

By Mike Unger

What a weekend for AU athletics.

The 40th Stafford H. “Pop” Cassell Hall of Fame class will be honored Jan. 31 at Bender Arena during halftime of the men’s basketball game against Lafayette—a key Patriot League matchup that could go a long way toward determining conference supremacy.

The atmosphere should be electric; it’s AU’s annual “Phil Bender” event.

“Any time that there is a big, enthusiastic crowd, when you walk into the arena you can feel the energy,” head coach Jeff Jones said. “Certainly our team feels energized from the crowd. That can give you a big boost.”

At 3-1 in the league heading into the Jan. 28 game at Navy, AU is just a half game behind conference-leading Holy Cross (4-1), which beat the Eagles 71-62 on Jan. 24. Yet AU holds just a slight lead over Lafayette, which is 2-3 in conference play.

“I think we’re probably in the same boat with an awful lots of teams across the country,” Jones said. “At times we’ve played well, but you’re really trying to develop the consistency and habits that can get you through tough times. Your conference games are extremely difficult. We all know one another so well, every possession becomes so crucial. We’ve played well but there’s a lot of improvement that needs to be made. I’m confident our guys are hungry.”

Following the game, which tips at 2 p.m., the athletic department will hold an auction and reception in the University Club at Mary Graydon Center. All proceeds go toward supporting AU student-athletes.

Three of those former student-athletes will be honored at 7 p.m., when they are inducted into the Hall of Fame during a dinner ceremony at the club.

Julia Behr ’97 had a standout career as a field hockey defender. She was the first All-American in the program’s history, earning third-team honors in 1995. Behr was a three-time All-Colonial Athletic Association honoree and still ranks second in program history in assists. In 1994 her defensive effort helped AU beat No. 1 Old Dominion, a landmark moment for the program. Following her playing career, Behr joined the AU coaching staff as a graduate assistant for the 1999 and 2000 seasons while she earned her master’s in fine arts.

Bill Ruvo ’82, a goaltender for the soccer team, set records in goals against average (0.46), most consecutive shutouts (five), and most consecutive shutout minutes (531:23) during his career with the Eagles. He was named first-team keeper for the 1979 National All-Star Team, a year in which he led AU to the conference title and NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals. The season included the first NCAA victory in AU history.

Mark Smith ’80, a pitcher on the baseball team, led the 1977 Eagles in ERA and strikeouts and is one of only two AU baseball players to play in the major leagues. He compiled a record of 21-14 with an ERA of 1.98 and 279 strikeouts in 272 innings pitched. Smith was selected to the University Baseball League All-Star Team in 1976 and 1977 and was named a member of the ECC all-conference team in 1976. He was drafted in 1977 by the Baltimore Orioles and played seven years for their minor league teams, reaching the Triple-A level. Traded to the Oakland A’s in 1982, Smith spent one year in the majors.

For more information about the Hall of Fame dinner, e-mail, or call 202-885-302.