The legions of people who walk through the main hall into Bender Arena each year are welcomed by the smiling facesof the best student-athletes and coaches in American University history. Sixty-seven plaques hang on the two walls, immortalizing the members of the Stafford H. "Pop" Cassell Hall of Fame.
The hall was established nearly 45 years ago, and over time it's grown to be the most visible reminder on campus of the Eagles' storied athletic past.
"You want to recognize those people and thank them for their contributions and the sacrifices they made to the university," says renowned sports journalist David Aldridge, SOC/BA '87. "It is always gratifying when you walk into Bender and see all the names on the wall. I recognize many of them and I know what they went through to achieve at AU. People really have to give of themselves to achieve here. Luckily, we have people with terrific character and work ethic who make the best of their situations."
Aldridge serves as emcee of the annual Hall of Fame induction festivities, next slated for February 22. The inductees will be the late James Monkman '71 (men's golf) and Avery John '99 (men's soccer).
"All the past Hall of Famers come back," says Jack Cassell, Pop's son and a member of the AU Board of Trustees and the Hall of Fame committee. "It's neat to hear the stories about their time at AU. It's not always about what they gave AU; they're actually thanking AU for what it gave them."
Anyone can nominate a student-athlete for the hall. After the Athletics Department vets candidates, the committee of 12 votes for two or three induction.
"They need to be among the top athletes of their era," Cassell says. "We also judge the integrity of the athletes. Because the events are really nice and we have such a prominent hall here that athletes walk by every day, people are aspiring to it now."