During halftime of the men's basketball game versus the Texas State University Bobcats, Saturday, Nov. 20, The University of Texas-Pan American Department of Intercollegiate Athletics honored former Head Men's Basketball Coach Sam Williams (1958-73) by rededicating the Broncs' center court inside the UTPA Fieldhouse. University President Robert S. Nelsen also surprised Williams by naming him Head Coach Emeritus.
Many former UTPA players were in attendance to honor the legendary coach, including members of the 1963 Pan American College NAIA Championship team: Tony De La Pena, Gordon Foerster, Paul Friddle, Jim McGurk, and Marty Urand, who presented Coach Williams with the original championship banner that hung in the Fieldhouse rafters. Other former players in attendance that evening included Jim Board, Howard Fuller, Dick Haas, Otto Moore, Dick Tate, and Fred Taylor.
Williams served the University as an educator for more than three decades, coaching the Broncs men's basketball team for 15 seasons. He remains UTPA's all-time leader in career wins with 244 and coached the only Broncs team to win a team national championship when his squad won the NAIA National Championship in 1963. Williams was a pioneer in collegiate athletics in the late 1950s, as one of the first coaches to integrate his basketball program. Williams is a member of both the Rio Grande Valley Sports Hall of Fame and the UTPA Athletics Hall of Fame.
Baseball's Head Coach Emeritus, Al Ogletree, was also in attendance to congratulate Williams. Ogletree and Williams are the only coaches in UTPA history to be honored with "Emeritus" status.
Earlier in the day, many of Williams' former players enjoyed lunch together with current Head Basketball Coach Ryan Marks.
"Coach Marks spoke about the importance of our current student-athletes being able to have an active connection with the players that came before them and laid the foundation for UTPA basketball," said Associate Athletic Director Andrew Haring. "To have many of these former players back on campus sharing memories and experiences was fantastic."
Halftime also featured a group of Houston area alumni who presented a check for $45,000 to UTPA Athletics. This gift will be used to pay for many of the significant improvements to the UTPA Fieldhouse that were on display that evening. Presenting the check to Associate Athletic Director Andrew Haring were Stan Bane ('72), Dan Martinez ('78) and Tim Tully ('71).
Some of the improvements made possible by the gift include new bench and court side seating, aesthetic graphics, customer service stanchions, and back-lit sponsor signage panels. In addition to dramatically improving the functional capabilities of the facilities, these improvements also create current and future revenue-generating opportunities.
"This is one way to give back to my alma mater for all that my education has given me," said Martinez.
Although UTPA Director of Athletics Chris King was unable to attend the game due to family circumstance, he was able to watch the ceremonies online via www.utpabroncs.com and was extremely appreciative of the contributions of all of the guests in attendance.
"Saturday was truly a great night for the Broncs. To honor a man like Coach Williams, whose name is synonymous with UTPA basketball, with many of his former players in attendance, was very moving," said King. "Additionally, we were able to recognize the generosity of Stan Bane, Dan Martinez, and Tim Tully, for having such an immediate impact on the experiences of our student-athletes and our fans, which is another blessing."
For the latest UTPA Bronc Athletics information, follow us on Twitter @BuckyTheBronc or @ UTPA_AD.