It is Rutgers highest athletic honor.
Five athletes and a coach, covering six sports, comprise the 2016 Rutgers Athletics Hall of Fame class.
Some are household names to avid fans while others toiled “on the banks” in relative obscurity in the Olympic sports. And they cover over fifty years of RU athletic history.
Julie Culley - Cross Country/Track & Field
The loneliness of the long distance runner. Not anymore. Culley was a three-time Academic All-American and New Jersey’s NCAA Woman of the Year. She qualified for the NCAA Cross Country Championships in 2000, 2002 (All-American), and 2003. Culley still holds the Rutgers school records in the indoor 3000m and the outdoor 5000m. She owns six Metropolitan Championship titles. Culley was awarded the Headley Singer Award, given annually to one outstanding female RU student-athlete and recipient of the David A. "Sonny" Werblin Award, given to a national level accomplished RU athlete. A London Olympics participant in the 5000m, the 2004 graduate is currently an assistant coach at Georgetown.
Cappie Pondexter - Women’s Basketball
A First Team Kodak/WBCA All-American and the 2006 Women’s Basketball News Service National Player of the Year, Pondexter epitomized the style of play and tenacity exhibited by RU Women’s Basketball at the time. She averaged 18.3 points per game, 4.4 rebounds per game and 1.8 steals p/g in 121 games played. She is listed throughout the Rutgers record book including ranking second in all-time scoring (2,211), first in three-point field goal percentage (.426), sixth in assists (470) and as one of three Scarlet Knights to score 40 or more points in a game. The unanimous choice as the 2006 BIG EAST Player of the Year, she became the first player in conference history to be named to the All-BIG EAST First Team four times during her career. When she was taken second by the Phoenix Mercury in 2006, Pondexter became highest WNBA draft pick in school history.
Kelly Harrigan - Women’s Swimming
Congratulations to former Scarlet Knight Kelly Harrigan on her induction into the Rutgers Athletics Hall of Fame! https://t.co/iSTYzBosbk— RU Swimming & Diving (@RUSwimDive) August 16, 2016
A four-time team MVP, Harrigan was a 20-time BIG EAST Conference champion during her career “On the Banks”. She set ten conference championship records (six individual, four relay) in that time. Harrigan earned back-to-back BIG EAST Most Outstanding Swimmer recognition in 2005 and 2006. She was a four-time first team All-American and, during her senior season was a first team All-America performer in the 200 backstroke and 100 backstroke. After college she was a three-time Olympic Trials participant ( 2000, 2004 and 2008). Harrigan captured a gold medal in the 200 backstroke at the 2007 World University Games and participated in USA’s 800 freestyle relay’s gold-medal performance that year.
Brian Leonard - Football
Leonard literally leaped his way into the hearts of RU football fans and became the first player to be noticed on the national stage in the Schiano era. He finished his career at Rutgers ranked among the top-10 in a number of categories, including receptions with 207 (second), rushing touchdowns with 32 (T-third) and points by a non-kicker with 272 (fourth). He established a BIG EAST record with at least one reception in all 47 games of his career. Leonard finished second in RU history with 678 rushing attempts and fifth with 2,775 rushing yards. He also amassed 1,868 receiving yards from his fullback position. A standout in the classroom, Leonard also won the Draddy Trophy (now named the Campbell Trophy) in 2006 as the player with the best combination of academics, community service, and on-field performance.
Mike Leta - Wrestling
Leta came full circle in wrestling at Rutgers, starting out as an All American athlete and finishing as an assistant coach on the staff.
Leta, an NJ National Wrestling HOF inductee, went 55-7-3 overall & 41-2-2 in duals. His third-place NCAA finish in 1960 is an #RUWR record.— Rutgers Wrestling (@RUWrestling) August 16, 2016
The Tweet above pretty much tells the story, an especially significant one when you consider that Leta was wrestling in an era with no scholarships and a limited focus or emphasis on athletics....and no freshmen eligibility. Leta claimed the highest NCAA finish since the program’s founding 86 years ago. And to prove he wasn’t a one-sport wonder, Leta also earned three letters playing lightweight football.
Bob Reasso - Men’s Soccer, coach
Reasso coached the Knights in a golden age, as he led the men’s soccer team to 13 NCAA tournaments, including three Final Fours (one championship game). Over 29 years at Rutgers, Reasso had a 351-183-71 record, accounting for almost 61% of all Rutgers men’s soccer wins in program history. He is one of only six non-Rutgers graduates who have been named a “Loyal Son of Rutgers” for coaching here.
And then there’s....
Not to take away from the six who made the grade, but an interesting omission - still - is Carli Lloyd, ‘05.
Tough break for @CarliLloyd missing out on the Rutgers Athletic Hall of Fame yet again. Congrats to Brian Leonard and those who made it.— Tom Luicci (@TomLuicci) August 17, 2016
A while back, when we did a few posts on the best RU athletes, I included Lloyd because she was really good....and she got better as a pro. It’s eleven years since she graduated.....maybe no one has nominated her.