Doug Toole has been conscious of trying to expand membership beyond stars of traditional sports and include more female athletes as the selection committee chairman of the Utah Sports Hall of Fame Foundation in recent years.
Yet this group already included trap shooter Hortense Wood Hardesty, honored in 1976.
She’s part of the diverse history of Utah sports, which will be celebrated Monday. Founded in 1967, the USHOFF will observe a 50-year anniversary by welcoming about 80 previous inductees, while honoring University of Utah skier Spence Eccles and BYU football player Tom Holmoe in the class of 2017 during an event at the Grand America Hotel.
The USHOFF has honored athletes from more than 50 high schools in the state over those 50 years. Coaches, administrators, journalists and contributors to sports in Utah have been inducted, along with athletes from nearly two dozen sports, including archery, auto racing, baseball, basketball, bowling, boxing, football, golf, gymnastics, hockey, mountaineering, rodeo, skeleton, skiing, softball, swimming, tennis, track and field, trap shooting, volleyball and wrestling.
Eccles and Holmoe will bring the membership to 228, starting with the charter class of 1970 that includes one living member, former University of Utah basketball star Arnie Ferrin.
In addition to gender equity, Toole has focused on strengthening the criteria for USHOFF induction. That’s not meant to diminish the achievements of previous inductees, just an effort to make the honor more meaningful. “They have to have done something on a national stage,” Toole said.
TOP OF THE CLASS
The Salt Lake Tribune's top 10 members of the Utah Sports Hall of Fame Foundation (in order of induction).
Alf Engen, skiing (1970)
Gene Fullmer, boxing (1970)
Merlin Olsen, football (1979)
Larry H. Miller, softball/basketball (1992)
Missy Marlowe, gymnastics (1997)
Tom Chambers, basketball (2010)
Jerry Sloan, basketball (2011)
Karl Malone, basketball (2012)
Billy Casper, golf (2013)
Cael Sanderson, wrestling (2015)
In the process, the recent honors of former Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan and athletes such as Jazz players Mark Eaton, Karl Malone and John Stockton and Olympic silver medalist Noelle Pikus Pace have elevated the standards for induction, Toole said.
The 50-year celebration comes when the USHOFF honorees’ plaques need a home, having been displaced during the renovation of Vivint Smart Home Arena. Possibilities include another location in the arena or a site in the Salt Lake Valley to be determined, USHOFF president Joel Gardner said.
The UHSOFF usually inducts five members each year. The two-person class of 2017 is intended to allow for more focus on the foundation’s 50-year history. In addition to the Hall of Fame selections, the group also honors coaches and game officials, awards scholarships to high school graduates and presents distinguished services awards during other annual events.
Editor’s note: Kurt Kragthorpe is a Utah Sports Hall of Fame Foundation voter.
Spence Eccles, skiing/contributor • Eccles, a graduate of Ogden High School and the University of Utah, has influenced sports in his home state in multiple dimensions as an athlete, businessman, donor and promoter of Utah. He was an all-America skier for the Utes and was instrumental in Utah's 2002 Olympic effort and the expansion of Rice-Eccles Stadium, among other contributions.
Tom Holmoe, football • Holmoe became an all-conference defensive back for BYU and four-time Super Bowl winner as a player and coach with the San Francisco 49ers. He has been BYU's athletic director since 2005.