By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
Bacone College’s first Athletic Hall of Fame will be inducted at 6:30 p.m. Friday night before a private audience at Wachoche Hall, and appropriately enough, the first class will highlight some of the greatest moments in the school’s sports history.
The class includes three former coaches — Enos Semore, Ken Hayes and Harold “Tuffy” Stratton, one former player — NFL great Don Chandler, and Stratton’s 1952 Junior Rose Bowl football team and Semore’s 1967 junior college national championship baseball squad.
The hall, according to Bacone athletic director Alan Foster, will be named the Ken Hayes-Enos Semore Hall of Fame at Bacone College.
“We came up with the idea about a year ago as it became obvious we didn’t have one, and looking at the people who have played and coached here, it seemed like of wrong.
“It’s probably my biggest regret in this process that people like Tuffy and Don, who just died recently, aren’t going to see this done. Don is part of just about every hall of fame there is in his career — except here.”
Family of the inductees, school personnel and varous alumni have filled 155 of the 160 seats for the dinner.
“We had so much interest within our college community and their families, it really took off to the point where we were caught without a place big enough to have it open to the public,” Foster said.
That may change as it becomes an annual event, he said.
Bacone proved to be a turn of fate for both Semore and Hayes, who hired Semore in 1963. Contrary to the legend that surrounds it, it wasn’t a coin flip that decided what duties Semore would have. Hayes wanted Semore to pick between the two to lead one. Semore responded by saying he wanted to assist Hayes in both, but that wasn’t going to work with Hayes.
Semore, who prior to that coached at Alice Robertson and Muskogee Central High, took baseball. Hayes kept basketball and went on to a basketball career at New Mexico State, Tulsa, Oral Roberts and Northeastern State.
All Semore did was help Bacone to a third-place finish at the NJCAA nationals and in his fourth season, led the Warriors all the way to the top. Semore was then confronted with a choice — the baseball job at Oral Roberts or the program at the University of Oklahoma.
All he did was go 851-370-1, becoming Oklahoma’s winningest coach with five consecutive College World Series appearances before retiring in 1989. All that after some early doubts about whether OU was a fit for him.
“I wasn’t real happy,” he told the Phoenix in a 2005 interview in the “Memory Lane” series. “I didn’t think baseball was that important (at OU) and we weren’t doing as well as we’d wanted. I gave it some thought but decided to stay.”
His championship at Bacone, done while coaching basketball at night and baseball during the day, remains one of his fondest memories.
“I never mapped out anything for myself,” the Keota native said. “I had four jobs and in my mind, the only claim to fame was that I was never fired.”
Hayes left Bacone in 1964 after a third-place finish at the NJCAA tournament in 1964 to embark on a full-time baseball path, going to West Valley Community College in San Jose, Calif. That lasted just eight months.
“I didn’t want to raise my family in California,” the Braggs native said. “I should have been the happiest person in the world., I went from $4,000 a year to $9,500 out west and the next year they were going to raise me to $13,000.
“But it just didn’t fit. Most of my coaching friends were already in basketball and I’d find myself visiting over in San Jose where the then-San Francisco Warriors and Wilt Chamberlain would practice. Baseball was my first love and still is, but I just had to go out there and get it out of my system.”
It took 33 years to get basketball out of his system. He retired in 1997, his 663-385 record including one NCAA appearance at New Mexico State and two NIT trips, one with Tulsa and the other with Oral Roberts. His 1984-85 team at Northeastern State was ranked No. 1 in NCAA Division II at one point but was upset by East Central and did not make the national tournament.
Chandler, who was part of the 1952 Junior Rose Bowl championship team, died in August 2011 at 76. He graduated in 1954 and returned in 2006 to accept an honorary degree. He finished his college career at the University of Florida.
Chandler went on to play 12 NFL seasons, nine with the New York Giants and three with the Packers. He won an NFL championship with the Giants as a rookie in 1956.
“Don was a great player for us during some of the best years in Giants’ history, John Mara, the team’s president and CEO, said following his death.
Chandler won three titles with Vince Lombardi’s Packers and entered the team’s Hall of Fame in 1975.
“He represented the team with class,” said Packers president and CEO Mark Murphy.
Stratton coached that team, which tied 20-20 with Hartnell College yet won the national title. He went to Northeastern State where his team won the 1958 NAIA championship.
Former NSU basketball and athletic director Jack Dobbins was just starting his coaching career when Harold “Tuffy” Stratton arrived from Bacone.
“We shared the same office and we developed a great relationship,” Dobbins said. “He was a super person and he helped me tremendously.
“He was only here for seven years, not long enough..but he was amazing in what he achieved with the limited resources that we had.”
Stratton died in 1994.