EMMITSBURG, Md. - Former Mount St. Mary's men's basketball head coach Jim Phelan and Mount long distance runner Peter Rono highlight the inaugural Northeast Conference (NEC) Hall of Fame induction class, announced by NEC Commissioner Noreen Morris on Tuesday.
As the centerpiece of the conference's year-long 30th Anniversary celebration, Phelan and Rono were selected as part of the inaugural eight-member NEC Hall of Fame class. Joining the Mount St. Mary's duo are the NEC's first Commissioner, Chris Monasch, Wagner basketball player Terrance Bailey, Robert Morris football lineman Hank Fraley, Fairleigh Dickinson sprinter/hurdler Sharlene Milwood-Lee, Monmouth soccer standout Christie Pearce-Rampone and Saint Francis (Pa.) women's basketball player Jess Zinobile.
"We are thrilled to announce the inductees of the inaugural class of the Northeast Conference Hall of Fame," said Morris. "The incredible accomplishments of these coaches, administrators and student-athletes, both during and after their NEC collegiate experience, represent the breadth and diversity of the athletic success realized within the Conference in the last 30 years. On behalf of the entire NEC family, I'd like to congratulate this very special class of the Northeast Conference Hall of Fame."
Phelan, The iconic coach known for his trademark bow-tie, was elected to the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008, the most prestigious honor of his legendary career. His 830 wins at Mount St. Mary's ranks fifth all-time among NCAA Division I coaches, while his 1,354 games coached is the all-time NCAA record. Phelan is the only person to coach 49 years at one school and ranks second all-time in the NCAA for most seasons coached. Over his career, the Philadelphia native coached 19 teams to 20-win seasons. He led the Mount to the 1962 NCAA College Division National Championship, one of five Final Four appearances (1957, 1961, 1962, 1981 and 1985) for the program under his watch. Phelan was named the NCAA College Division Coach of the Year in 1962, the NCAA Division II Coach of the Year in 1981 and was a three-time NCAA District 2 Coach of the Year (1981, 1985, 1986). After the Mount transitioned to Division I and the Northeast Conference in 1989, he guided the Mount to NEC championships and NCAA bids in 1995 and 1999. He also led the Mountaineers to the Postseason NIT in 1996 and won his 800th career game on national television as the Mount defeated CCSU in the 1999 NEC title game. Phelan was a two-time NEC Coach of the Year (1993, 1996) and was named the Clair Bee Coach of the Year in 1998 by the Basketball Hall of Fame. In 2006, the Knott Arena floor was renamed "Coach Jim Phelan Court" and the number "830" were retired in his honor. Likewise, the NEC Coach of the Year was renamed in his honor back in 2003. Phelan was an Honorable Mention All-America player at La Salle and went on to play for the NBA's Philadelphia Warriors in the 1953-54 season.
"Mount St. Mary's is honored that Coach Jim Phelan has been named to the inaugural Northeast Conference Athletic Hall of Fame class," said Lynne Robinson, Mount St. Mary's Director of Athletics. "Coach Phelan's extraordinary 49-year career as the Mount's head men's basketball coach has been well documented. Beyond the 830 victories and the many accolades he has received throughout the years, Coach Phelan is as much remembered for being a true gentleman of intercollegiate athletics, embodying the qualities of loyalty, integrity, and fairness. With the many great coaches in the Northeast Conference throughout its 30 year history; we are very pleased that Coach Jim Phelan will be included in this elite first class of NEC Hall of Fame inductees."
A bonafide legend in the annals of Northeast Conference cross country and track and field, Rono holds the distinction of being the only performer in conference history to win an Olympic gold medal. While a student at Mount St. Mary's and the youngest competitor in the field, Rono won the 1,500 meters at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, Korea in a time of 3:35.96. That same year, he became a three-time NCAA individual champion with wins in the indoor 800 and 1,500 meters, along with the outdoor 1,500 meters. In 1990, Rono was the runner-up at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the 1,500 meters behind teammate Kip Cheruiyot, and also crossed the tape second in the mile at the 1990 NCAA Indoor meet. He won the 1990 NEC Cross Country championship en-route to All-America honors and was named the Most Outstanding Performer at the 1991 NEC Outdoor Track & Field Championships after capturing individual titles in the 800, 1,500 and 5,000 meter races. Rono, who hails from Kapsabet, Kenya, would go on to finish third in the NCAA Championships in the 1,500 meters that same season. He was also the 1991 NEC indoor 3,000 meter champion.
"Peter came to Mount St. Mary's site unseen," remembered Jim Deegan, his head coach at the Mount. "He was very open to suggestion as a runner, even on the Olympic stage. Since there was no one in the Conference at the time to give him a challenge, I would run him in select meets, along with his fellow Kenyan runners at the time who were at the Mount. He didn't care if he came in first or not. He would say, 'If he (his teammate) wins, we win.' He had a family-like loyalty to his teammates, a trait that was always on display upon his arrival in America. It showed you the kind of person Peter was and still is today."
An 11-time All-American and five-time NEC individual champion,
he is still ranked in the top-10 in a combined seven indoor and
outdoor events at the Mount. Rono, who now resides in New Jersey
and works for New Balance, was previously recognized on the NEC
20th Anniversary All-Time team.
"Mount St. Mary's is honored that Peter Rono has been named to the Northeast Conference inaugural Athletic Hall of Fame," said Robinson. "It is an understatement to say that Peter was an outstanding student-athlete at the Mount. Peter was a multiple NCAA and NEC champion, with his crowning moment coming in the 1988 Seoul Olympics where he ran the race of his life to win Olympic Gold. With all of these championships and titles, what I admire most about Peter is that after winning the gold medal and becoming a hero in his native Kenya, Peter chose to return to Mount St. Mary's to complete his education, earning a degree in Economics in 1992 and later earning an MBA from the Mount as well. Peter Rono is a humble and deserving champion and we are very pleased to see his inclusion in the inaugural class of the NEC Hall of Fame."
The NEC Hall of Fame was established as a means to recognize,
honor and perpetuate the memory of those individuals who have made
outstanding contributions to NEC athletics and have helped to bring
recognition, honor, distinction and excellence to both the
Conference and its Division I athletic programs. Nominations for
the Hall of Fame were made by current and former member
institutions, along with the Conference office. Enshrinees were
then selected in a vote by administrators from each member
institution and the Conference.
Student-athletes who have competed in an NEC-sponsored sport for at least two full seasons and completed their playing career at a member institution become eligible for induction beginning five years after exhausting their collegiate eligibility. Coaches, administrators and any other persons who have made outstanding contributions or offered extraordinary service to NEC athletics are eligible after three full years of service.
Moving forward, a maximum of five inductees shall be selected annually, including at least one male student-athlete, one female student-athlete, and one coach or administrator.
Biographies and quotes on the rest of the NEC Hall of Fame Class
Chris Monasch, Northeast Conference
Commissioner • 1987-97
Monasch served as the first full-time Commissioner of the Northeast Conference, and in ten years, helped the NEC develop from its origin as a basketball-only league to a 17-sport conference upon his departure in 1997. One of Monasch's first initiatives was to rebrand the ECAC-Metro Conference as the Northeast Conference in 1988. Along with the identity change came a move to larger, more centralized office space and additional conference staffing. Monasch was the catalyst in the addition of six NEC-sponsored sports, including football in 1996. He also oversaw the addition of Mount St. Mary's, Central Connecticut State, Quinnipiac, Sacred Heart, UMBC and Rider as full-time NEC members. It was under Monasch's tenure that the NEC had its greatest basketball success. In 1995-96, the conference sent three teams (Monmouth, Mount St. Mary's and Marist) to the postseason. Monasch was also instrumental in adding the NEC men's basketball title game to the ESPN Championship Week package back in 1988. During his term as NEC Commissioner, Monasch served on the NCAA Council, the NCAA Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee, the NCAA Special Events Committee and the NCAA Recruiting and Nominating Committee. Monasch went on to serve as the Commissioner of the America East Conference from 1997-05 and has spent the last six years as Director of Athletics at St. John's University.
"Chris provided tremendous leadership during his years as Commissioner of the Northeast Conference and laid the foundation for the future of league," said Walt Hameline, Wagner Director of Athletics. "Not only is Chris a great administrator, he's an even better friend. There is no question that Chris Monasch is deserving of his induction into the Northeast Conference Hall of Fame."
Terrance Bailey, Wagner
Men's Basketball • 1983-87
The most prolific scorer in NEC men's basketball history, Bailey was previously selected to the NEC All-Decade team, 20th Anniversary and 25th Anniversary teams. His 2,591 career points are nearly 300 more than the next closest NEC player and his single-season point totals of 854 points as a junior and 788 as a senior rank him third and fourth, respectively, on the all-time conference list. Bailey led the nation in scoring (29.4 ppg) and was named the NEC Player of the Year as a junior in 1985-86. He won the NEC scoring title again as a senior (28.1 ppg) in 1986-87 and finished his career as a three-time first team all-league performer. Not just a shooter from the outside, the 6'2" guard also tallied 136 dunks over course of his career, including a legendary slam over 7'4" Marist center Rik Smits. The Trenton, NJ native was chosen by the Atlanta Hawks in the second round of the 1987 NBA draft. Bailey is currently a school teacher in the Trenton, NJ area.
"Terrance Bailey to this day is the most exciting college player I have ever seen," said Tim Capstraw, former Wagner head coach. "To see him with the ball in transition and take off and slam dunk on everyone, including 7'4" Rik Smits, were the single most exciting plays I have ever witnessed."
Hank Fraley, Robert Morris
Football • 1996-99
One of the pioneers of Northeast Conference football, Fraley starred at offensive tackle for the Colonials, who won or shared league titles in each of his four years from 1996-99. He was named to the All-NEC first team three times and was a three-time NCAA I-AA Non-Scholarship All-American from 1997-99. Fraley was also tabbed the National Weekly Football Gazette Lineman of the Year as a senior in 1999. The second Colonial to have his number retired, Fraley played on two ECAC Bowl championship teams (1996-97) and starred on RMU's NCAA I-AA Non-Scholarship National Championship team in 1999. He was inducted into the school's Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006, by which point he was in the midst of a successful NFL career. An 11-year NFL veteran (2000-present), Fraley has played at center with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland Browns and currently the St. Louis Rams. He started for the Eagles from 2002-05, playing in four straight NFC championship games and Super Bowl XXXIX. Fraley, a Gaithersburg, MD native, would go on to start 52 games for the Browns from 2006-09. Entering 2010, Fraley had started 123 of 135 career games and made 10 postseason starts.
"Hank, along with Tim Hall, helped give Robert Morris football an identity," said Robert Morris head coach Joe Walton. "They proved that even a fledgling program that didn't have a long, storied tradition could send players to the highest level. I'm proud of what Hank has accomplished with his play in the NFL, as he's been a respected member of four organizations and has helped his teams be successful on the field."
Sharlene Milwood-Lee, Fairleigh Dickinson
Women's Track & Field • 1990-94
A national caliber sprinter, Milwood-Lee won a total of 11 Northeast Conference titles (five indoor, six outdoor) during her illustrious career at Fairleigh Dickinson. She was awarded NEC Most Outstanding Performer honors at the 1993 Indoor Championships and the 1994 Outdoor Championships. Milwood-Lee was a three-time NCAA qualifier in the 400 meters and holds the NEC record in the indoor 300 meters (39.43) and 400 meters (55.9). The Sanford, Florida native also qualified for the 1992 U.S. Olympic Trials, placed seventh at the 1992 USA Mobil Indoor Championships and was part of the gold medal winning 4x400 meter relay team at the 1993 U.S. Olympic Festival. She placed seventh in the open 400 meters at the 1993 Olympic Festival and was the Indoor ECAC Champion in the 400 meters that same year. Milwood-Lee participated on seven NEC championship teams (four indoor, three outdoor) and is still the owner of two indoor (300 and 400 meters) and two outdoor records (400 and 800 meters) at FDU. She was also a member of four school record relay teams (4x400 and 4x800 indoors, and 4x200 and 4x400 outdoors). Milwood-Lee was honored by the Conference back in 2000 with her selection to the NEC 20th Anniversary All-Time team and is a 2004 inductee into the FDU Athletics Hall of Fame. Her association with FDU track and field continued long after graduation. After rejoining the program as an assistant in 1998, Milwood-Lee is now in her eighth year as head coach of the FDU men's and women's cross country and track and field teams.
"FDU has a long history of outstanding track & field performers and Sharlene is one of the best female track athletes on the list," said David Langford, FDU Director of Athletics. "Her coaches praised her work ethic and willingness to meet every challenge presented to her. She only had one gear - win. As a coach she combines her passion for track with pride in being a Knight. She is a wonderful teacher who has learned to how get the most out of her student-athletes in the classroom and in competition."
Christie Pearce-Rampone, Monmouth
Point Pleasant, NJ/Point Pleasant Boro
Women's Soccer • 1993-96
Perhaps the most recognizable women's athlete in Northeast Conference history, Pearce-Rampone parlayed her success at Monmouth into a spot on the United States National Women's Soccer Team, a distinction she has held since 1997. She earned a gold medal at the 1998 Goodwill Games and as a member of the renowned United States World Cup championship team that captured the spirit of fans nationwide in 1999. Pearce-Rampone also earned bronze medals at the 2003 and 2007 World Cups, and won medals at three different Summer Olympics in 2000 (silver), 2004 (bronze) and 2008 (bronze). The defender was named U.S. National Team captain in 2008 and her 225 career caps rank second only to teammate Kristine Lilly for most among all active players in the world. She took over as player-coach of the Sky Blue of the Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) league in 2009 and quickly turned around a struggling team and led it to the inaugural WPS championship. She was subsequently named WPS Sportswoman of the Year and was honored as "The Most Respected Mom in Sports" this past year. While at Monmouth, the Point Pleasant, New Jersey native was a two-time NEC Player of the Year and led the Hawks to league titles in 1995 and 1996. She remains the NEC single-season record holder in goals (29), assists (17) and points (75), all set as a senior in 1996. Pearce was also a two-time All-Mid-Atlantic Region selection and the New Jersey State Player of the Year in 1995 and 1996. She finished her Monmouth career with 79 goals, 54 assists and 212 points. Pearce-Rampone, who hails from Point Pleasant, NJ and was a dual sport athlete who excelled in basketball, was inducted into the Monmouth University Sports Hall of Fame in 2007 and was a member of the NEC 20th Anniversary All-Time Team.
"Christie Rampone is the consummate student-athlete," said Dr. Marilyn McNeil, Monmouth Director of Athletics. "While a student at Monmouth, she controlled our record book in both basketball and soccer. A dual sport athlete, Christie created success for both teams, and is still loved as a teammate and a classmate. Christie went on to lead the world in soccer, both with her athletics skills and leadership skills. Monmouth gave her the confidence to try her hand on the world stage, and Christie has delivered. We couldn't be more proud of her legacy and her continued success, never forgetting her roots and her responsibility as a wonderful role model for all who follow!"
Jess Zinobile, St. Francis (PA)
Lock Haven, PA/Lock Haven
Women's Basketball • 1996-00
Perhaps the most honored women's basketball player in Northeast Conference history, Zinobile was selected as the NEC 20th Anniversary Most Valuable Player and to the 25th Anniversary all-time team. She was a two-time NEC Player of the Year in 1997-98 and 1999-00 who led the Red Flash to four NEC championships and four NCAA Tournament appearances. Zinobile was also voted the NEC Tournament Most Valuable Player (1997, 1999 and 2000) on three occasions, named the league's Newcomer of the Year in 1996-97 and was a three-time All-NEC first team pick. She is both the NEC and Saint Francis (PA) career record holder with 2,338 points and 1,295 rebounds, and owns 16 individual school records. Similarly, her 14 NEC Player of the Week selections remain a league record. Zinobile, a Lock Haven, PA native, established the conference single-season mark with 724 points in 1999-00 and posted 74 career double-doubles. In one of the great postseason performances in league history, she established the NEC Tournament single-game scoring record with 46 points in a win over Long Island in the 2000 semifinals. In NCAA Tournament play, she averaged 19.8 points and 8.8 rebounds in four appearances. Zinobile participated in the Women's Basketball Coaches Association All-Star Game following her senior season and holds the distinction of being the only NEC player drafted by the WNBA after being chosen by the Sacramento Monarchs in the 2000 Draft. She went on to play professionally with Spanish Top Division teams Oviedo Cinturon Verde and CB Linares, and LF Spain-League team PC Mendibil, where she averaged 13.9 points and 6.0 rebounds in 51 career games. Zinobile will be inducted into the Saint Francis Athletics Hall of Fame this coming February as part of its 2011 class. She resides in Charlotte, NC.
"I'm very happy for Jess and congratulate her on two great honors this year, inductions to the Saint Francis and NEC Hall Of Fame," said Jenny Przekwas, her coach at Saint Francis (PA). "It was my pleasure to coach Jess. She was a fiery competitor. Her versatility on the court, and great scoring and rebounding, certainly led Saint Francis to great successes in her tenure."