Six alumni have been selected to be inducted into the University of the Ozarks Sports Hall of Fame during a ceremony on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019.
The University’s Sports Hall of Fame committee selected Bill Ballard ’56, Ronnie Cookson ’66, the late Charles Daniel ’71, Mandi (Carter) Koch ’07, Robby Finnell ’08 and Olivia (Fisher) Bickford ’09 to join the hall during the Ozarks Awards Ceremony in October, part of Homecoming 2019.
It’s the largest induction class for the exclusive club since 1991 when six alumni were also selected. The additions bring the total of Ozarks Sports Hall of Fame members to 57 individuals and one team, the 1983-84 men’s basketball team.
The Sports Hall of Fame committee is made up of Jimmy Clark, director of athletics; Lori McBee, vice president for advancement; Dr. Deb Sisson, associate professor of business and athletic faculty representative; Sydney Key, student-athlete representative; alumnus and hall of fame member Sylvester Benson; alumnus and hall of fame member Don Kessler; and alumnus Ian Bryan.
The 2019 inductees for the University of the Ozarks Sports Hall of Fame include:
Bill Ballard ’56 was a three-year letterman in both basketball and baseball at Ozarks. He earned Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference Pitcher of the Year honors in 1956, leading Ozarks to the conference baseball title. He coached basketball at Ozarks from 1957-60 before moving on to Little Rock University (now UA-Little Rock). As a 30-year-old, he helped UALR start its basketball program as its first head coach and athletic director from 1960-1965. He also helped the university establish its first baseball program. He was inducted into the UALR Sports Hall of Fame in 2019.
Ronnie Cookson ’66 won a total of 13 state championships, including seven straight, in a stellar 29-year career as the boys basketball coach at Scott County Central High School in Missouri. He led the Class 1A Braves from 1970-1995, retired, then returned from 2007-09. His overall record was 694-137 (.835 winning percentage) and was a remarkable 28-2 in state final four games. Along with 13 state titles, Cookson led his program to 22 conference titles and 22 district titles. He was named Missouri’s Coach of the Year five times by the Missouri Sportswriters Association and nine times by the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association. In 1994, he was named the Region 5 National High School Coaches Association Coach of the Year and Coach of the Decade (1980s) by Sikeston’s newspaper. The Scott County gym was named in his honor and he was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 1991.
Charles Daniel ’71 played baseball, football and basketball at Ozarks and in 1957 became the only former Ozarks baseball player to play in a major league baseball game, according to the Society for Baseball Research. Daniel pitched for Ozarks in 1952 and five years later reached the major leagues with the Detroit Tigers. He signed a professional contract with Detroit in 1952 for $4,000 and pitched a total of eight seasons in the minor leagues before retiring in 1961. In a late-season matchup at Kansas City in 1957, Daniel pitched 2 1/3 innings, giving up three hits and striking out two. It was Daniel’s only appearance in a MLB game. An elbow injury suffered in a minor league game in 1959 eventually forced him out of baseball. The hard-throwing right-hander’s fastball was once clocked at 95 mph. He returned to Ozarks in the early 1970s to complete his degree and had a 38-year career with International Trucks. He passed away in 2008 at his home in Hot Springs Village.
Mandi (Carter) Koch ‘07 was an all-around athlete and one of the most prolific scorers in U of O women’s basketball history, finishing second all-time with 1,538 career points. Her 826 career rebounds were also second-most in program history. An athletic 6-foot-1 forward, Carter racked up four all-conference awards, capping her senior season with all-region honors from D3Hoops.com. Following her junior season, she was voted to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District Team. For her career, she averaged 15.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and over one block per game. Additionally, Carter lettered in soccer three seasons and earned multiple academic awards in both basketball and soccer.
Robby Finnell ’08 starred for the Eagles baseball team from 2005-08 and remains the program’s all-time modern era leader in career games started (160), home runs (31), RBIs (159) and walks (73). He is also among the career leaders in hits (2nd), runs scored (3rd) and slugging percentage (3rd). He also holds the season mark in RBIs (56) and is second in home runs (13). He was a three-time All-ASC selection, including first team in 2008. He was named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America first team and the D3baseball.com All-America second team in 2008. Helped the Eagles to a program-best 32-11 record in 2008.
Olivia (Fisher) Bickford ’09 was a three-sport standout for Ozarks from 2004-09, starring in basketball, tennis and soccer. As a four-year starter in basketball, Bickford earned All-ASC freshman honors in 2004-2005 and All-ASC All-East honorable mention honors following both her junior and senior seasons. She is fourth in career rebounding (817). In soccer, she was also a four-year starter, starting every game from her freshman to senior seasons. She was a team captain and midfielder and in 2006 assumed goalie duties for an injured teammate and had 175 saves in 19 matches. In tennis, she played No. 1 singles and doubles for four years and remains third in career singles victories (22), fourth in career doubles victories (18) and forth in singles winning percentage (.564). She was a two-time U of O Female Athlete of the Year.