Top of the Hill: WKU honors great athletic teams

Western Kentucky’s Wayne Chapman drives for a layup during a 1967 game against visiting Morehead State at E.A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green. Chapman starred for Daviess County High School in the early 1960s.

Western Kentucky University has been honoring individuals in its Athletic Hall of Fame since 1991 — and now it’s time for WKU to honor the great teams in Hilltopper and Lady Topper history.

The WKU Alumni W-Club has announced the 16 great athletic teams that will make up the multi-year inaugural class of the WKU Athletic Hall of Fame Teams.

Recognition of the 16 teams considered as the Inaugural Class began in November when the 2002 and 1952 football teams were honored on campus.

The W-Club Board of Directors elected to select multiple teams to be honored as the Inaugural Class when faced with the daunting task of recognizing the long list of great teams in the tradition-rich history of athletics on The Hill. As a result, the 16 teams listed below will comprise the first class.

“I am so very proud of the rich athletic tradition at WKU,” W-Club Board Chairman Bryan Baysinger said. “Our history dictates and deserves a large Inaugural Class. The W-Club looks forward to honoring these teams and the others that will follow in decades to come.”

The 14 additional members of the class will be recognized on campus three or four squads at a time over the next four years. The order and dates of the recognition celebrations are yet to be determined.

The complete 16-team Inaugural Class includes the following great Hilltopper and Lady Topper teams (listed alphabetically by sport):

Baseball: 1980 — 47-13-1 overall (most wins in school history); NCAA South Region runner-up; Ohio Valley Conference regular season and tournament champion; ranked 18th in the final Collegiate Baseball poll.

Men’s Basketball: 1941-42 — 29-5 overall; NIT national runner-up; Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association champion; Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic (KIAC) champion; 1947-48 — 28-2 overall; NIT 3rd place; KIAC champion; best record in the nation; 1953-54 — 29-3 overall; NIT 4th place; OVC champion; ranked 6th (UPI) and 8th in the final polls; 1965-66 — 25-3 overall; NCAA Sweet 16; OVC regular season and conference champion; ranked 10th in final AP poll; 1966-67 — 23-3 overall; NCAA Tournament; OVC regular season and tournament champion; ranked 6th and 7th (UPI) in the final polls; 1970-71 — 24-6 overall; NCAA Final Four (3rd place); NCAA Mideast Region champion; OVC champion; ranked 7th by both AP and UPI in the final polls

Women’s Basketball: 1984-85 — 28-6 overall; NCAA Final Four (semifinalist); NCAA Mideast Region champion; ranked 14th in the final AP poll; 1985-86 — 32-4 overall (most wins in school history); NCAA Final Four (semifinalist); NCAA East Region champion; Sun Belt Conference (SBC) regular season and tournament champion; ranked 3rd (USA Today Coaches) and 5th in the final polls; 1991-92 — 27-8 overall; NCAA Final Four (runner-up); NCAA Mideast Region champion; SBC tournament champion and regular season co-champion; ranked 3rd (USA Today Coaches) and 15th in the final polls

Men’s Cross Country: 1974 — NCAA National runner-up; NCAA District III champion; OVC champion; undefeated heading into national championship meet. The Hilltoppers’ Nick Rose was individual NCAA champion.

Football: 1952 — 9-1 overall; Refrigerator Bowl and OVC champion; 1st Hilltopper team earn a bowl bid; 1963 — 10-0-1 overall; Tangerine Bowl and OVC champion; only undefeated team in WKU football history; 1973 — 12-1 overall; NCAA Division II national runner-up; Grantland Rice Bowl and OVC champion; 1975 — 11-2 overall; NCAA Division II national runner-up; Grantland Rice Bowl and OVC champion; 2002 — 12-3 overall; NCAA Division I-AA national champion; Gateway Football Conference co-champion; ranked No. 1 in the nation in the final I-AA poll.

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