BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The Southwestern Athletic Conference announced the 2018 Hall of Fame class this week, with seven of the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s most impactful contributors selected to be enshrined.
Alcorn State’s Dave Washington, Jr., Alabama State’s Larry Watkins, Grambling State’s Ralph A. Garr, Sr., Jackson State’s Eric Strothers, Prairie View A&M’s Nathaniel Gross, Southern’s Roger Cador, and longtime league administrator Lonza Hardy will be enshrined on Nov. 30 at The Sheraton in Birmingham, Ala. The induction is set to begin with a reception at 6 p.m.
The newest members of the Hall of Fame were selected from a list of nominees who were submitted by his or her respective institution. The nominees were then elected for induction by the selection committee from members appointed by SWAC Presidents and Chancellors.
During his time on the Reservation, Washington – one of two SWAC Legends honorees – was a dual-sport star in the late 1960s, emerging as a key contributor for the Braves at linebacker under coach Marino Casem as the team won the 1968 and 1969 Black College National Championships. Additionally, Washington played for the 1969 Alcorn State basketball team, which compiled a 27-0 record en route to a conference title. To date, Washington is the only athlete in NCAA history to have played for a conference-championship winning football and basketball team in the same season.
Washington went on to enjoy a 10-year career in the NFL, garnering All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors during stints with Denver, San Francisco, and Buffalo.
Watkins is synonymous with Alabama State baseball, having played for the team as a centerfielder nicknamed the “Toy Cannon.” A member of the first Alabama State team to appear in the NCAA playoffs, the Hornet lifer coached the program for more than 30 years, amassing a school-record 513 victories and numerous postseason appearances. Watkins was named SWAC Coach of the Year in 1991 and twice won Eastern Division Coach of the Year honors.
Currently, he serves as a Special Assistant to the Athletic Director at his alma mater, and the Hornets’ home field carries his namesake alongside former ASU coach Herbert Wheeler.
Garr, a SWAC Legends nominee, was one of the greatest hitters to ever suit up for the Grambling baseball program, hitting.585 – a figure that led the nation – during the 1967 season, during which the Tigers posted a 35-1 regular season record. Garr was then drafted in the third round by the Atlanta Braves, carving out a role as speedy contact hitter that was also known as “Road Runner.”
Garr won the National League batting title in 1974, garnering All-Star honors as well that season. Garr hit better than .300 five times in his career and earned a spot in the Atlanta Braves Hall of Fame in 2006.
Strothers is a member of Jackson State’s 1,000-point club, starring as an all-conference forward from 1987-1991. Strothers twice earned All-SWAC honors – during his junior and senior seasons – and averaged 17.4 points per game in the 1991 season, leading the Tigers to a SWAC regular-season and tournament championship. Following graduation, the Vicksburg, Miss. native played professionally for the Continental Basketball Association as well as internationally. Currently, Strothers is an assistant coach for the Mississippi Valley State basketball team.
One of the most dominant sprinters in the SWAC during his competitive days, Gross starred at Prairie View during the late 1990s. He was a member of Prairie View A&M’s first indoor track and field championship team (1998) and also helped lead the Panthers to team titles in 1999 and 2000. The Hockley, Texas native won multiple titles in the 200-meter, 400-meter and 4×100-meter relay events.
Cador is one of the SWAC’s greatest coaches, regardless of sport, after an illustrious 32-year career as coach of the Southern Jaguars baseball program. Building the Jaguars into a perennial power during his heyday, Cador won 913 games in his career, amassing a winning percentage of .604. In addition, Cador won 14 SWAC championships over his time as Southern’s skipper.
A 13-time recipient of the SWAC Coach of the Year award, Cador guided the Jaguars to 11 NCAA tournament appearances, two Black College National Championships (2003, 2005), and the first-ever NCAA tournament win by a historically-black college or university (1987). Cador also coached the first Golden Spikes Award winner to have played at a HBCU (Rickie Weeks, Jr., 2003).
Hardy spent nearly four decades within the SWAC, making his mark in the realm of sports information as well as athletics administration. As sports information director of Alcorn State (1980-86) and Southern (1986-89), Hardy was recognized as the league’s sports information director of the year four times in the decade. From there, Hardy took over a similar role within the league office, eventually becoming the first assistant commissioner (1995) and associate commissioner (1998) in the history of the conference headquarters.
From there, Hardy became athletics director at Mississippi Valley State University in 2001 and during his six-year tenure, the Delta Devils and Devilettes won five conference titles in softball, women’s soccer and men’s basketball. After a similar tenure of success at Hampton University from 2007-2011, Hardy returned to the SWAC as athletics director of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, where Hardy restructured the school’s compliance and academic services and ultimately oversaw a significant increase in student-athlete graduation rates as well as athletics fundraising. UAPB also won the 2012 SWAC Football Championship under Hardy’s leadership.